Original article from Kent Live
It's pretty much guaranteed that when you think of Dover, the first thing that comes to mind is the White Cliffs.
Dover's iconic chalk coastline has long been a landmark in the UK and was once a symbol of home to men returning from war.
It continues to be a popular site for coastal walks and cycle trails, attracting 260,000 visitors annually.
Having never been Dover before, I assumed that pretty much all I'd find on my first visit was the White Cliffs – which are undoubtedly beautiful to look at but perhaps not entertaining enough to warrant a whole day trip.
I stood corrected however when my train travelled right along the coastline and I realised I could quite happily sit and admire the scenery all day.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Dover was the impressive castle, which looms over the town from the cliffs and can be seen from pretty much everywhere you go.
The medieval castle dates back to the 11th century and has acted as the gateway to the realm for nine centuries.
But it's not just impressive to look at – Dover Castle also has an underground hospital and a maze of secret wartime tunnels, which visitors can explore and learn about the masterminds behind the Dunkirk rescue operation.
After admiring the castle for a while, I headed into the town centre and was pleasantly surprised to find there was more to Dover than its iconic history.
The quaint streets and brick buildings are interspersed with plenty of shops and eateries, from small, independent businesses to high street favourites.
Right in the heart of the town centre is the new St James Retail and Leisure Park and the nearby Stembrook Lane shopping arcade for all your retail needs.
The town centre was relatively busy which was nice to see after a tough year for businesses – with people sat outside restaurants and cafes, enjoying a bite to eat in the sun.
Something that really stood out to me was the care that had been put into make Dover look appealing to visitors – the streets were bright and clean, bunting hung between the buildings and flowerbeds brought a bit of colour to the streets.
It was also refreshing to see Dover District Council making a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly.
The flowerbeds were planted in parklets produced using sustainable materials, including plastic waste collected from the beaches.
Of course, I couldn't possibly visit Dover without taking a trip to the beach.
I was pleased to see the vibrant colours continued right down to the coast – the underpass is decorated with a colourful mural of ships sailing alongside the White Cliffs.
The pristine white buildings along the seafront made me temporarily forget I was looking at the English Channel and not the Mediterranean sea.
The gale force winds brought me back to reality, however I was still able to enjoy a quiet stroll along the pebbles.
I started my trip to Dover with the expectation of not finding much but nice scenery, and ended it wishing I'd had more time to explore what the town has to offer.
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There's a huge variety of water-sports to sample and visitors can embark on a sea safari to view seals in their natural environment.
Or if history is more your thing, you can take a trip to Dover Museum which houses the world's oldest surviving sea vessel and a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age boat.
Unfortunately I didn't get time to properly explore the marina, but as is expected of a port town there are plenty of fish and chip shops and restaurants to try.
There's certainly more to Dover than meets the eye and I'll definitely be back again soon.