Things to see and do
A costumed performer outside the Great Tower.

The Great Tower

Step inside a regal medieval world, full of the pomp, pageantry and intrigue of King Henry II's court. Read on and discover the story behind the recreated medieval interior of Dover Castle's Great Tower, kept as authentic as possible and featuring audio visual effects and live historic interpretation.

Medieval Dover brought to life

The Great Tower's medieval interior represents the most ambitious endeavour to re-create a medieval palace in more than a century. Stepping inside you're greeted by lavish interiors created by an army of master craftsmen. The rooms include wall hangings, stunning furnishings and over 500 intricate objects, offering a genuine re-creation of a regal medieval world, all based on meticulous research and compelling evidence. 

To make the experience as authentic as possible, we've kept the Great Tower free of information panels so you can walk through without modern distractions. A Property Steward can be found on the first and second floors, there to answer any questions you may have. You'll find projections and audio visual effects showing scenes and telling tales of the people who lived and worked here. On selected days during each season, enjoy live historic interpretation as costumed characters perform scenes of life at the castle in the time of Henry II.

A performer representing King Henry II outside the Great Tower.

Henry II and Dover Castle

The Great Tower was built by order of Henry II, one of the most powerful monarchs ever to sit the English throne. Husband to the strong-willed, Eleanor of Aquitaine he was also father to both Richard the Lionheart and King John. A brilliant ruler, he commanded a vast empire that stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees.

Despite his power, Henry's rule was filled with strife, from constant squabbles among his own family to a multitude of external threats. Famously, his stormy relationship with Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket would see Becket murdered by four of Henry's own Knights.

Between 1180 and 1189 he spent over £6,000 on the construction of Dover Castle, making it the most expensive castle project of his reign in England. With people from all over Europe now flocking to Becket's shrine in Canterbury, Henry would need a magnificent setting in which to welcome important visitors seeking to take the journey. Standing at the castle's centre, the Great Tower would represent a mighty symbol of royal power.

If you prefer reading a description of the rooms you're visiting, a full history and room by room tour of the Great Tower is available in the Dover Castle guidebook, available on site and from the English Heritage online shop.

Guidebook: Dover Castle

Price: £5.50

Discover Medieval Dover Castle

  • History of Dover Castle

    Learn about the long history of the castle, from its likely origins as an Iron Age hillfort, through its development as a great fortress, to its secret role in the Cold War.

  • The Angevin Empire

    King Henry II, who built Dover Castle’s great tower, also created the largest European empire of his age, stretching at its height from Scotland to the Pyrenees. 

  • The Great Siege of Dover Castle

    Find out how, in 1216, Dover Castle and its stalwart defenders played a crucial part in preventing Prince Louis of France from becoming King Louis I of England.

  • Eleanor de Montfort and the Siege of 1265

    Caught up at the centre of a civil war, Eleanor de Montfort held Dover Castle against the king in 1265 after her husband and eldest son were killed in battle.