We stopped-off in Rochester on the way back from visiting my aunt in Clapham. We have visited Rochester several times in the past and always enjoyed walking around this pleasant little town. Having lost virtually all the photographs taken on previous visits, I decided to take time to replace them, and in the process discovered several new areas of interest that I had not seen before.
Rochester is just 15 minutes from J2 of the M25 so it's very easy to access.
There is so much to see in this old town, from ancient medieval town walls to its crumbling castle ruins and lovely cathedral overlooking the banks of the Medway. Although it is just a small town, with all the places of interest close together, it is best to research your visit before you come. I used an old guide map to trace a circular route around the historic sites, starting from Boar Lane car park.
There are several, well sign posted and easy to access car parks, located between Corporation Street and the High Street. The tourist information centre is also located in the centre of the High Street, so you can quickly drop-in here after parking up to obtain a map and directions, if you're new to the area.
The old High Street is very pleasant, full of quaint little shops, restaurants and antique centres. The many well preserved timber framed buildings on this street indicate the age and heritage of this town. There are also several old buildings of interest open to the public along the High Street, starting with the Charles Dickens Centre at the southern end, the Watts Charity in the middle and the Guildhall Museum at the other end; leading down on the picturesque Rochester Bridge to the north. The gardens at the rear of the Charles Dickens Centre are free to enter and contain a number of interesting artifacts, including the wooden Swiss chalet in which Dickens wrote several of his novels.
Turning left by the bridge takes you down the Esplanade, which provides dramatic views of the old castle keep and its crumbling ivy covered outer walls. The Esplanade provides a very pleasant afternoon stroll, alongside the riverside gardens and down to the quay, where a vast array of pleasure boats are moored. A old russian submarine can be spotted just below the bridge (Black Widow U 475). Once a floating museum, this former cold war Hunter Killer is now waiting patiently to be restored.
We had already climbed the castle on a previous visit (which is a strenuous climb and notably windy due to its many large bare windows), so we were content to forego the climb and view and walk through the castle yard and down through to the Cathedral behind. Adjacent to the Cathedral we discovered a pleasant little tea shop (one of many in the town) and enjoyed a welcome rest with our customary cup of tea and slice of cake.
From the Cathedral, if you walk up Boley Hill behind the castle and down St Margaret's Street to Vines Lane, it brings you to a lovely little tree lined park, called the The Vines, where the vineyard of a priory once grew. Carrying on through the park brings you to Restoration House, where Charles II stayed in 1660. Taking the circular tour back to the High Street you can also inspect part of the old Roman and medieval town walls, behind the Eagle Tavern (accessed via a small passageway alongside).
All-in-all we had a very pleasant afternoon, although we wished we'd had more time to spend in Rochester. Susanne would have liked to have spent more time perusing the many interesting shops on the High Street and I really would have liked to have gone into the Guildhall Museum to discover more of Rochester's maritime past. Therefore, a further visit is planned next time we come this way.
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