Spotlight on Dover and St Margaret’s

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Instantly recognisable for its iconic White Cliffs and busy port, Dover is our nation’s gateway to Europe

An artist's impression of the Dover Western Docks Revival plan

An artist's impression of the Dover Western Docks Revival plan - Credit: Archant

There’s such a sense of pride and nostalgia about Dover’s famous chalk cliffs that the entire area is known as White Cliffs Country.

The stretch of cliffs, running from Kingsdown to Dover and again from Dover to Folkestone, overlooks the narrowest part of the English Channel. Their strategic location means they’ve witnessed all sorts of military action and, during the Second World War, even came to represent our nation’s freedom.

Today the cliffs are managed by the National Trust and the many walkers who come to admire the incredible coastal views can stop off at the White Cliffs of Dover Visitor Centre and, about a 50-minute walk away, take in the South Foreland Lighthouse (see also page 29).

Dover's busy harbour with the Castle in the background (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Dover's busy harbour with the Castle in the background (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

The Trust also runs tours of the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, a fascinating wartime network of tunnels built into the cliffs themselves.

Thanks to its position, Dover has always been important and a settlement has been here since the Bronze Age. When the Romans invaded it became known as the port of Dubris, with a large harbour flanked by lighthouses and protected by forts. One of the lighthouses remains today as part of the Dover Castle complex and dozens more Roman sites have been uncovered, including the Roman Painted House.

Dover Castle, standing high above the town and its biggest tourist attraction, has a history going back to the 11th century. Managed by English Heritage, it offers visitors the chance to explore the ancient stronghold itself, as well as its own fascinating underground tunnels.

Ian Fleming's house beneath the White Cliffs at St Margaret's Bay (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Ian Fleming's house beneath the White Cliffs at St Margaret's Bay (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

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If you want to explore even more of the region’s history, excellent Dover Museum is home to everything from a huge collection of Dover postcards to a Bronze Age boat.

At the same time, Dover is a town looking to the future. The much-anticipated Cineworld six-screen cinema has opened at the new St James leisure and retail development and work is underway to create a new £26m leisure centre at Whitfield. Major house building programmes continue at sites in Aylesham and Whitfield, Buckland Mill and Connaught Barracks in Dover itself.

The area continues to lead the way when it comes to tourism, with notable recent successes. The Kent Tourism Awards named The White Horse in Dover as Tourism Pub of the Year, while Alkham Court won a Gold Award for its glamping business and one for its farmhouse B&B, at the Tourism South East’s Beautiful South Awards.

Plenty of independent shopping and eating opportunities on Dover's busy High Street (photo: Manu Pal

Plenty of independent shopping and eating opportunities on Dover's busy High Street (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Dover Western Docks Revival

Many of us will have travelled on a cross-Channel ferry from Dover and it’s famously our country’s busiest port. And with freight volumes reaching record levels for the fifth year in a row, it’s good timing for the Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) project.

Mural by street artist Banksy near Dover's ferry terminal showing a workman on a ladder chipping awa

Mural by street artist Banksy near Dover's ferry terminal showing a workman on a ladder chipping away at one of the 12 stars on the European Union flag (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Supported by a mix of private finance and European Union grant funding, DWDR will transform the waterfront area, which will ultimately attract a host of new shops, bars, cafés and restaurants.

It will also see the relocation and further development of the cargo business with a new cargo terminal and distribution centre, as well as the creation of greater space within the Eastern Docks for ferry traffic.

Tim Waggott, Chief Executive of the Port of Dover, says: “When fully completed, DWDR could generate up to £765m of local economic benefit through a host of new job opportunities for local people and a transformed waterfront experience for our community and visitors alike.

The White Horse Inn, Dover

The White Horse Inn, Dover - Credit: Archant

“Already we are seeing local communities in and around Dover benefiting from the construction phase of this key project for Dover and the nation.”

St Margaret’s

The lovely village of St Margaret’s is technically split into St Margaret’s Bay on the coast and the residential area of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, a little further inland.

The bay boasts a pretty shingle beach, perfect for youngsters exploring the rock pools, while the heart of the rural village features pubs, shops, a church and a school.

The village was a popular holiday resort for wealthy Victorians and has attracted many famous fans over the years. Noel Coward owned a house overlooking the bay until 1951, selling it to James Bond author Ian Fleming. Set on top of the cliffs and surrounded by spectacular countryside, it’s very popular with walkers and holidaying families.

And don’t miss the Pines Garden - an environmental learning centre and organic garden, with a lovely tea room.

Shopping and eating

Shopping in Dover has been dominated by the De Bradelei Wharf shopping outlet for some time. With a beautiful waterfront setting, there’s a wide range of stores selling at discount prices and the popular Boardwalk Café.

The St James retail development will add to Dover’s retail and leisure offer, with a number of big brands. Set on the A20, the development includes a six-screen Cineworld cinema, a Travelodge hotel, a gym, an M&S Simply Food and Next, with restaurants including Frankie & Benny’s, Bella Italia and Nando’s, along with 445 new car parking spaces.

When it comes to eating, it’s not surprising that fresh fish figures on many menus, but there’s much more to Dover than its famous sole. Eat out at popular Indian restaurant Namaste, Cullin’s Yard, Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, The Waterfront at Dover Marina Hotel, Dino’s Italian, The Allotment, La Scala, The White Horse (see our Postcard from Dover) or many more.

In St Margaret’s, try The Cliffe Kitchen at The White Cliffs Hotel, The Smugglers and The Coastguard. And further afield, look out for The Cider Works at Waldershare and The Marquis at Alkham.

The best tea and cake around can be found at The Pines Garden Tea Room and at the charming Mrs Knott’s Tea Room at the South Foreland Lighthouse.

Property prices

It’s an affordable part of Kent generally, so expect prices to start at around £75,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with two-bed properties priced between £95,000 and £290,000. Three-bed houses are currently priced between £150,000 and £525,000. Larger properties are available right up to £825,000.

Getting there

Dover is easily accessible by car, train or coach. Dover Priory station has connections to London (high speed trains to St Pancras take around 1 hour 15 minutes) and the town is approached by car on the M20 or M2/A2.

Sat nav: CT16 1JA

Postcard from Dover

I’m Stuart Fox, and along with my partner, Julian Crowley, we are pub landlords of The White Horse Inn at Dover. We’ve been together for 13 years but in September 2016 we took over the pub from a retiring couple, having never had a pub before. Julian spent 17 years as an officer on P&O Ferries and I was a senior charge nurse and nurse practitioner for 12 years. Jules is from Temple Ewell in Dover originally and I moved to Kent to train to be a nurse in 2000.

Obviously changing careers in our early 40s was a massive gamble but it made us even more determined to work hard. Within two months we had doubled sales then went on to treble sales. We are Cask Marque accredited and we won Tourism Pub of the Year at the Kent Tourism Awards.

The building itself is one of the oldest in Dover and dates back to 1365, but has been operating as an ale house since the 15th century. It survived the bombings of Dover during both wars.

In recent years it’s become traditional for Channel swimmers to sign our walls. It started in 2002, when two brothers were over from Australia to swim the channel and the landlord said if they managed it they could sign the pub’s wall. They both duly did.

The pub is reputed to be haunted and within days of moving here we could both confirm it has a number of spirits. There is a gentleman who sits in the back bar and has been spotted in the last year. There is poltergeist behaviour upstairs in the accommodation and the commercial kitchen can be very lively. On the whole, though, it doesn’t feel like there are negative vibes here.

Dover has the most spectacular castle and the White Cliffs, which draw thousands of tourists here. Then we have our Banksy too. There is a real sense of community and a lot of people working together to support the town and each other.

We have two nights off per week so we absolutely love to get out and about for dinner and drinks. We love Dino’s, Namaste, Il Rustico and Dover Marina Hotel for dinner. Drinks in the cellar bar of Blake’s of Dover or at Cullin’s Yard - sitting outside at the marina if the weather is fine. The stretch of seafront in Dover is breathtaking and perfect for a stroll or a morning run.

Check out the White Horse Facebook page here.