I love Rochester.
Not the one in New York, but Kent, England instead. The town if full of history (Romans took over in 43 AD) and is home to a beautiful castle and cathedral. Just a few blocks over you’ll see a cute high street with lots of shops and pints. I may be biased because I see it nearly every day but it’s lovely. Here’s why:
It’s easy to get here, specially from London, with rail routes in Rochester and surrounding areas like Chatham and Stroud. You can get here easily. There’s no excuses.
Rochester Castle is smack in the center of the city, right along the River Medway. You can get some great shots from the top of the castle on a nice bright day. Plus, it’s old. The castle is a great showcase of Norman architecture and one of the tallest in England, measuring in at 113 feet high and has walls 12 feet thick. Apparently it’s the same site where the Romans built their fort to guard the bridge over the River Medway.
Construction of today’s castle began centuries later in 1087 AD, making use of what remained of the original Roman city walls.
The castle’s history is totally expansive. It was subjected to siege three times and was actually partly demolished in 1215 AD by King John. For a place that’s been attacked again and again, this impressive castle still stands strong. While the inside timber floors and such have been demolished, you’re still able to climb the stone stairs to the top.
It costs £6.20 for adults to visit and you can also receive an audio tour for £1 while you wander the castle.
While at the top of the castle, across the street you’ll see Rochester Cathedral which claims the title as the second oldest cathedral in England, founded in 604 AD. In simple terms, it celebrated its 1,400th anniversary in 2004. The present building dates back to 1080 AD, similar to the castle. The cathedral is a really beautiful building and you should definitely stop in for a visit!
Along the high street, you’ll find the Guildhall Museum, spread across two buildings. Built in 1687, the museum wasn’t founded until 1897, in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It houses local history through artifacts, paintings, reconstructions and even rooms decorated to fit the historic era. It’s much smaller than the big museums you’ll see in London, but it’s a cute place to visit when you’re in the area.
The city has connections with Charles Dickens, who lived in the area when he was young. Although not my favourite author, many of his novels include references to Rochester. The city holds festivals in his honour each year, so get ready to see many Charles’ walking down the High Street (downtown).
The High Street is lovely to walk down and there’s plenty of places to grab something to eat, have a pint, or check out all the shops. One of my favourites spots is Baggin’s Book Bazaar, apparently England’s largest rare and secondhand bookstore.
If it’s a nice day out, walking along the river is a great afternoon out. Even sitting on the grass in the castle grounds reading a book or having a picnic is a lovely afternoon. There’s lots of festivals, Christmas fairs, farmers markets, concerts and outdoor movies shown at the castle so make sure to visit!