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The Present Past: Rochester Castle

Rochester castle was the home of archbishops. Built in the 1000s, the keep in the 1100s, it stands today in rather good condition.

Rochester Castle is a keep surrounded by the standard fort walls. The grounds are open to the public and the location, on a hill, provides a fair view of the city. Situated at the end of the present-day High Street it is in the perfect position for anyone wanting to continue their day with shopping or further sight-seeing, and it commands pride of place along with the cathedral.

Describing a tour of the castle is rather easy because the path takes you round and round the same area. Or at least it’s the same area now that the dividing walls are gone. You don’t always go quite the way round, as some hallways are blocked off (unlike other castles, this doesn’t feel a loss), and a great deal of your time is spent on the stairs. These stairs deserve a special mention as they are rather wide for a medieval building. It doesn’t seem so crazy to think that some forward-thinker designed them. In addition it’s worth pointing out that English Heritage have added handrails to both sides of the wall – anyone who usually has trouble with old steps may find this visit particularly worthwhile.

To get to the keep you use the outer stairs built by modernity. You enter into the ticket office/shop, which is one of the two surviving complete rooms. It’s a good room for showing you what the castle might have looked like.

You go through the glass doors (modern again, strangely enough) and walk onto a platform that is representative of where the ground floor would have been. This moment might just prove to be in the realms of epic – you can see almost the entirety of the room-space in the castle from here. The food store below you, the Great Hall above you, the roof.

You walk around and then up the first section of one of the sets of stairs (the management have designated a single tower for the climbing). Into the chapel, a sectioned room that has a canvas covering at the top. There are the usual information boards as well as a mini reconstruction of the castle.

Across the hallway landing, up the stairs to the next level. You can walk along the hallway at the level of the Great Hall and a parallel mural gallery. You walk all the way round and up the stairs again where you get a view of the same rooms from higher up. There is a wonderful view of the cathedral on one side. Again you ascend the stairs to get a slightly different perspective. When you reach the top you are able to walk the battlements and view a couple of the towers. The view of the landscape is exquisite.

All the way back down. Be careful of the other visitors, for all the space on the stairs spirals aren’t brilliant for our 21st century bodies.

Down the stairs to the bottom you can view the food store from another platform. If you want you can walk down into the cesspit, too. I didn’t take a photograph of it. You’re welcome.

It may just have been my imagination but the cesspit smelt interesting – then again it’s basically a cave with a small entrance. My mum, who accompanied me, wondered why we had to use a platform instead of being able to walk on the ground. I’m more than happy not to have the opportunity to walk where people’s waste was, a gap of several centuries or not.

And that is the castle. There is another, ruined, tower and a sort of gatehouse that appears in private use, but that is it. Rochester Castle is incredibly impressive, but if looked at on a room-by-room basis, there isn’t much there.

Rochester makes for an awesome experience, and if you’re on a history high, Upnor Castle is just 10 minutes up the road. You can also visit the afore-mentioned cathedral which has an amazing crypt.

I loved Rochester, it is one of the most well-preserved castles I’ve visited thus far, despite the lack of the old dividing walls, and it is a lot easier to walk around than others.

As for the town itself it bares mentioning, given the literary focus of this site. Rochester was a favoured place of Charles Dickens. I didn’t actually know this at first, it was only upon realising there was a theme to the shop names that I pulled out my phone to research. Dickens loved Rochester so much that there’s a memorial plaque for him in the cathedral.

Rochester is the place to go if you’ve seen medieval castles and felt underwhelmed by what’s left. Whether I just happened to go on the ‘wrong’ day or whether it’s the norm, the only people around were Brits. So I’ll say this: international tourists, it would be a mistake not to factor this one into your plans.

The rest of my photos. If you want to see them full size, right click and open them in a new window/tab.


Jenny @ Reading the End

February 12, 2014, 2:09 am

Your photos are amazing! I didn’t know about this castle when I was last in England, but I’ll remember to visit it when I’m there next — it’s beautiful.

Jen K

February 12, 2014, 3:52 pm

Gorgeous pictures! I love to travel, take tons of pictures but I never do anything with them. Thanks for the post.


February 12, 2014, 4:07 pm

This castle looks so beautiful! And the views, stunning!

Another castle to add to my list of ones I want to visit, I never knew this one existed.


February 12, 2014, 4:25 pm

I haven’t been Rochester looks wonderful though. Thank you for sharing your great photos.


February 13, 2014, 3:25 am

Really beautiful photos! It looks like an amazing place to visit and the views are a bonus.


February 15, 2014, 7:25 pm

I wonder if maybe it’s a bit out of the way for foreign tourists? It sounds like a really great site to visit! I’ve only been to the UK once and stayed just a few days in London. We’d love to visit again and actually get out of the city like we did in Ireland. I love traveling vicariously through your lovely pictures!


February 15, 2014, 10:33 pm

What a lovely 3 minute vacation! Such great photos – good work!

I LOVE ruins, especially ones that you can walk through.


February 27, 2014, 1:01 pm

Jenny: Thanks, and do!

Jen K: You’re welcome :) You should create photo posts with them!

Alice: They are, magnificent. If it wouldn’t have seemed boring I’d have posted more, but you lose the effect a bit when it’s photographs. It was a recent discovery for me, to.

Jessica: you’re welcome :)

Anbolyn: Yes, to be honest, though it’s high, I think unless you know the place already you wouldn’t expect such a view. You can see for miles.

Trish: That could be the reason. Hever Castle is in the same county but they’re far enough apart I suppose, and there weren’t any Kings living at Rochester. That said, with all the Dickens references I did expect there to have been more tourists in the town, at least. It’s about an hour from London, maybe more with traffic.

Aarti: Thanks, and if it took 3 minutes that’s good – I worry about waffling in these posts! Ruins are magical.



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