Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Is this enough time for Canterbury, Beachy Head, and Dover? (

chris45ny Oct 16th, 2014 05:41 PM

Is this enough time for Canterbury, Beachy Head, and Dover?
Some background info. My husband and I are both retired, 65+ senior travelers who like to take things slow. Will have been in London 7-10 days first.

I am interested in Thomas Becket, Chaucer, and majestic cathedrals. That's the reason for Canterbury. Plan is to take a mid morning train from London and arrive in Canterbury around noon or so. Check in to lodging which hasn't been determined yet. Plan is to tour the Cathedral and stay for evensong. If there's enough time I'd like to do the Canterbury Tales audiovisual tour. Will spend 1 night here.

This last part is for my husband who wants to see the White Cliffs of Dover.
Take early morning train from C. East to Eastbourne, arriving around 10 am. Drop off bags at lodging-to be determined. Sussex Voyages does a 1 hr. boat tour from Sovereign Harbor. It leaves at 11:15 am or 2:45 pm. I'd like to do the morning boat tour which goes along the coast to Beachy Head and the lighthouse. I'd then do the hop on, hop off open top bus tour by City Sightseeing and get off at stops for Birling Gap and Beachy Head. Maybe do some walking on the South Downs Way?? Original plan was for 1 night but do you think we need 2 nights here?

Then train to Dover early morning arriving around 10 am. Drop off bags at lodging-to be determined. Here I want to tour the Dover Castle, taking the Secret Wartimes Tunnels (Operation Dynamo) tour. There's a boat tour through Dover Sea Safari which goes along the coast up towards Deal. This goes at 12 noon or 2 pm with 1/2 hr. check in before departure. Would I have enough time to get to the Prince of wales pier by 11:30 if I arrive at 10 am? I'd do the boat tour first, then Dover Castle which is open until 6 pm. I think there's a trail/footpath along the cliff near the Castle?? Maybe if there's time for a brief walk?? Was thinking 1 night here but is that enough time?

Finally a train to Ashford International where we would get the 9:55 am Eurostar to Paris. The train from Dover would get us to Ashford by 9 am. Is that enough time to make the Eurostar. I will have booked the Eurostar tickets before leaving the US.

So is 3 nights-Canterbury, Eastbourne/Beachy Head, Dover enough or should I add more time? If this plan for Beachy Head area and Dover seems too rushed I have no problem adding another night here and there.

I appreciate any advice/suggestions. Thanks!!

janisj Oct 16th, 2014 06:45 PM

I'm a bit confused trying to figure out exactly where you'll be when. I looks to me that you hope to tour Dover Castle after a boat ride that doesn't even leave til noon. I don't see how you could manage this since Dover Caste is basically an all day excursion. Say the boat trip is 90 minutes . . . you'd get up to the Castle after 2PM. And wouldn't have eaten since breakfast. So a meal in the castle and maybe 3 or 3.5 hours free. That really isn't long enough for the whole castle inc. the WWII sites.

>>then Dover Castle which is open until 6 pm. << When is the trip? At least through next March the castle closes at 4 PM or 5 PM depending on the month.

I personally think your whole plan after leaving London is too rushed w/ a LOT of packing/unpacking/moving.

chris45ny Oct 16th, 2014 07:41 PM


In an earlier post of mine you had suggested Beachy Head when I mentioned my husband's wish to see the White Cliffs of Dover.

Based on what you said about the Castle deserving one day I have decided to do 2 nights in Dover. Thanks.

For Eastbourne I am thinking 2 nights here also. One day for the bus tour and the other day for the boat tour and whatever else we fancy doing.

Canterbury, Beachy Head, and Dover are the only short stays of our trip.

The rest of our Europe trip has stays of minimum 1 week to maximum of 2 weeks in some places. Plan is to start trip beginning August 2015 in London and ending mid October 2015 in Rome.

janisj Oct 16th, 2014 11:43 PM

It is too bad you won't have a car. Dover (the city) is a bit of a dump so staying there two nights isn't that great. But there is PLENTY to see/do in the area for two days. The castle plus Deal and Walmer Castles and the boat ride. Select your B&B or hotel carefully. I can't give specific recommendations since I've visited Dover several times but never stayed IN the city.

What you want to see/do is possible by train. Walmer and Deal are very close so maybe you could find a B&B in one of them.

If you had a car you could stay anywhere out in the countryside or in a nearby village or town. Have you considered using a car just for your time in Kent?

annhig Oct 17th, 2014 03:51 AM

why not stay in Canterbury and do a day trip to Dover?

I agree with JJ that it is a dump and not really deserving of an overnight stay let alone two. There are trains every half hour and they take half an hour - so you could enjoy staying in Canterbury and have a whole day in Dover.

Here's the timetable - I picked tomorrow as the date but there shouldn't be many changes to it:;0;0

I also agree that if you were prepared to drive, your trip might be easier to plan.

nytraveler Oct 17th, 2014 06:02 AM

Agree that this trip is much more easily done with a car than limiting yourself to trains with schedules that may not fit yours nor get you exactly where you want to go.

We did this as a day trip form London - but got up early drive straight to Dover Castle, go there when it opened and toured through lunch (and we were moving quickly). Then drove to Canterbury and spent the afternoon looking at the Cathedral and (briefly) town and headed back to London for a late dinner. But we were in our 30s and moving quickly. Did not go near the town of Dover or any beach.

With so many days I think you could do more with your own transport - cutting out the don;t really want to sees.

chris45ny Oct 17th, 2014 06:33 AM

You know I never thought about renting a car. We've rented cars before overseas and my husband has no trouble driving on the left. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll check with my better half and see what he thinks. Where would we rent the car from as we intend to take the Eurostar to Paris?? Could we just get a rental once we reach Canterbury? Or are you saying we should rent the car in London? How will the traffic be going down to these places from London? I remember how horrendous the traffic was on our tour to Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath back in 2008 and thinking how glad I was not to be driving. Lots of traffic in places that brought us to a crawl.

With a car I wouldn't do the bus in Eastbourne. So you all are suggesting staying in Canterbury for 3 nights with car to sightsee the Dover stuff?? We would spend maybe 1 night then in Eastbourne??

Is International Drivers Permit required for UK?

Sorry for all the questions.

janisj Oct 17th, 2014 09:00 AM

You could rent from Maidstone, or at Ashford, or at Dover, or other places, or even at Gatwick (take the train to LGW from London and collect the car there). Then you can drop it at Ashford before taking the Eurostar.

I'd start w/ and play around with different pick up/drop off locations. Since some of the major players are located in some places but not others. Autoeurope will set you up w/ a company that fits your itinerary.

janisj Oct 17th, 2014 09:01 AM

Oh - missed the bit about the IDP . . . nope. And iDP is merely a translation of your license and presumably your license in already in English :)

isabel Oct 17th, 2014 09:45 AM

I think you could do it without a car if you don't want the hassle of renting a car. But I don't think you need to move three times to visit such a small (geographic) area. It's less than a half hour train ride from Canterbury to Dover.

Have you considered staying several nights in Canterbury (a much nicer town than Dover) and doing a day trip to Dover for the castle? Or even two day trips if you want to walk the path above the cliffs and/or do a boat trip.

I actually did both Canterbury and Dover as day trips from London (different trips entirely) but I felt like the majority of a day was good for Canterbury (and it looked like it would be a nice place to overnight). Dover Castle took me close to five hours.

Here's a photo I took of the white cliffs from the grounds of Dover Castle.

In the photo you can see the path that you can walk on. In my research before the trip (Dover Castle was just last summer) I read several trip reports where people did the walk and the castle in the same day so if you time it right it's certainly possible. And not everyone needs five hours there (I did the hospital tour as well as the 'main' WWII tunnels tour, plus I had lunch and spent quite a lot of time in the Castle itself.)

chris45ny Oct 17th, 2014 10:50 AM

Thanks for all the help! You all are great and a big help.

Right now I'm thinking of staying 3 nights in Canterbury with day trips to Dover to cover the Castle, a small walk (thanks for the picture isabel-much appreciated!) and maybe a second day trip for the boat tour. This way on that second day with the shorter time in Dover just for the boat tour I'd have time to do the audiovisual tour of the Canterbury Tales. I'm still thinking 2 nights in Eastbourne ending with a train to Ashford for the Eurostar. I've checked the train schedules for times and prices.

Another option is to rent a car, still basing our 3 nights in Canterbury but driving to Dover and back to Canterbury. Then driving from Canterbury to Eastbourne for our 2 nights there and then dropping off the car in Ashford for the Eurostar. I will need to check rental car prices.

It may come down to overall cost-car vs. train as I'm on a budget for this trip.

Thanks again for all the help. I really appreciate it.

janisj Oct 17th, 2014 01:16 PM

I just did a dummy search on Autoeurope collecting a car at Gatwick and dropping it at Ashford International for 4 days and the quotes run from $138 (yes US$) to $202 depending on size of car and manual vs automatic.

annhig Oct 17th, 2014 02:09 PM

I think that if you collect the car at Gatwick as JJ suggests, [a very good idea IMO] your trip would make more sense if you go to Eastbourne first, then Canterbury, dropping the car off at Ashford.

chris45ny Oct 18th, 2014 06:26 AM


Is that per day? If it's for the 4 days that's a great price and a real help to my budget. It seems too low for 4 days but a bit maybe more than my budget would allow for each day plus I'd have to figure in the cost of gas/petrol.

I just did a search too and it appears that those prices are showing for the entire rental period. It still seems so low to me because it works out to only $50 USD per day. I think my husband is going to be driving!! Thanks so much for the link.


It does make more sense to go to the furthest place-Eastbourne-first and then Canterbury. With a car the day trips to Dover will be easy. Thanks for the suggestion.

annhig Oct 18th, 2014 08:01 AM

Chris - on your way from Eastbourne to Canterbury, do make time to explore some of the country side. if you head east along the coast you will come to Hastings, which has a pretty harbour area, but even better is the lovely old town of Rye a little bit further on, which I'm sure you would enjoy seeing. Then turn inland and wend your way to Canterbury via Northiam, Hawkhurst, Cranbrook and Staplehurst - all gorgeous little towns/villages. Tenterden is also very nice but a little off this route.

if you like gardens, the renowned garden of Sissinghurst [National Trust] is near Cranbrook - about 1/2 way between Eastbourne and Canterbury.

janisj Oct 18th, 2014 08:06 AM

>>Is that per day?<<

No, that was a four day booking through autoeurope. Autoeurope is a fantastic resource It is a broker based in Maine and IME is cheapest about 75% of the time. They are NOT a rental agency, but a broker. For the dummy booking I did LGW > Ashford they hooked me up w/ Hertz.

chris45ny Oct 18th, 2014 04:17 PM

janis and ann-

My husband agrees that having a rental car may work out better for us. I priced out the train tickets vs. cost of rental and gas/petrol and I think we will come out almost even-maybe the car has a slight advantage as I don't know what the cost of gas is. I do know that in 2011 in Greece it was running about $7 per gallon even though gas is in liters in Europe. The car will give us the freedom to stop in some of the lovely places you've mentioned. I do like gardens so Sissinghurst intrigues me.

What I'm wondering now is with 2 nights in Eastbourne and 3 nights in Canterbury-is that enough time or should I add another night. With 5 nights and adding Sissinghurst and Rye to the mix can we do that in 5 nights?? If we stop at the gardens and Rye on the way to Canterbury that will take up that day I think. Then I need to do day trips to Dover. All I really want to do in Canterbury is the cathedral and evensong service. We will definitely do the boat trip in Eastbourne. Do you think we should also do the boat trip in Dover? If not then I'd do 1 day trip to Dover for the Castle. Then 5 nights should be fine. I hope I'm not driving you all crazy with my thoughts/questions here!!

Do you think we would need GPS?

janisj Oct 18th, 2014 04:34 PM

OK -- add more time . . . If you can. But five nights will be very nice. You could spend weeks in Kent and East Sussex and not see all the wonderful gardens and castles. So just decide what you are comfortable w/ time-wise. 5 nights is good, 6 or 7 nights is GOOD.

Now I'll throw another grenade into the middle of your planning - just to give you something to think about. Originally you were thinking staying in Canterbury (and Dover/Eastbourne) partly because you needed to be where trains/public transport went. W/ a car you aren't limited to trains. You could stay in any lovely village/town. Since you are really mostly interested in the Cathedral and Evensong . . I personally might not stay IN Canterbury at all. You could stay in one base towards the west for Sissinghurst/Rye/Bodiam/Eastbourne/etc etc, and one base towards the east for Dover/cliffs/Canterbury/Deal/Ashford/Eurostar/etc/etc.

Heck -- there is even a B&B right AT Sissinghurst . . . In the grounds!

If you do stay IN Canterbury, be sure the B&B has off street parking. They don't all . . .

annhig Oct 19th, 2014 03:10 AM

see what happens when you start planning in earnest? we've turned all your plans upside down.

If you could squeeze and extra day or two into your time in Sussex/Kent I'm sure that you would feel that it is worthwhile as there is so much to see. for example, if you are interested in the WW2 aspect, there is Churchill's house, Chartwell, near Westerham [again National Trust], and many other old houses/castles, - Penshurst place, Chiddingstone Castle, Bodiam Castle, Scotney - too many for you to see in a week certainly.

another place you might like to look at as a base is Tunbridge Wells - though spending a night or two in Rye would be lovely as well.

europeannovice Oct 19th, 2014 06:30 PM

Hi Chris,

We just got back from a similar trip and I have to say please make sure you do take the boat ride because that is THE BEST way to see the white cliffs. We went on someone's fishing boat and passed by Beachy Head and then over to the lighthouses new and old and a bit beyond as well. The scenery is breathtaking.

We stayed in Tunbridge Wells--a great place to stay. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of the B&B's and they are quite good with a lot of variety. Plus there is the shopping arcade with stores for any last minute needs. It was a perfectly central location to see what we wanted to see in the area--Chartwell (highly recommended), Sissinghurst, Dover Castle, Walmer Castle, Canterbury etc. Check out my trip report for more details. Rye was also a lovely town to visit. We did Rye, Battle of Hastings and the fishing boat on the same day. We did Dover Castle, Walmer Castle and the Richborough Roman Forts on another day. Canterbury and Howlett's animal park was another. Each has its own great qualities. There are so many places and never enough time.

For Canterbury we did the Canterbury Tales in addition to the Cathedral. The Tales is really cute. It doesn't take long to visit. At the Cathedral at 11AM every week day they do a little service for fallen soldiers. It was a moving little ceremony.

Enjoy your trip and please write a trip report when you return.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:35 AM.