Traveling West Along the Southern Coast of England – White Cliffs of Dover & Brighton Beach

On the beautiful crisp morning of August 28th, I rose early, grabbed my belongings after making myself some scrambled eggs & bacon, climbed in the car and proceeded to enjoy a very nice morning ride through the orchards and farms, all traffic-free mind you, from Canterbury to the coastline at Dover. (Dover is represented by Point A on the right side of the map below.)

My desired destination for the day was Brighton Beach (Point B), and I was hoping I would arrive by early afternoon since it was only about 75 miles away. “It should be a nice, leisurely drive following the coastline.” I thought.driving mapFor the next three nights while I continued to travel west, I would be spending just one night in each location; Brighton, then Swanage and finishing up with the little town of Beer! Mmmm…sounds refreshing!

Each town had a hostel that I pre-booked. I was anxious to see what they had in store for me! It’s always such a treat to arrive, see the building and get a feel for its locale. Although I’d seen pictures of the hostels online when I booked, it’s never quite like it is when it’s “live and in person.” Almost always, better!

I drove the short distance from Canterbury down to St. Margaret’s Bay at the eastern boundary of the famous white chalky cliffs. There is a really nice State Park at the edge of the small cove and I was greeted by several camping families waking up from their caravan campers and preparing their breakfast on an open fire along the pebbled beach. (I didn’t take any pictures of them, however; I know what I look like when I have just woken up. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate my photo being taken, posted on a blog looking like that and frightening everyone!)IMG_5539It certainly would be a nice place to wake up in, however, and so picturesque. I walked along as far as I could in both directions and soaked in the scenery and the salty smell of the ocean.

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The morning was getting away from me and I felt like I needed to go down the road further, so I drove back up the steep, narrow and winding canyon road to the top of the bluff and drove a short distance west to the city of Dover and it’s huge harbour.

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Just to the east of the city is the National Trust site – the “White Cliffs of Dover.” I drove up to the ticket window, showed my membership card and quickly found a convenient parking place right next to the trailhead leading out along the edge of the cliffs.IMG_5545It’s quite an extensive area to explore, complete with lighthouses and even tearooms to enjoy as well. (I’ve realized that there is never a tea room too far away in the UK, even in the remotest areas where I least expect to find one!)

One could walk for miles in this vast area that once held a prison, barracks and has witnessed a lot of history in the making over the centuries. I walked along the cliff trail for a while enjoying the sweeping and iconic views.IMG_5556

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After my cliff hike, I drove down into, and through, the busy town of Dover venturing further west hugging the coastline through small towns and villages along the way, stopping now and then to take in their splendid vistas.IMG_5558Soon, however, I noticed that the traffic had increased ten-fold and I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the remainder of my journey to Brighton. It ended up taking me a lot longer than I had thought it was going to take and although it was leisurely, very leisurely, in fact, it wasn’t all that pleasant.

What I hadn’t realized was that this was the last bank holiday of the summer season, just like it was at home in the USA with Labor Day weekend. Everyone in southern England was headed to the same place I was – their favourite seaside holiday destination!

Brighton was also a much bigger town than I had imagined, more like a city, and I kept driving down into the heart of it until I reached the famous pier perched on its seashore. Right across the street from that famous pier was the hostel! What a super location and it’s an old historic Victorian hotel!IMG_5560

front door of Brighton YHAThe Royal York has been a feature in the city since it first opened in Steine Place as a hotel in 1819. It was named after the Duke of York, brother of the Prince Regent, and was the first of the new large-scale hotels in Brighton at the time. It had one hundred beds, and became the most fashionable venue in town with concerts and recitals given in the public rooms; the first Tradesmen’s Ball was held there in 1823.

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Inside it was quite massive and had been remodelled just a few years ago, reflecting a more modern tone. It had a really nice self-catering kitchen tucked back in the corner and a nice dining room and bar for meals and refreshments. Everything I could ask for!

 

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Best of all it was located directly across the street from the seashore and the iconic Brighton Pier. As soon as I was properly checked in, I wandered back outside into the hustle and bustle of merry-making on the beach and promenade along its never-ending length. IMG_5570To say that everybody, and their brother, was there was an understatement.  Everybody, their brother AND their brother-in-law was there! People everywhere! So much fun to watch and be amused with for hours!IMG_5571People were enjoying themselves in every fashion; swimming, sunbathing, riding bicycles, walking their dogs, skating, playing on the pier, fishing, riding carousels – you name it! One could hear the gleeful giggles of children for miles!

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IMG_5583IMG_5584I mused while looking at the lifeguard tower and wondered how long it must take the lifeguard to get down those spiral steps and over to the water to save a drowning victim. Too bad they didn’t have a fireman’s pole attached to the crow’s nest so they could just slide right down in seconds! Or how about a slide down to the water’s edge right over the sunbather’s heads?

After getting my fill of people watching for a while, I meandered back across the boulevard and walked into the old town to see what other gems could be found. That’s when I stumbled upon the Palace!

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It’s a shame I was only there for one night; the History Pass above sounded like quite a good deal! Unfortunately, since it was a national “holiday,” the Royal Pavillion employees were also enjoying a ‘day off’ and so the tours inside were closed. I was only able to enjoy its splendour from the exterior. I hear it’s quite magnificent inside with its Chinese motif. Perhaps another time…for now I would enjoy the beautiful Indian architecture on the outside.

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IMG_5607The light was beginning to get low in the sky so I worked my way back toward the beach; stopping off at the hostel on the way for a bit of refreshment (lemon cake and whisky)  before I strolled along the shoreline promenade as the sunset appeared upon the horizon.

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Further down the promenade I noticed a large pole-like structure and asked an elderly local couple walking their dog what it was. They explained that it’s the newest addition to the amusement choices at the seashore; the British Airways i360.

Similar to the “Eye” in London, it has a glass ‘doughnut-shaped’ viewing platform wrapped around the pole and it rises to its’ full height, some 400 feet in the air, offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding coastline and countryside stretching inland toward London.

As I walked closer, the “doughnut” began rising. I arrived at its base just in time to purchase a ticket for the last flight of the day – after dark! Ooooh! This is going to be fun!

As we watched the spectacular colours appear in the sky and waited on the flight deck while it made its descent, a happy young couple nearby enjoyed some nice big lounge chairs.

IMG_5628Soon the pod was at the bottom and descending underground where the occupants would disembark into the gift shop below.

 

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Once the passengers disembarked below deck, it rose back up where we waited and then we were allowed to board.

Soon thereafter it started its gradual and very smooth climb to the top, offering beautiful views of the coastline below. One barely noticed it was moving at all.

At the very top, the view was quite outstanding!

IMG_5640It was quite the experience. Luckily I am not afraid of heights!

Back down on ground level, I meandered along the promenade back toward the pier which was all lit up now in all its glory.

IMG_5641IMG_5646It’s no wonder families and kids of all ages love coming to this delightful seashore destination and have done so for centuries. One certainly would not get bored in this atmosphere! I know I wasn’t!

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 64-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

2 thoughts on “Traveling West Along the Southern Coast of England – White Cliffs of Dover & Brighton Beach”

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