Top Things To Do in Rochester, Kent

The historic city of Rochester is a gem nestled amid the Medway Towns. With the city being a firm favourite of Charles Dickens during the Victorian era and being the infamous site of various battles dating as far back as the 1200’s, Rochester has a rich and varied history which captures the imagination and piques interest for all ages! Even today, the city holds a quaint appeal with cobbled streets, historic architecture and, of course, the impressive Rochester Castle keeping faithful watch. 

The History of Rochester Castle

For the history lovers among you, this fascinating town is sure to grab your attention! Originally, Rochester was a small Saxon Village! It then evolved, gradually becoming a fine city. This was cemented by the Romans who built a fort and a bridge across the River Medway. However, Rochester’s first castle was not built until 1088 following the Norman Invasion of Rochester. The castle was built over the remains of the Roman fort. As commanded by the King, the stone castle was created as well as Rochester Cathedral. Rochester appealed greatly to political leaders due to its proximity to the river. The castle was originally intended to command a significant river crossing. Rochester Castle survived 3 notable sieges, including the famous siege of 1215 (during which a corner of the keep was destroyed). 

In the 13th century the keep was restored and a series of living quarters were added. The Royal Court were regularly in attendance at the castle in the Mid-13th century. However, in 1264, the castle suffered another siege. This saw the Kings Hall and the bailey buildings damaged and burned. 

The damage the castle suffered in 1264 unfortunately contributed to its demise. The Royal Hall and the living quarters were not renovated. The Keep predominantly became the main living quarters. In the 14th century, repairs were done to undo years of neglect and weakened materials. In the 15th century and onward, the castle bailey was rented to tenants. In the latter half of the 16th century, the castle unfortunately was of no use, and Elizabeth I approved the removal of stone from Rochester Castle’s curtain wall to be used in a new fort in Upnor.

As previously touched upon, Charles Dickens was a huge advocate of Kent, particularly the Medway Towns. He purchased Gads Hill Place in Higham, which still stands today. He also resided in Eastgate House in Rochester. The city of Rochester inspired many of Dickens’ novels and is mentioned in many of them. 

Rochester Castle and Grounds were also remarked on by several notable artists and writers, such as Samuel Pepys. 

What Is There To Do In Rochester, Kent?

Climb the Castle

Today, Rochester Castle is open to the public with free entry to the castle grounds. For an admission fee, guests can also enter the castle and take in the breath-taking views from the top of the castle. It is worth noting that the Castle is not one with defined rooms with furnishings and artefacts to observe; it is classified as Castle Ruins. However, a visit inside the Castle gives a real feel for the depths of history contained within the castle walls and the brilliant views from the top make the upward climb worthwhile! It is not difficult to see why it was such a prominent figure in history offering a clear view of the river and incoming enemies! 

Did Someone Say Ice Cream?

Once you are back on solid ground, why not enjoy an ice cream within the Castle Gardens? There are large green areas for visitors to enjoy and there is a lovely ice cream kiosk which has remained in the castle grounds for many years! It is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon; relax on the grass with an ice cream and take in the impressive stature of the castle looming overhead. 

Marvel at Rochester Cathedral 

Did you know Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest cathedral in England? It is truly a marvel to behold both inside and out. The architecture is impressive and, once inside, a feeling of calm and serenity prevails. This is another historical gem that Rochester has to offer!

Enjoy the Esplanade

The River Medway runs through Rochester and underneath the magnificent traditional bridge that spans the width of the river. On the Rochester side of the river, you can enjoy a walk along the esplanade. Lining the esplanade are lovely gardens and a play park for children. If you continue to walk along, you will eventually reach Borstal! 

Bring Out Your Inner Historian

If you want to continue your historical discovery then venture into the Guildhall Museum. Covering several floors, there are various collections and exhibitions to appeal to everyone. The Guildhall Museum is free to enter and has been a key part of Rochester High Street for decades. There are lots of activities for children to do, such as etching and various seasonal worksheets.

Room for Refreshment?

Rochester High Street is full of coffee shops, cafes and restaurants; you will be spoilt for choice. There are many independent, local Kent businesses you can support on your trip to Rochester. So, make the time for a refreshment in your Rochester itinerary! 

Visit Restoration House

A combination of two medieval buildings since the 16th/17th century, Restoration House is classified as a city mansion. It is a unique building which received its name after King Charles II’s visit on the evening of the Restoration. It also features in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens as Miss Havisham’s home.

Venture into The Vines Park

The Vines Park is a small, contained park situated behind Rochester High Street. It is located opposite Restoration House. It is a tranquil park and is the ideal spot for a picnic!

Get Arty 

With the rich and complex history and the vast array of historical buildings and architecture, Rochester is the perfect place to indulge your inner artist. The castle, the castle gardens, the canons, the cobbled streets the cathedral, the river and the traditional bridge (located on the side closet to the castle) are all perfect subjects for a sketch or a painting!

If you are seeking further inspiration for days out in Kent, our blog 10 Places to Visit in Kent for a Peaceful Escape is an ideal article to read next! 

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