The White Cliffs of Dover are one of England’s most recognizable landmarks. The sheer cliffs of white chalk mark the closest part of England to the continental landmass, with Dover serving as an important port town throughout history. The port is busy to this day, and ferry passengers traveling to and from France enjoy perhaps the most striking views of the symbolic sight.
The White Cliffs of Dover reach up to 300 feet in height and stretch for 10 miles to the east and west of the town of Dover. The cliffs face France across the narrowest part of the English Channel. The chalk–which consists if sea shell fragments and the remains of small sea organisms–is soft, fine-grained and streaked with black flint.
Because the White Cliffs of Dover face continental Europe at the narrowest part of the English Channel, they have seen many invasion attempts throughout England’s long and storied history. You can see France from the cliffs on a clear day.
Julius Caesar landed off Dover in 55 B.C. He was met by armed forces, so he got back onto his ship and travelled to a different shore instead.
There are hidden tunnels behind the face of Dover’s cliffs that were carved by prisoners held in Dover Castle during the Napoleonic Wars. The tunnels later were enlarged as secret wartime tunnels, parts of which served as Winston Churchill’s military headquarters during World War II.
The White Cliffs of Dover are the first and last sight you see when departing from or arriving in the port of Dover. Their striking appearance adds to their sentimental value as a symbol of England. The cliffs’ symbolic value to the English is exemplified in the famous World War II-era song sung by Vera Lynn, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover.”
Inquire at least two weeks in advance, and you can enjoy a personal tour of your chosen White Cliffs area by one of the “White Cliffs Greeters.” The greeters are local residents who volunteer to share the history and stories of the White Cliffs area with visitors.
The White Cliffs of Dover are mentioned in Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” They also are featured in the 1902 poem “The Broken Man” by Rudyard Kipling; the song “See Me Through” by Van Morrison; and in scenes of the James Bond film, “Moonraker,” and the movie “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” starring Kevin Costner.