The subject of a 1942 hit song by Dame Vera Lynn and featured prominently in films about the Battle of Britain, the White Cliffs of Dover were definitely on our list of must see places to visit. Having sailed through Dover Straits many times, I have seen them before, but from 10 to 20 miles through binoculars, or at 35,000 feet while flying across the channel, it just isn’t the same. We definitely wanted to experience them up close and personal.
The White Cliffs of Dover
The park is a National Trust (NT) property, with the entrance located at the hairpin bend on Upper Road, just outside Dover. At the manned booth, non-National Trust members pay UKP 3.50 for parking, otherwise access to the park is free. At the booth, we handed over our membership cards and were thanked for our support, and welcomed back to a NT property. Very nice touch!
Parking is available on the road, as you drive from the booth to the visitor centre, but the main parking lots are on the hill above the visitor centre.
White Cliffs of Dover map – click here for link
The visitor centre, almost on the far left on the map above, consists of a cafe, gift shop and washrooms. We stopped for a quick lunch, then headed out to tackle the walk along the cliffs. Departing the cafeteria, it was already passed high Noon, with the temperature above 30C/90F and climbing. I guess we were classic subjects for the Noel Coward song, “Mad dogs and Englishmen”. It was hot, really hot and with no shade available, we should probably have opted for the siesta option, but damn the torpedoes, I was going exploring.
Visitor Centre is located directly above the Dover Ferry Terminal
Wide angle view of Dover port from the Visitor Centre
Setting off from the Visitor Centre, you have a number of options, listed from closest to furthest:
- Viewing point – 2 mile
- Langdon Steps – 3 miles
- Fan Bay Tunnels – 4 miles
- South Foreland Lighthouse & Tearoom – 6 miles
All distances, listed above are return trips to/from the Visitor Centre. Judi’s objective was the viewing point, while I planned to go most of the way to Fan Bay then on the return, descend down the Langdon steps. Shortly after departing the Visitor Centre, heading East, you can take the Cliff Walk, or the more elevated route. We elected to take the cliff walk.
Looking along the White Cliffs from the cliff walk
The path is well defined, but does get quite close to the edge as times. The grade is an easy gradual incline for most of the walk, until it rejoins the main track, overlooking Langdon Hole.
View from end of Cliff Walk looking East
The above photo looks over Langdon Hole with a large group of kids, who were about 10 minutes ahead of us, chilling out on the plateau below.
Judi on the cliff walk
Andy on the cliff walk
When the cliff walk rejoined the main track, Judi had reached her objective, so returned to the parking lot. However, I wanted to experience more, so continued onward.
Looking out across English Channel with approaching ferry
After Judi headed back, I continued along the main track, which headed around the back of Langdon Hole, initially descending and then climbing back up to the next cliff.
Looking back towards Dover
The above photograph shows part of the cliff walk at the edge of the cliff.
Main track around Langdon Hole
The above photograph was taken shortly after leaving Judi and is when I was almost 1/2 around Langdon Hole.
White Cliff, port and beach in the background
White Cliffs of Dover
I continued heading east until about 1/2 way between Langdon Hole and Fan Bay. At this point, I had a decision – continue on to the tunnels and lighthouse, or head back and descend down the cliff stairs. Really wanting to experience climbing down the cliffs towards the beach, so I elected to turn around.
View east from where I turned around
Looking across Dover Straits, with French coast in distance
Deeply rutted tracks at top of cliff, looking west towards Dover
At the bottom of the tracks shown in the above photo, I then took the cliff edge route around Langdon hole, which initially drops rather steeply. At the top of the Langdon Steps, I took the plunge and descended down the cliff towards the beach.
Top of Langdon Steps looking down first level
At end of first descent showing first 2 levels down the cliff
About 1/2 way down the cliff
White Cliffs from part way down cliff
White Cliffs looking back towards Dover
Looking back up the cliff from about 2/3 way down the cliff
Wreck of SS Falcon that grounded in 1926
With time marching on, I descended about 2/3 of the way down, before turning around and heading back to the Visitor Centre. Needless to say, it was a tough climb back up the cliff.
From the top of the Langdon Steps
Taken from the top of the Langdon Steps, it looks west across the Langdon Hole towards the Visitor Centre and Dover. After the climb up the cliff, I got a short reprieve from climbing, with the descent along the fence.
White Cliffs looking towards Dover
At bottom of Langdon Hole looking back towards the top of the steps
White Cliffs looking east up English Channel
Climbing out of Langdon Hole
Doesn’t look too bad on the above photo, but the grade is almost 30%.
From top of Langdon Hole looking east
Landscape on top of cliffs
Final view of White Cliffs before returning to parking lot
All in all, while rather hot, I spent an exceptional couple of hours touring the White Cliffs. I would certainly return again, but would plan to spend the entire day, preferably one slightly cooler, and I would include the tunnels and a trip to the lighthouse tearoom.
To gain a better perspective of the available trails, select the link on the White Cliffs map close to the top of this post.