If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, visiting the White Cliffs of Dover from London is the perfect day trip.
Experience one of England’s most spectacular natural features as you take an exhilarating coastal walk atop these iconic white giants. Revel in their dramatic beauty and take in the breathtaking views across the azure water of the English Channel to the French coast. Feel the salty sea breeze caress your skin as the water laps at the beaches below. And keep an eye out for some of the rare fauna and flora that live in this chalk grassland as you traverse the cliffs.
As well as offering one of Britain’s best coastal walks, the White Cliffs of Dover and its surroundings are home to a wealth of history. These cliffs have witnessed many a historical moment spanning multiple millennia due to their strategic defensive position. To this day, miles of hidden wartime tunnels remain concealed within the cliffs. Two shipwrecks lie at the base of them, while a medieval castle towers majestically over the landscape.
You won’t be disappointed with a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover from London, whether you want to become entirely immersed in nature or soak up some British history. This guide contains everything you need to know to plan your perfect day trip from London to Dover.
If you’re just looking for quick answers to some more frequently asked questions, use the Table of Contents to skip straight to the FAQs!
Getting to the White Cliffs of Dover from London
There are a few different ways you can get to the White Cliffs of Dover from London. Listed below are your different transport options.
Getting to the White Cliffs of Dover from London by Car
The drive from London to the visitor centre at the White Cliffs of Dover is approximately a 78-mile drive requiring just under 2 hours. Parking at the car park costs £5 per car. Check the National Trust website for opening hours for the car park and visitor centre, as well as current parking prices.
As I have my own car, I decided to drive from London to Dover. A huge bonus to travelling by car is that you’re spared the steep uphill climb from Dover town centre to the top of the cliffs!
Getting to Dover from London by Train
If you don’t have your own vehicle, Dover makes for a great day trip from London by train. The closest train station to the White Cliffs is Dover Priory. It is possible to reach Dover by train from London via three different lines:
- St Pancras to Dover Priory: 1 hour 4 minutes
- Victoria to Dover Priory: 1 hour 58 minutes (direct) or 1 hour 46 minutes (1 change)
- Charing Cross to Dover Priory: 1 hour 54 minutes (1 change)
Train tickets start at around £25-35 off-peak each way. Therefore, if you’re planning on taking a day trip to Dover from London with friends then it may be worth looking into car rental as the cost of several train tickets soon adds up to be more expensive.
You can check train schedules and prices here.
Getting to the Dover from London by Bus
A far cheaper way to get to Dover from London is by bus, with tickets starting from £5 each way. Buses run from Victoria Coach Station, approximately 600 yards from London Victoria train and underground stations. While far cheaper, it takes 3 hours to get from London to Dover by bus and there are only two buses per day.
Taking a bus from London to Dover is not ideal for a day trip as the bus typically doesn’t arrive in Dover until 14:30 and leaves Dover again at 15:15! I’d only recommend this option if you plan on staying a night or two in Dover.
Check the National Express website for current bus times and prices.
Day Tours to the White Cliffs of Dover from London
If you don’t fancy having to figure out all the details yourself, then a day tour from London to the White Cliffs of Dover is a great option. Many of the day tours from London to Dover also include additional places such as Canterbury, Dover Castle, Leeds Castles and Greenwich. Check the details of each tour as activities and inclusions differ.
Here are some of the best rated day tours to the White Cliffs of Dover from London:
- White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Day Trip from London
- Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Dover, and Greenwich Day Tour from London
- Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, and White Cliffs of Dover from London
The Perfect Day Trip to the White Cliffs of Dover from London
The White Cliffs of Dover really do make for the perfect day trip from London. Whether you’re looking for a wonderful adults day out to escape the kids or looking for something to do with them, or just a little alone time, there’s nothing quite like a hike over the Dover Cliffs!
A walk along these iconic chalk cliffs provide spectacular coastal views through pristine British countryside teeming with wildlife and flowers. On a clear day, you can even see France on the horizon.
Far more than just a pretty destination, these British icons are a national symbol of freedom and hope. They are positively steeped in history and lore. For centuries, they have served as the gateway to Britain for those crossing the English channel.
It is due to their geography that the White Cliffs of Dover have played such a key part in history. From the Bronze Ages through the Roman times, right up to the wars in the 20th century, these cliffs have played a crucial role in wars and invasions.
Whether you’re looking to visit one of Britain’s most picturesque landscapes and absorb the tranquillity of the countryside and coast, or want to discover more about the culture and history, the White Cliffs of Dover are the perfect day trip from London.
I spent the day in Dover for my birthday with my dad and it was perfect! However, as I visited in May 2020, the trail had only recently opened following lockdown and other attractions remained closed. I have still provided information on these, with links for further details as necessary, to give you a comprehensive guide to the region.
Getting to the White Cliffs of Dover
If you drove to the White Cliffs of Dover from London, then you will begin your visit at the Tourist Information centre where the carpark for the cliffs is located. However, if you arrive by train or bus, you will need to either walk from the town centre or take a taxi to the information centre as there is no bus service.
The walk from the town centre takes approximately 40 minutes but has about a 285ft elevation gain. Alternatively, a taxi takes 5-10 minutes and will cost around £6.
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White Cliffs of Dover Scenic Coastal Walk
No visit to the White Cliffs of Dover from London would be complete without taking a scenic walk over the cliffs. Standing at the top of the cliffs looking down to the crashing waves below, you can appreciate the scale and enormity of these impressive features.
The Dover Cliffs sprawl along the coast for 16 miles, approximately 8 miles either side for Dover. You can take any number of trails to explore this spectacular part of the British coast. However, one of the most scenic and popular routes is the South Foreland Walk from the visitor centre to St. Margaret’s Bay. This picturesque hike is a 6-mile return trip providing the perfect combination of coastal vistas interspersed with wildlife and history. From St Margaret’s Bay, it is also possible to catch a bus back to Dover.
Walking the White Cliffs of Dover
The routes are well marked, but realistically if you keep the ocean on your right and keep following the cliffs, you can’t go too wrong! The breathtaking coastal path will take you around Langdon Hole overlooking Langdon Bay to reach Fan Bay Point.
We opted to take the cliff edge route wherever possible, enjoying the exhilarating sheer drops. However, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views no matter which path you choose over the Langdon Cliffs!
During the spring and early summer, wildflowers litter the lush greenery in an array of colours. If you’re lucky, you may also encounter Exmoor ponies grazing on the rolling grasslands or spot one of many species of butterflies flitting around.
As you meander across the cliffs, look out over the aqua water to the horizon. In the distance, you may be able to spot the hazy silhouette of France’s Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park.
But don’t forget to look back! Behind you, you will find Dover Castle staunchly towering over the landscape as it has done for centuries. You’ll also have views of the hustle and bustle of Dover Port- one of the busiest passenger ports in the world!
Fan Bay Deep Shelter
The first point of interest (besides all the incredible views!) is Fan Bay Deep Shelter. Located 1.2 miles from the car park, you can reach it within half an hour walking directly. Of course, you’ll be stopping to photograph the astounding scenery along the way, so realistically it will take a bit longer!
Constructed in 1940-41, Fan Bay Deep Shelter is a network of tunnels hidden beneath the White Cliffs of Dover. During the Second World War, they were used as accommodation for the gun battery. Today, you can journey into the past with a guided tour of the hidden tunnels.
For more information on tickets and opening times, visit the National Trust website.
South Foreland Lighthouse
Continue to wind your way towards South Foreland Lighthouse. This 18th century lighthouse is a 40 minute (2 mile) walk from the visitor centre. When we visited in May, the field to our left was ablaze with colour from a myriad of flowers as we passed it from Fan Bay.
As you get closer, the lighthouse can be seen in the distance behind the patchwork quilt of these colourful wildflowers.
A light has been visible at this spot on South Foreland since the 1300s to safely guard the passage of ships to shore. The current South Foreland Lighthouse was built in 1846 and was in use until 1988. It is possible to take a guided tour of the lighthouse and discover more of its history, as well as take in uninterrupted views from the balcony. Find out more information about visiting the lighthouse here.
At South Foreland Lighthouse, you will also find Mrs Knotts Tearoom. This charming tearoom provides the perfect pitstop for a cup of tea or a bite to eat before making your way to St Margaret’s Beach.
St Margaret’s Bay Windmill
From South Foreland Lighthouse, you will need to walk inland a little to continue on to St Margaret’s Beach. Don’t worry, you’ll get back to scenic views of the White Cliffs of Dover soon enough!
On your way you’ll pass by St Margaret’s Bay Windmill. Built in 1929, this Grade II listed building served to provide electricity to the attached house for 10 years. We only viewed it from a distance, but it was a nice little landmark to spot!
From here the path opens back up to coastal views where you’re able to catch glimpses of St Margarets Bay nestled between the sheer cliffs.
As you make your way down from the Dover Cliffs, you will meander along quiet roads to reach St Margarets Bay. Along the way, you will pass by Pines Gardens and Tearooms. This six-acre garden has many different features, including a lake, grass labyrinth, flowering shrubs and kitchen garden. We admired the gardens as we passed, preferring to save time for the beach. However, this would be a beautiful addition to your walk.
Alternatively, pop into the tearooms, where much of their produce is grown organically in the gardens. It’s a great place to fuel up before hitting the beach!
St Margarets Bay Beach
St Margarets Bay beach is a 3-mile walk from the visitor centre, most of which is a gentle stroll. This is the perfect place to end your White Cliffs of Dover walk. Relax on the pebbled beach as the waves gently lap the shore, with the imposing backdrop of Dover Cliffs on either side. If you’re brave enough, it’s a great place for a swim!
There is a pub, the Coastguard, with a typically British menu. I’d recommend the fish and chips because it’s not a proper trip to the seaside without it!
At the western end of the bay you’ll also find some cute, multicoloured beach huts!
From here you have the option of continuing on for a longer walk, returning back via the same route to Dover, or catching the bus back to Dover. We found this to be the perfect stop for us to turn around and enjoy the view of the White Cliffs of Dover looking back in the opposite direction!
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Longer Dover Cliffs Walks
There are also a number of other longer walks you can take that include the White Cliffs of Dover if you have more than a day to visit Dover from London.
The South Foreland Walk comprises part of two greater walks; the England Coast Path and the Saxon Shore Way. The England Coast Path covers 2795 miles around the English coast. While substantially shorter, the Saxon Shore Way is still impressive, covering 160 miles of Kent’s ancient coastline.
Other longer walks include Via Francigena, Miners’ Way Trail, Stour Valley Way and the North Downs Way.
For further information on all the other trails available, click here.
Shorter Dover Cliffs Walks
If you’re not quite up for the 6-mile return walk to St Margaret’s Bay, then I’d still recommend starting along this route and turning back at a place that suits you. The views are captivating from the very beginning, so you don’t have to go far to experience the beauty of the White Cliffs.
There is also an accessible, shorter walk to a viewpoint for wheelchair users or those with more limited ability. This viewpoint will not disappoint! It offers sweeping views of the cliffs, the English Channel, Dover Port and even out to France on a clear day!
For further information on all the other trails available, click here.
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Other things to do in Dover
The White Cliffs are definitely the biggest attraction in Dover. And honestly, the only other thing I’d really recommend you seeing in Dover is the castle. If you got an early start to your day it would absolutely be possible to include Dover Castle on your day trip to Dover from London. Although, the White Cliffs are worth the trip alone!
For those that are interested, there are a couple of other small attractions. However, on a day trip from London, I would definitely prioritise the White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle.
Dover Castle is one of the best castles near London to visit on a day trip. Unfortunately, the castle was closed when I visited. However, its presence can be seen and felt from all over Dover. It is a magnificent building perched atop a hill towering over the city below. Furthermore, it is the largest castle in England, covering an area almost 50% larger than Windsor Castle (the largest inhabited castle in the world). I will certainly be back to visit this impressive castle when it is open again.
There are many fascinating elements to the castle and its grounds, including a Roman Lighthouse, secret wartime tunnels, an underground hospital and the Great Tower.
The English Heritage manages Dover Castle, as well as many other castles and attractions. If you plan on visiting a few others during your time in England, you may wish to consider buying an English Heritage Pass for tourists. This includes unlimited access over 9 (£37) or 16 days (£44) to hundreds of English Heritage attractions including Dover Castle. Alternatively, book your ticket for Dover Castle online for £17.
READ MORE: Best Castles near London
Dover Museum and Bronze Age Boat Gallery
Dover Museum houses a variety of real artefacts, models and original pictures showcasing the history and archaeology of Dover. Attached is the Bronze Age Boat Gallery, home to the world’s oldest known seagoing boat (thought to be around 3000 years old).
If you’re interested in discovering more about Dover’s history or are visiting with kids, then it may be worth popping into the museum. Plus, admission is free! Check the Dover Museum website for opening times and current exhibitions.
Roman Painted House
Dating back to 200 AD, the Roman Painted House in Dover was only discovered and excavated in 1970. It is exceptionally well preserved, with walls in four rooms surviving at 4-6 feet in height. Additionally, over 400 square feet of painted plaster survived- the most ever discovered north of the Alps.
If you are a keen history buff then you may enjoy this unique attraction. Tickets cost only £4 and more information can be found on their website.
East Kent Railway
The East Kent Railway is a heritage line constructed between 1911-1917 and located at Shepherdswell Station. It’s a 15-minute drive or a 10-minute train journey from Dover to Shepherdswell. Here, you’ll find a miniature railway, model railway and a small museum. You can also take a ride along the heritage line from Shepherdswell to Eythorne.
As it is pretty much on the way back to London, it could be worth a stop for anyone interested in trains or for families. Find more information on their website.
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Top Tips for Visiting the White Cliffs of Dover from London
Bring a rain jacket
This is England after all, and the weather can change quickly! At the very least, you will want to take some layers as it is often cooler at the coast. While when we went it was a warm, sunny day, there was still a breeze from the ocean that made it chilly at times.
Wear comfortable shoes
The hike over the White Cliffs of Dover is a fairly easy one. However, I’d recommend a decent pair of trainers or walking shoes as the ground is a little uneven at times.
Due to the remote location of some of the attractions, not all accept credit card. Therefore, it’s worth bringing some cash with you.
Be careful with French mobile phone service
Upon arriving at the White Cliffs of Dover, I received a text message from my mobile provider saying “Welcome to France…”. Yes, I was able to pick up cell service from France! Fortunately, anyone with a European SIM card is unlikely to be charged any roaming fees. However, if you’ve got a SIM card that doesn’t cover France you may wish to switch off roaming.
Also, one thing we hadn’t considered is that our phones also updated to French time automatically. We hadn’t realised this until we got back to the car park, having rushed back thinking it was later than it was!
Don’t forget your camera!
The views truly are magnificent, so don’t forget to bring your camera to capture these awe-inspiring scenes.
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Where to Stay in Dover
While you can easily take a day trip from London to Dover, if you have more time then you may wish to consider staying overnight. This will allow you a more relaxed pace. Spend time exploring the White Cliffs of Dover and coastal walks one day, then visit Dover Castle and other attractions the next!
White Cliffs of Dover FAQs
If you’re looking for some quick answers to frequently asked questions about visiting the White Cliffs of Dover from London, then this section is for you! I’ve tried to include all the most pertinent information in as concise a manner as possible for easy reference.
How far are the White Cliffs of Dover from London?
The White Cliffs of Dover from London are a 78 mile drive or just under 2 hours drive time.
From London to Dover by train takes a minimum of 1 hour 4 minutes.
Reaching Dover from London by bus takes 3 hours.
How do you get to the White Cliffs of Dover?
You can reach the White Cliffs of Dover from London by car, public transport or tour. If arriving in Dover by public transport, you will need to either walk or take a taxi from the station or town centre to the cliffs. If travelling by car, you can park at the White Cliffs of Dover National Trust car park.
Can you walk on the White Cliffs of Dover?
You can absolutely walk along the White Cliffs of Dover, and I highly recommend you do! There are a number of scenic walks that will take you over the cliffs which we’ve covered in this guide.
How long does it take to walk the White Cliffs of Dover?
There are a number of trails to walk over the cliffs of different durations. The South Foreland Walk is a popular and scenic 2-mile walk from the visitor centre to South Foreland Lighthouse, taking approximately 40 minutes each way.
How tall are the White Cliffs of Dover?
The White Cliffs of Dover are 350ft (110m) high.
How long are the White Cliffs of Dover?
The White Cliffs of Dover are 16 miles in length, stretching approximately 8 miles either side of Dover.
Why are the White Cliffs of Dover white?
The White Cliffs of Dover are white because they are chalk cliffs, with natural erosion constantly maintaining their fresh white appearance.
They are one of several sets of white cliffs in England. Others (that are all worth a visit too!) include Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters in East Sussed, Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, The Needle in the Isle of Wight and the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
How old are the White Cliffs of Dover?
The White Cliffs of Dover date back over 136 million years. They were formed from the shells and skeletons of tiny sea creatures that sank to the bottom of the sea when they died.
How far is Dover from France?
At its narrowest point, the Strait of Dover is 20.7 miles (33. km). South Foreland is the closest place in England to France.
Can you see France from Dover?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to see France from Dover (and vice versa) on a clear day.
Are dogs allowed on the White Cliffs of Dover?
Yes, dogs are allowed on the scenic walks along the White Cliffs of Dover. However, from 1st March to 31st July they are required to remain on a short lead due to ground-nesting birds. Also, be aware that ponies and sheep are used for grazing at various locations on the cliffs.
When is the best time to visit the White Cliffs of Dover?
May or September are the best months to visit the White Cliffs of Dover, providing the best balance between good weather and less visitors. In May you’ll also find an abundance of wildflowers in bloom and nesting birds.
Based solely on weather, between May and September is the best time to visit the White Cliffs of Dover. During these summer months, the weather tends to be warmer and drier with temperatures between 20-25ºC (68-77ºF), making a walk over the cliffs much more enjoyable. Additionally, the longer daylight hours during the summer allow you to fit in more on a day trip from London.
However, July and August are also peak months for tourism, so expect it to be busier during these months.
Final thoughts on visiting the White Cliffs of Dover from London
Visiting the White Cliffs of Dover from London will not disappoint. These incredible iconic cliffs are worth the visit alone. If you’re able to visit Dover Castle as well, then I’d highly recommend including it on your day trip.
I hope you’re found this guide helpful. As always, we welcome any questions or comments you have.
As previously mentioned, the White Cliffs of Dover aren’t the only white cliffs in England. Consider visiting Flamborough Head in Yorkshire and Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters in East Sussex for even more beautiful white chalk cliffs.
You may also enjoy some of our London guides for your time in the capital city, as well as our other England guides if you fancy exploring this beautiful country further:
- Ultimate London 2 Day Itinerary
- Best Castles near London
- Most Instagrammable Places in London
- Famous Streets in London
- Prettiest Villages in the Cotswolds
- Prettiest English Villages
- Best Things to Do in York
- Best Things to do in Whitby
But most importantly, have the most amazing time at the White Cliffs of Dover!