Dover is known to the world for a few reasons; it’s home to the UK’s iconic white cliffs, a dominating castle that has protected the shores of England for centuries, and it’s been a major port town dating all the way back to the Roman times! Taking a day trip to Dover from London is the perfect way to get out of the city and dive into some of England’s most fascinating history.
Feel the ocean breeze on your face as you peer out across the English Channel while standing on top of the stunning White Cliffs, descend into centuries of English history as you wander the medieval corridors of Dover Castle and round the day off with a classic English pub meal before hopping on the train back to London.
Dover is just over an hour from London by train making it the perfect day tripping option for those interested in seeing some of the English countryside in addition to your time spent in London. Read on to discover how to make the most of your epic day trip to Dover!
During your stay in London, you should also make sure to check out these epic panoramic views of the London skyline that will leave you speechless and also provide some awesome photo opportunities!
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The Perfect Day Trip to Dover from London
For those who prefer to forget about train schedules and maps, taking an organized tour to Dover from London is a great option. Leave the navigating to the pros and enjoy a relaxing day trip through Kent.
Below you will find some of the most highly rated Dover tours that depart daily from London. The tours that we recommend also include a stop in Canterbury to explore the ancient streets and see the incredible Canterbury Cathedral.
If you prefer to take your Dover day trip on your own, skip ahead to the next section where I will walk you through the complete self-guided itinerary from start to finish!
The Best Dover Tours
Leeds Castle, White Cliffs, and Canterbury Tour – Departing London in the morning, this full day out in Kent will start off at the incredible Leeds Castle followed by a visit to the famous Canterbury Cathedral (one of the oldest cathedrals in England) and a guided tour of the town. Admire the historic buildings as you wander along the cobbled streets of this beautiful old town.
The tour then continues to Dover where you’ll enjoy a scenic coastal stroll along the White Cliffs of Dover. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the beauty of the cliffs and gaze out across the English Channel. Unfortunately this tour doesn’t include a visit to Dover Castle.
This tour includes admission to Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and the White Cliffs. Your tour guide will return you to London in the evening.
→Check prices and availability for this tour←
Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, and White Cliffs Tour – Another good option for tours to Dover is this full day trip in Kent which is quite similar to the previously mentioned tour. Either one of these tours is an excellent choice but the only difference is that this one doesn’t include Leeds Castle.
The tour leaves from London in the morning and brings you straight to Canterbury where you have time to explore the stunning Cathedral and take a stroll along the picturesque cobbled streets.
The tour continues with a walk along the White Cliffs of Dover to witness the breath-taking views of the cliffs and look out over the English Channel. Not too far from the cliffs is the incredible Dover Castle where you will spend some time exploring while learning about its significance throughout English history.
This full day Dover tour includes admission to Dover Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and a visit to the White Cliffs.
→Check prices and availability for this tour←
English Heritage Pass
If you’re visiting the UK from overseas, it’s worth having a look at the English Heritage Pass. For a one-time fee, it allows you access to over 100 English Heritage sites including Dover Castle, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and many more.
If you plan to visit a few sites, I would highly recommend buying this pass as it will end up saving you a bunch of money!
Note: This pass is only available to non-UK residents. Tickets are flexible with free cancellation up to 24-hours before activity starts. Mobile friendly payment and easy on the go booking.
→Find more info about the English Heritage Pass←
Day Trip to Dover from London – Self-Guided Itinerary
How to Get to Dover from London
Train – Trains to Dover from London depart regularly from London’s St. Pancras Station. The quickest way to get there is to take the high-speed Southeastern service that runs toward Ramsgate and get off at Dover Priory Station. The entire journey should take just over 1 hour.
→View train schedules and purchase your tickets online←
You will notice there are cheaper tickets available but these are for slow trains which take much longer and sometimes even require switching trains. To keep things simple and efficient, we recommend just paying a few extra pounds for the high-speed train.
Car – Driving from London to Dover should take just under 2 hours via the M20 depending on current traffic conditions. For full driving directions on Google Maps, click here.
Is it possible to visit the White Cliffs and Dover Castle in the same day?
Yes, it is possible. This is something we wondered before visiting Dover and we were glad that we were able to see both in the same day without feeling rushed. If you’re taking a day trip to Dover from London, you’ll want to make sure you leave early in the morning to make the most of your day.
The best option is to spend the morning walking the White Cliffs, stop for some lunch and then spend your afternoon at Dover Castle. Both attractions are very close to one another so it’s easy to access them both in one day.
A Brief History of the White Cliffs
Besides the fact that the White Cliffs are simply stunning, there’s also a deeper meaning behind them. The White Cliffs of Dover hold cultural significance to Britain; they are a national symbol of freedom and hope.
For centuries, the White Cliffs have been the first point of contact for those entering Britain and the last sight of the country for those crossing over the English Channel.
History of the cliffs extends back to the Roman times when Julius Caesar first set foot on the shores of Dover in 55 AD. He made mention of the cliffs by stating “a wild island with giant natural fortification”.
The cliffs have played a part in some of the most important moments in English history. They were a sign of freedom to the British soldiers who were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk during WW2.
They’ve been the gateway to England for visiting royalty who would have been greeted at the cliffs and then stayed at Dover Castle. These spectacular White Cliffs have been linked to wars and invasions throughout the ages and it goes without saying that they are a true British icon.
Walking the White Cliffs of Dover
Getting to the White Cliffs – Upon arrival in Dover, you’ll want to start your day off by making your way to the top of the White Cliffs. If you’ve taken the train, you should walk to the Information Centre inside Dover Museum in the town centre which is about 5 minutes away from the station.
You can pop inside for a map with directions or from there, just continue onto Bench Street which takes you toward Dover Port. You will pass through an underpass that runs under a busy road and then reach Marine Parade where you can enjoy a seafront walk.
Keep to the left and you should walk past some houses at the bottom of the cliffs. It won’t take long before you see the path that begins the incline toward the cliffs, just follow the signs.
The view from the path is very scenic and as you make your way up, you’ll see Dover Castle to your left and the ocean to your right.
It should take around 40 minutes to reach the top of the cliffs from the town centre.
Note: There is no bus service that runs from Dover Priory Station to the cliffs. If you choose to get a taxi instead of walking you can expect to pay around £6.
Walking along the White Cliffs – You’ll know you’ve made it to the start of the cliffs walk when you reach the White Cliffs of Dover Visitor Centre. This is the perfect place to stop in for refreshments and take a break from all that uphill walking.
The Visitor Centre is where the official path along the edge of the cliffs begins. You will notice that the path diverges and allows you the choice of walking closer to the edge or a bit further inland.
It won’t take long of following the path before you start to see the breath-taking views of the cliffs unfold before your eyes.
As you gaze out across the busy waters of the English Channel, try to imagine all the ships and historic figures these cliffs once welcomed (or in some cases, defended against.) On a clear day, you can even see France in the distance.
→Click here for a downloadable map to help guide you along the cliffs ←
Things to do at the White Cliffs of Dover
Besides going for a scenic walk, there are a couple of other things to do when visiting the cliffs. If you’re trying to squeeze a visit to Dover Castle in the same day, you probably won’t have time for everything but I will list them here just in case you are interested.
South Foreland Lighthouse – You have the option of walking the full 2 miles (40 mins) along the cliffs until you reach the South Foreland Lighthouse. There has been a lighthouse in this spot since the 14th century.
The current lighthouse has been rebuilt in Victorian times and is open to visitors by guided tour. Incredible views of the cliffs and the channel can be seen from the top. Click here to find more information on tours and activities at the lighthouse.
Mrs Knotts Tearoom – Stop here for home-made soup and sandwiches or tea and cakes at the lighthouse tearoom which is located in the cottage that belonged to the former lighthouse keepers – the Knott family. This lovely vintage style tea-room is perfectly decorated with 1950’s decor.
Fan Bay Deep Shelter – Explore the network of WWII tunnels that exist deep within the White Cliffs of Dover. These tunnels date back to the 1940s when they served as accommodation for the soldiers who operated the gun battery on the cliffs above.
The tunnels are located on the cliffs near the South Foreland Lighthouse, see map below. Guided tours will take you all the way down (70 ft underground) through the tunnels where you will see the walls covered with wartime graffiti and listen to the fascinating stories told by your guide.
This guided tour operates every 30 minutes during the spring and summer months, visit this website to find more details. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to the tunnels on a first come first serve basis. Tunnel tours are not recommended for those who feel claustrophobic in tight spaces.
Visiting Dover Castle
One of Britain’s most impressive and iconic fortresses, Dover Castle dates back to the 11th century and has played a significant defence role to England over the centuries. Of all the castles we visited in England, this one has to be the most epic!
For over 800 years, this castle has dominated the cliffs of Dover, defending the realm of England from invasions and wars. The original castle was established by William the Conqueror in the year 1066 and later expanded and remodelled by King Henry II in 1180 who added the great tower and other features that are still intact today.
A network of underground tunnels were added to defend against two sieges in the middle ages and then additional tunnels were built into the cliffs to defend against French invasions during the Napoleonic times.
During the WW2 years, these Napoleonic tunnels were used once again to house the command centre for naval operations on the English Channel. They later extended the tunnels to make room for a hospital to treat injured troops.
All of these tunnels are open to visitors and are an excellent passage through time to see what life was like during the wars.
Dover Castle Tickets
Buying Dover Castle tickets is quick and easy to do online. If you’ve already purchased the English Heritage Pass, don’t worry about buying tickets because entrance to Dover Castle is included in the pass.
We decided to buy our tickets online from this website and we were happy with how easy and convenient it was to do on the go. This way, you get instant confirmation and you don’t have to print out your ticket because mobile vouchers are accepted.
→Click here to buy your Dover Castle tickets online←
Things to do at Dover Castle
There is truly so much to see at Dover Castle, you could make an entire day of your visit if you wish to. Seeing as you don’t have that kind of time, it’s best to pick a few of these activities.
When we visited, we watched a jousting tournament, spent some time at the Great Tower and then took a walk through the medieval tunnels. As we only had a few hours to spend, we sadly couldn’t see it all and a trip back is definitely in order!
Tickets: £20.90/Adult, £12.50/Child
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm daily
The Great Tower – Take a step back in time as you explore the great tower that was built by King Henry II in the 1180’s. This lavish medieval palace would have welcomed royalty and important visitors, it was designed to impress.
All 3 floors of the tower have rooms that are fully furnished and decorated to recreate a 12th century palace. Take a seat on King Henry II’s throne and wander through the chambers where he once slept.
Make sure to climb the spiral staircase to the very top of the tower where epic views over the surrounding countryside can be seen. Visiting the great tower was the highlight of our day trip to Dover!
Medieval Tunnels – Descend into the maze of medieval tunnels below the castle complete with canons to defend against invasions. Get a feel for what life would have been like during a siege.
Underground Hospital – Take a tour of the underground hospital complex deep within the White Cliffs to experience life as a wounded solider during WWII. Check out the recreated scenes and follow the story of an injured pilot who was fighting for his life in that very hospital in the 1940’s.
Secret Wartime Tunnels – One of the most dramatic moments in English history was planned out in the secret tunnels below Dover Castle. Operation Dynamo was organized within those very tunnels.
Operation Dynamo was the epic rescue operation of the British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, which took place during WWII in 1940. Visit the actual tunnels where the plans to execute the operation unfolded. Watch as the special effects and real footage bring this incredible rescue to life.
Roman Lighthouse – Long before there was ever a castle in Dover, the Romans built a lighthouse on the very hilltop where the castle would later be built. Dating back to the year 43 AD, this lighthouse was constructed to help guide their ships into the harbour.
This incredibly well-preserved lighthouse happens to be the oldest of its kind still standing in England. You can find it within the castle walls, next to the beautifully restored Anglo-Saxon church.
PWRR Museum – Discover the official museum of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. Here, you will learn the history of royal regiments since the 16th century. There are fascinating artifacts on display including a scarf that was once owned by Queen Victoria. You can find this museum in the castle’s Keep Yard next to the Great Tower.
Restaurants and Cafés – There are a number of places to stop and refuel around the castle grounds. If you’re looking for lunch, try the NAAFI Restaurant which was once used by the soldiers stationed at Dover. If you’re looking for a coffee break, check out the Great Tower café which serves snacks, treats and also hot meals.
Events at Dover Castle – Throughout the year, Dover Castle holds many events and activities. When we visited, we watched a jousting tournament take place one the castle grounds which was very cool! Click here to browse any upcoming events that might interest you.
If you’re only planning to spend one day in Dover, it’s likely that you won’t have time left over for the Dover Museum. If you happen to have any extra time here, it is well worth checking out for any history lovers out there.
One of the oldest museums in Kent, Dover Museum dates back to the 1800’s. You can learn about Dover’s history spanning all the way back to the Stone Age, the Anglo-Saxon era and even the Roman times. The museum showcases Dover’s history as a port town through the medieval times with a fascinating collection of artefacts on display.
One of the most impressive features of Dover Museum is the Bronze Age Boat – the world’s oldest known sea faring boat. This incredible prehistoric boat was discovered in 1992 by construction workers when they were building a road near Dover.
Archaeologists determined it would have been used during the Bronze Age around the year 1,500 BC making this boat roughly 3,500 years old!! This remarkable discovery was internationally recognized as it is currently the oldest boat on record.
Tickets – Free
Opening Hours – 1 Oct – 31 March: Mon – Sat: 9.30am – 5pm
1 April – 30 Sept: Mon – Sat 9.30am – 5pm & Sun: 10am-3pm
Best Historic Pub in Dover
The White Horse – There is no better way to round off a full day of sightseeing than digging into a proper British pub meal for dinner. Dover’s #1 historic pub can be found at the bottom of the hill just outside of Dover Castle grounds.
The building itself dates back to the year 1365 when records show that the cellar was used as a morgue. Stop in here to enjoy a traditional home cooked meal and a pint after long day of sightseeing.
This is where we stopped for food and drinks during our day trip in Dover and we really enjoyed this place.
What to Pack for your Day Trip to Dover
Wind Breaker – The cliffs are open to visitors year round and seeing as they are situated right on the ocean, you can expect it to be windy no matter what time of year you visit. If you visit during spring or summer, you won’t need a heavy jacket but something light to keep you protected from the wind or potential shower.
Winter Coat – This is a must when visiting between the months of October – March. England is obviously cold during these months and even colder when you’re stood on the edge of a windy cliff near the ocean. A proper winter coat is definitely necessary during these months.
Good Walking Shoes – You’ll be doing a ton of walking on your day trip to Dover, it’s important to have some comfortable shoes that make the long day of walking a breeze. I would suggest bringing a sturdy pair of walking shoes.
Water Bottle – We did our day trip to Dover in July, it was roasting hot that day (even in the wind). I actually forgot to bring my water bottle for the long walk over the cliffs, don’t make this same mistake! As you will be walking for quite a while, this is not something you want to forget (especially in the summer!)
Day Pack – You’ll be spending a full day away from London and will definitely need to bring a bag to store your belongings for the day. I recommend something compact and spacious but not too big. I love this backpack because it packs up into a small size and it’s super lightweight – perfect for day trips.
Camera – You simply cannot visit the White Cliffs or Dover Castle without a camera in hand! Click here to check out the camera that we use for all of our travel photography. We’ve had this camera for 4 years now (no, it’s not the newest one on the market) but it’s reliable, and it takes good quality photos. If you’re looking to get into travel photography, it’s the perfect entry level SLR.
You might also need: Sunglasses and a windproof umbrella (It’s England, I’ve learned to never leave home without one).
Where to Stay in Dover
If you’re tired and not keen on making the journey back to London at the end of a long day, you can find all the best available accommodations in Dover below.
►Browse accommodation options in Dover◄
Read More About England Travel
- Day Trip to Canterbury from London – Complete 1 Day Itinerary
- 10 Awesome Ways to Spend a Day Out in Kent
- The Best Tours to the Cotswolds from London
- Top 10 Things to do in Ashford
- 20 Most Beautiful Villages in England
- An Epic One Week Road Trip from London
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What a great post. I LOVE Dover! The castle is amazing but my favorite part was exploring the WWII tunnels. They make history come alive and it is just so well done! And I was able to finally walk the White Cliffs of Dover in July this year and I did the full 7km walk, which was just incredible. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.
Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed the post. I love it there too, Dover is just so packed full of incredible history, all in one little town. Definitely would love a trip back there to walk further on the cliffs next time!
Dover seems like such a lovely trip! It’s making me want to go next time I’m in the U.K
It’s such a unique and beautiful spot in England, totally worth a visit and makes an awesome day trip from London 🙂
I definitely need to visit Dover again soon! I forgot how pretty it is. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for stopping by Sophie 🙂 Glad you liked the post, you absolutely should visit Dover if you get a chance!
I want to do this day trip so badly now! It sounds like so much fun and those white cliffs are insane! Thanks for sharing!
Glad you liked the post! It’s such an awesome day trip and definitely not to be missed when visiting London!