first stop on this Great Britain tour is the Norman Castle in Canterbury; seeing the Cliffs of Dover in one of the top-of-the-hour teaser videos actually inspired me to write about my adventures.
my trip to Canterbury is probably the one that has come up most often in the intervening years — one of my early misadventures that resulted in an interesting anecdote. Becca and I set off on one of our days off with an eye to visiting the site where, as one of our high school history teachers regaled us, Sir Thomas Becket was gruesomely martyred by men loyal to Henry II. (whether Henry II called for the hit remains a matter of hotly contested historical debate.)
the day started out well enough, catching a train from Waterloo station towards Dover, but got complicated in short order. we failed to change trains at a key juncture — who knew that garbled announcement we heard as the train paused in Ashford directed us to change to another line for Canterbury? and deduced our mistake as the white cliffs of Dover rolled past the train window. thankfully, the return train towards London (via Ashford) departed within a few minutes of our unintended arrival and we successfully found ourselves in Canterbury a relatively short while later.
after a short visit to the Cathedral (possibly about which more later) we headed for the more interesting — to me at least — site of the Norman Castle, constructed shortly after the pivotal Battle of Hastings in 1066. following his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror (aka William I) headed towards London via this road from Dover; to defend the road three motte-and-bailey castles were constructed, one of which stood on the site in Canterbury we visited.
the ruins we saw are from the stone keep constructed during the rein of Henry I. made of flint and sandstone chips, it was one three royal castles in Kent at the time; part of the enclosure reused the city wall originally constructed by the Romans.. by the 14th century, larger castles in Dover overshadowed this castle and it became a jail; by the 17th century it had fallen into ruin. it’s now owned and run by local authority and open to the public year round, which is why we were able to wander in and take a look around in the middle of a not-quite-drizzly afternoon.
the return journey, while successful, also presented an unwanted adventure that I’m sure at least one of us could have done without. all in all, though, I enjoyed the day trip and getting to see a structure that has seen innumerable changes over centuries and centuries.