By Abby Bergman, Swimming World College Intern.
Swimming the English Channel is considered the pinnacle achievement of marathon swimming, but fickle weather in England and changing conditions in the channel can make waiting for a weather window the most stressful element. Swimmers often wait between one and three weeks to make their attempt, and some get blown out entirely.
With that in mind, it is important for swimmers to find things to distract from the stress of waiting for the phone call that the swim is on. Luckily, the port town of Dover and surrounding Kent County provide ample opportunities to explore the countryside and discover the history of the area. The following are six places to visit while waiting for the weather and sea to cooperate.
1. Dover Castle
Built originally in in the 1100s, the Dover Castle is an important landmark for understanding English history. Spend a day exploring the secret tunnels and learning about the lives of the castle’s former inhabitants.
“I was able to check out different areas on different days, as I didn’t want to get tired out,” Channel swimmer Rebecca Nevitt explains. “It’s a good way to stretch out the body a little.” Don’t miss out on a special offer that allows foreign visitors to purchase a multi-day pass to fully explore the castle.
2. Hythe Crypt
Billed as the largest ossuary collection of bones and skulls in England, the Hythe Crypt is located in St. Leonard’s in the town of Hythe. Peruse the bones and read about history of the church while exploring this intriguing room. Don’t forget to also walk down the charming main street of Hythe.
“Much like the Channel, one is humbled when they see such a vast collection,” English Channel Swimmer Paige Christie describes. “From an anatomy-nerd perspective, it was intriguing to see the various components of the body, and how we use those components to generate motion.” The friendly atmosphere and quaint setting of the town will also help take your mind off the fickle weather.
3. White Horse Pub
This bar and restaurant has gained international fame as the “Channel swimmer’s pub.” Since 2002, successful Channel swimmers have been invited to sign the walls of the main room, and it is inspirational to see proof of their triumphs.
“It’s one of the few places in the world where channel swimming is a completely normal thing,” Channel swimmer Mallory Mead explains. “To go into the White Horse is to feel like you’ve found your people.” Enjoy British food and drink while surrounded by the names of Channel greats! The White Horse is located on St. James Street in Dover, Kent.
4. Tiny Tim’s Tearoom and Canterbury
This charming three-story tearoom and bakery boasts the most haunted room in Kent as well as delicious teas and sweets. Taste the scone of the day and read about the history of the building, which was built in the 1600s. Tiny Tim’s is located at 34 St. Margaret’s Street in the town of Canterbury. After enjoying a cup of afternoon tea, be sure to save time to wander around the town and visit the Canterbury Cathedral.
“England has such a rich history that is easy to miss if we just focus on the channel,” Recent Channel relay swimmer Louise Darlington describes. “Sometimes it is nice to get out and see the richness that is England, a great close escape into the past.” With a range of stores from local gift and sweet shops to name brands, exploring Canterbury will surely put you in a good mood.
5. International Designer Outlets, Ashford
This shopping center is a low impact outing, perfect for when your swim window may be approaching. From British brands like All Saints and Ted Baker to American brands like Abercrombie and Nike, the outlet mall has something for everyone. Spend an afternoon visiting the shops to distract from your swim worries. Don’t worry about rain because the outdoor spaces have canopies, creating a large covered area.
6. Walk the Dover Cliffs
Enjoy a day of warm weather by walking along the famed white cliffs, while enjoying views of the English Channel. On a clear day, it is even possible to see the outline of France in the distance. The trail from Dover is about 16 miles long and offers various routes to take in the gorgeous views!
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.