Just what William the Conqueror must have thought in 1066 when he embarked his troops for a campaign that would lead to perhaps one of the most important battles in England's history, the Battle of Hastings. The battlefield of that historic 14th October certainly deserves a visit today, even for those less interested in military history. On the site where the Norman invaders managed to fell the English king in battle, an abbey was founded, as William had vowed to do. Around this grew the aptly named village of Battle. The attraction of the abbey ruins is further enhanced by the interactive visitor centre, including a film that fully introduces you to the battle. That way you will be ready to start the walk around the battlefield, with audio guide - possibly in an adapted children's version. After this peaceful walk through the hilly landscape (which would be worthwhile even without the historical context), you can of course regain your strength in the cafeteria while the children have fun in the adjacent natural play area.
If you choose to cross the Channel by boat like William the Conqueror, you will be welcomed by the famous chalk cliffs of Dover, with Dover Castle above. Henry II's Great Tower with its reconstructed interior alone is worth a visit, but this site has so much more to offer. A Roman lighthouse, of which there are only three left in the whole world. The tunnel complex in the cliffs, from where Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay led the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. And recently even a real escape room, where you can relive the Cold War and try to reach the safety of "The Bunker". But England's most famous cliffs are not the only ones worth visiting. At the southernmost tip of East Sussex, the Seven Sisters are the ideal terrain for a beautiful walk. A 13-kilometre loop leads you through Friston Forest and across the undulating grassland at the top of the cliffs. Harry Potter fans may recognise this spot; this is where Harry went in search of the "Portkey" that would take him to the Quidditch World Cup. If you really want to admire the seven white ladies in all their glory, stroll from the cafeteria for 20 minutes to Beachy Head, from where you'll have a fantastic view of the towering cliffs. Or descend the steps to the beach at the foot of the cliffs to really experience how high they are.
If you can't get enough of the natural beauty, be sure to visit Sissinghurst Castle. Here, the big attraction is not so much the four-storey tower, but the beautiful garden that surrounds it. Although designed with a formal structure, the garden - in true English style - feels very natural due to the romantic abundance of the plantings. Or as the designer Vita Sackville-West herself described it "Cram, cram, cram, every chink and cranny." The intimate and private atmosphere is further enhanced by the clever use of hedges and planted walls, making each part of the garden feel like the room of a house where it is delightful to dwell in an oasis of peace and nature.
Half an hour away, you'll find Bateman's. Again, a beautiful garden, but this time it is mainly the interior of this historic building that attracts attention. This 17th-century house was the residence of the famous poet and author Rudyard Kipling, known for The Jungle Book and a whole series of beautiful poems. The study was kept as he left it, and you can admire as many as 5,000 pieces and paintings he collected during his many travels, in addition to his Nobel Prize in Literature and his Rolls Royce. Driving back towards the coast from here for half an hour, you'll find the picturesque village of Rye. Its cobbled streets lead you between the half-timbered houses, including The Mermaid Inn. Dating back to 1420, this inn was one of the favourite haunts of The Hawkhurst Gang, a notorious gang of smugglers from the 18th century. And if some guests are to be believed, a number of ghosts have also taken up residence in the premises. If you want to escape the fear for a while, be sure to take a stroll along the Royal Military Canal and feel all the stress fade away in this green haven.
If the historic villages and all the natural splendour are still a bit too idyllic for you, you might feel more at home on Dungeness. This headland with the largest pebble beach in Europe resembles the Wild West and will leave no visitor untouched. Not only because of its unique landscape and eclectic collection of colourful and eccentric cottages, but also because of the presence of 2 nuclear power plants. But don't let the latter deter you. These imposing buildings undeniably add to Dungeness' unique atmosphere and when lit up at night they acquire a fairy-like beauty, to the extent that locals compare them to a candle factory. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Wild West, you can also reach the headland from Hythe on the mini steam trains of the "Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway".
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