Dover Castle might be the most famous castle in Kent, England, but it’s definitely not the only one. A bit northeast from Dover on the Kent coast, you will find two castles that are located close to each other, Walmer Castle and Deal Castle. These device forts, also known as Henrician Castles, were built by Henry VIII to protect the coast from invasion.
Are these Henrician castles worth visiting? Yes! I suggest visiting both castles if you can, but sometimes you may have to choose. Here is a comparison of Walmer and Deal Castles to help you choose if you need to.
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COVID-19 Notice: Please follow government guidelines. Walmer Castle plans on re-opening July 4, 2020, but all visitors including English Heritage members must book timed tickets in advance. Deal Castle plans to re-open sometime in August. All visitors including English Heritage members must book timed tickets in advance. Tickets for Deal Castle can be booked starting in July.
Similarities between Deal and Walmer Castles
While the experience of visiting Walmer and Deal castles were very different, there are some similarities to note:
- Both castles were built by Henry VIII as part of the coastal defense strategy. There used to be a third castle in the area called Sandown, but now little remains of it and what does is not visible.
- The castles are located a little more than one mile apart along the Kent coast.
- With the outbreak of the Civil War, the three castles came under Parliamentarian control. Later after Charles I’s execution Royalists occupied Sandown, Deal, and Walmer.
- There are amazing views of the English Channel. We visited on a clear day and could see France from both castles.
About Walmer Castle
During the reign of Henry VIII, Walmer Castle was built as a response to the perceived threat of invasion. While this invasion never happened, the castle was later besieged by Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil Wars.
Walmer Castle is known for its famous residents and beautiful gardens. In the early 18th century, as the castle’s military use declined, it became the official residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Duke of Wellington, William Pitt the Younger, Winston Churchill, and the Queen Mother all stayed here as Lord Warden.
What to See at Walmer Castle
There is plenty to see at Walmer Castle so I would allow 3-4 hours if possible. You can tour the castle and the gardens. Let me tell you about a few things that you shouldn’t miss.
Walmer Castle Gardens
The Walmer Castle Gardens are full of lush green foliage and colorful flowers. It was much bigger than I had expected, so we only had time to see the highlights. My favorite section was the Queen Mother’s Garden, which was created in honor of her 95th birthday. The reflecting pool filled with goldfish and the manicured bushes were picture-perfect. You have one of the best views of the castle looking back at it from the far end of the pool.
We also visited the Kitchen Garden and the Broad Walk. In the kitchen garden, they grow a lot of the food for the cafe. Everything was planted in neat little rows. I thought it was creative that they had shaped some of the trees into a wall lining the edges of the garden. The Broad Walk is a beautiful lane filled with countless varieties of flowers and other plants.
If you have kids, be sure to take them to the new natural play trail along the woodland walk. They’ll have fun climbing into hollow tree trunks and giant nests, crossing wobbly bridges, and relaxing in the leaf-shaped sky seats. They can even learn about wildlife through the sculptures of woodland birds dotted around the trail.
Inside Walmer Castle
After we finished exploring the garden, we went inside the castle. We used the audio guide to lead us through the rooms. It’s actually one of the best audio guides I have ever used. I learned a lot and it was well structure, simple to operate, and easy to follow as you walked through the castle.
We started in the room that was dedicated to the Queen Mother. She enjoyed her time at Walmer Castle and it was interesting to see the photographs and other memorabilia. I could imagine her enjoying her cup of tea there.
My favorite part of the tour was the section dedicated to the Duke of Wellington. It was unreal to see an original pair of his boots since that is where the term “Welly” originated. Welly (wellies if plural) is the short name for the Wellington Boot, popular footwear when it rains.
I also thought it was riveting to see the room where he died. It has been kept like it would have been back in 1852. You can see the chair that he passed away in. The furniture is plain and not elaborate as you might expect to find in a castle. It gives you a real sense of the type of man he was and you have to have respect for that.
Another room that left a strong impression for me was the one where Winston Churchill led the team planning for the World War I campaign in Gallipoli. Before my visit, I had never heard of this World War I battle. It was a costly defeat for the Allies and for Winston Churchill’s credibility and career.
The tour ends on the balcony where you have a lovely view of the gardens and also the coast. It was a clear day so we could see France in the distance. After completing the tour, you can walk down the steps and visit the tea room or gift shop.
Lord Warden’s Tea Room and Glasshouse Cafe
Walmer Castle has two options for those looking for refreshments during their visit – a tea room and cafe. The Lord Warden’s tea room offers a seasonal menu of snacks, lunches, and homemade cakes.
In the Walmer Castle Gardens, you will find the new Glasshouse Café where you can enjoy sandwiches, snacks, and/or cream teas. On select weekends, they offer a traditional Sunday lunch including some vegetarian/vegan options.
Walmer Castle Review
Overall, our visit to Walmer Castle exceeded my expectations. The gardens were lovely and the castle was beautiful. The audio tour was informative, entertaining, and taught me more about the castle and its famous residents. Where else can you see a pair of original Wellies?
The downside to visiting Walmer Castle is that it was crowded, but I guess that is to be expected at a popular tourist attraction on a pleasant day. Next time, I would try to go early to beat the crowds.
I was disappointed that photography is not allowed inside the castle. There were many captivating artifacts and the rooms were beautifully decorated. I wish I could have shared some photos of the inside of Walmer Castle.
Walmer Castle Admission Prices and Hours
The opening hours for Walmer Castle vary by the season. In general, they are open from 10 am to either 4 pm or 5 pm, but they are not open every day. In the winter, they are only open on the weekends. It’s best to confirm the opening hours here before you plan your visit to Walmer Castle.
As of June 2020, the admission price for adults is £13.90 and £8.40 for kids ages 5-17. They also offer a family ticket which includes 2 adults and 3 children for £36.20. Walmer Castle is an English Heritage property so if you are a member (like us) you can get in free. Click here to learn more about English Heritage Membership. If you are visiting from overseas, consider getting the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass. Click here to learn more about the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass.
There is free parking on site or if the weather forces that lot to be closed you can use the one across the street. If that is the case, the parking fee will be refunded once you purchase admission to the castle.
About Deal Castle
Deal Castle was built in the mid-16th-century as the center of the network of three device forts built to protect the coast. Walmer would be to the south and Sandown to the north. It continued to play a military role in several conflicts over the centuries. The castle came under siege during the English Civil War and during the Second World War, it was used again to guard the coast, this time from German forces in the Channel.
Over the years, Deal Castle has had a captain to maintain the castle and assist in the military administration in the area. In the beginning, Deal’s captains were local men, but later captains were appointed from the armed forces and political service. While the position still exists today, it is ceremonial.
Inside Deal Castle
Start by walking around the castle keep just inside the walls. It’s ominous to see all the canons and the views of the Channel are breathtaking. On a clear day, like when we visited, you can see for miles. It’s worth venturing inside Deal Castle keep. Instead of having the castle set up like it might have been during Tudor time, there are several museum-style educational exhibits.
You can learn about how Henry VIII’s fears for the safety of his realm shaped the country’s defenses and his own married life. There is a new table map showing what Europe looked like in the 16th Century along with archaeological finds of Tudor weaponry from Camber Castle. There is also an interactive exhibit to teach you more about the people who lived and worked in Deal Castle.
Deal Castle Tunnels
We had a fun time exploring the castle’s tunnels although I have to admit it was a bit creepy! When you first enter the tunnels, there are wellies that you can borrow. I had read that you may come across a lot of water, but when we visited we only saw a few puddles.
I used my cell phone as a flashlight so I could see where I was going. We didn’t have a map of the tunnels but I think we saw all of them. It was so dark and a bit disorientating, but we found our way out.
Deal Castle Review
Deal is an intriguing castle to visit. It’s not as elaborate as Walmer Castle and doesn’t have any gardens or a cafe. Still, historically it is significant, architecturally it is beautiful, and the views of the channel are unrestricted.
I thought they did a fantastic job of making this castle kid-friendly. There were several hands-on exhibits for kids and I am sure children would like running around in the tunnels.
Deal Castle Admission Prices and Hours
The opening hours for Deal Castle vary by the season. In general, they are open from 10 am to either 4 pm or 6 pm, but they are not open every day. During the winter, they are often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s best to confirm the opening hours here before you plan your visit to Deal Castle.
As of June 2020, the admission price for adults is £8.70 and £5.20 for kids ages 5-17. They also offer a family ticket which includes 2 adults and 3 children for £22.60. Deal Castle is an English Heritage property so if you are a member (like us) you can get in free. Click here to learn more about English Heritage Membership. If you are visiting from overseas, consider getting the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass. Click here to learn more about the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass.
There is a parking lot right next to Deal Castle. There is a charge to park if you are not an English Heritage member.
Other Things to Do Near Deal
If you are spending time in the area, here are some more ideas for things to see:
- Deal Beach – This is the beach located between Deal and Walmer Castles. It is a pebble beach but there is a well-kept path for people to walk on.
- Dover Cliffs – The Dover Cliffs are a must see! In addition to the walking paths and Channel views, be sure to visit the Deep Fan Bay Tunnel and the South Foreland Lighthouse.
- Dover Castle – This Castle is one of the largest in England where you could easily spend a whole day exploring. It’s also an English Heritage Property.
Walmer or Deal Castle: Which one is best?
For me personally, I preferred Walmer Castle. I liked the decor inside and enjoyed learning more about some of the significant historical figures associated with the castle. The gardens were charming and I wish I would have had more time to explore them. If you have kids, you might find that they prefer Deal Castle, especially exploring the tunnels. Admission to Deal Castle is also a bit cheaper than Walmer Castle. If you can, both castles are worth a visit!
Since both are English Heritage properties, if you are a member you can visit both castles for free. If you live in England, click here to learn more about English Heritage membership. If you are visiting from abroad, click here to learn more about the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass.
Have you been to either Walmer or Deal Castles? What was your experience like?
Be sure to grab my travel checklist to help your plan your next trip.
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