Deal, Kent is a small town on the English Channel. It lies north-east of Dover and south of the town of Ramsgate (Yes, Pride and Prejudice fans–Ramsgate!). I will say that the drive from London is beautiful. Kent is hills and valleys and at times when the brush clears along the side of the motorway, you can see amazing views that stretch for miles. We traveled in early September, but I would imagine the green in the spring is absolutely stunning.
Deal was first mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086, but it has been traced back to as early as 55-54 BCE when Julius Caesar is claimed to have landed on the Deal-Walmer coast. At one time Deal was a fishing village and then busy military and shipping port (even with its lack of harbour) due to its distance from France. In fact, standing on the beach, you can see France on a clear day, but now Deal is a seaside resort.
The oldest portions of town near the town centre where you find Middle Street, which was the first part of the local “Conservation Area” due to the age and history of the buildings. We stayed in a home in the Conservation area and found it an incredibly interesting place just to walk around. The houses all line exceedingly narrow one lane, yet tw0-way streets with very few garages and gardens. We brought our dog along for the trip and finding a patch of grass for her was not the easiest chore! This area runs several streets deep along the waterfront, so from where we stayed we could hear the waves and the gulls.
The beach is lovely, albeit an uncomfortable place to walk on barefoot. It is a rocky beach that slopes pretty steeply when the tide is out, so be careful trying to make your way up and down the rocks, but you can still find shells and other treasures if you look carefully among the myriad of stones. There is also a popular boardwalk down the waterfront that will take you past Deal Castle until the beach no longer runs along the Marine road.
One of the attractions of Deal is that it boasts having three castles. Now, when my children think of castles, they have visions of Disney princesses and other such stories, but these are not those types of castles. These are military forts built by Henry VIII in the event of invasion by France or Spain. The first castle is Sandown, which is in ruins, and that we did not visit. The second is Deal Castle, which lies just to the south of town just off of the beach.
Deal Castle was built in the mid-16th century and from overhead is in the shape of a Tudor Rose. It is said that the stone for the walls came from the dissolution of the monasteries and it is still the original stone and the original building. There are also preserved cannons and ammunition. The rooms are mostly labelled so you know what each one was used for, and there is even the original copper door on the room where the gunpowder was stored. If you travel to Deal Castle, beware if it has been raining. Some of the tunnels are rather dark and moisture does make its way inside, so wellies might be a consideration if you want to make your way through every nook and cranny.
The last castle/artillery fort is Walmer Castle, which is still an active home of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. It is just south of Deal Castle in the small hamlet of Walmer. It is not as close to the water as Deal Castle, but there is a great view of the English Channel from the upper balcony area. This Castle was also a favourite place for the Queen Mother. There are no photos allowed inside because it is still used as a home, but you can tour rooms that once belonged to the Queen Mother as well as the room where Wellington died. They still have the chair he passed away in on display, which my children found rather gross.
Walmer is best toured for the gardens in my opinion. They stretch around the castle as well as outward, giving a woodland walking trail, a garden belonging to the Queen and her mother, as well as a green with games for children. It is a lovely spot for a picnic and simply to enjoy some family time.
For someone planning to stay for some time, Deal is steeped in history and is fascinating simply for the exceedingly old neighbourhoods and beaches. We spent four days, and I am sure we did not even scratch the surface.