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Rochester Kent

Information about Rochester Kent UK

20 miles south east of London is the tiny city of Rochester which is definately worth a visit. On the banks of the lovely River Medway, Rochester is famous for its beautiful, medieval cathedral (the second oldest in the country), 11th century Norman Rochester castle and links with Charles Dickens. The High Street, with its
many antique, art and curio shops, and areas around the cathedral and castle retains much of its Victorian splendour. Interesting sights to see in Rochester are 16th century The Six Poor Travellers almshouses, the Elizabethan mansion, Restoration House and its beautiful garden (this was used by Dickens in his novel Great Expectations as Satis House), The Corn Exchange, Eastgate House and finally, the free Guildhall museum which has a multitude of interesting artifacts and exhibits. Take an enjoyable trip along the Medway on the Kingswear Castle paddle-steamer which operate in the summer months from Rochester Pier.

There are festivals and activities held in Rochester throughout the summer. In particular, the Sweeps Festival on the first weekend in May. This festival celebrates the old tradition of chimney sweeping and May 1st was their annual holiday. It is celebrated by a procession of chimney sweeps through the streets, Morris dancers and Jack-in-the-Green, a seven foot, tree-like character that represents the beginning of Spring. The festival has a wonderful lively atmosphere of music, colour, dancing, with a funfair and activities in the castle grounds. During the first week of June Rochester livens up again with the Dickens Festival. This is a celebration of the famous, local author and people join in the fun by dressing up in Victorian costume or as characters from Dickens' novels. Parades and readings of Dickens' works are held throughout the city and, as in the Sweeps Festival, activities, craft stalls and the funfair establish themselves on Castle Hill. At Christmas time a similar festival is held but this time celebrating Dickensian Christmas. If Rochester has not been blessed with the real thing, an artificial snow machine turns Rochester into the traditional white Christmas scene. There are roasted chestnuts to snack on and ice skating to be had in the castle gardens. The end of the festival is marked by a candle-lit procession and the singing of Christmas carols outside the Cathedral.

Pubs in Rochester: For Jazz lovers, if you are in Rochester on a Sunday lunchtime, go to The Eagle Tavern, Rochester High Street. Here, at this time in this unassuming pub, there is free jazz Fantastically lively, often with performances by well-known Jazz musicians. The audience comprises all ages and children are also welcome. The pub serves good local beer, reasonable food and also has a nice beer garden. For a quieter drink, The Two Brewers, across the road from the Eagle Tavern is a tiny, old fashioned and traditional pub which was built in the 17th century from building materials salvaged from Rochester castle. For excellent pub food, The Coopers Arms, St Margaret's Street, cannot be beaten. However, it does not serve food on Sundays and children are only allowed in the pretty beer garden at the rear of the pub (where they also do wonderful summer barbecues on Friday evenings). The Coopers Arms is reputedly haunted by a Grey Monk who appears late at night, usually around November time. Apparently, when this ancient building was a priory, he was bricked up alive for a sin that is now lost in the realms of time. He is said to emerge from a wall behind the bar.

Two very good hotels to stay in whilst visiting Rochester are the 400 year-old coaching inn, The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel (a favourite of Dickens) and the Gordon House Hotel in the High Street. Both hotels offer reasonable prices for double rooms with breakfast. Alternatively there are many people offering bed and breakfast accommodation in and around the city and details can be obtained from the Tourist Information Office in the High Street. Close to Rochester are other interesting places to see such as the splendid 16th century Upnor Castle in the quaint village of the same name. On the hills that overlook Chatham and the river Medway stands Fort Amhurst, a rambling Napoleonic fort with a huge an interesting network of tunnels. Also in Chatham is the fascinating
Chatham Historic Dockyard a series of museums that includes the Royal Navy Lifeboat Institute's lifeboat collection, the Kent Police Museum a working ropery, a WWII destroyer, a submarine and a Victorian sloop.

2007 travel guides