Western Heights, Drop Redoubt and Grand Shaft

Western Heights, Drop Redoubt and Grand Shaft is an Attraction. Area Dover


Drop Redoubt Road
CT17 9DY

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One of the most important and impressive fortifications in Britain, the Western Heights are a series of strong points linked by miles of ditches on the western hilltop above Dover.

Begun during the Napoleonic Wars and completed in the 1860s, the Heights were also used for barrack accommodation during the First World War. Gun sites, pillboxes and blast shelters were constructed during the Second World War.

Drop Redoubt:

The Drop Redoubt is one of two forts on the Western Heights and is linked to the other, the Citadel, by a series of dry moats, or ‘lines’. It is a large and impressive fortress intended to attack an invading force attempting to capture Dover from the north-east.

Grand Shaft:

Built during the Napoleonic Wars to link the harbour to the barracks on Western Heights, the Grand Shaft is a unique 19th century triple staircase built to provide a short cut for troops from the Western Heights to the town. It has three staircases of Purbeck limestone which wind anti-clockwise down a central light-well, dropping 140 feet through the cliffs.

Knights Templar Church:

The buried foundations of this small medieval chapel were discovered during the construction of the military defences. Built in the 12th century, the chapel had a circular nave 10 metres (33 feet) in diameter and a rectangular chancel, mirroring the form of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; it is this association that has suggested the link with the Templars. Alternatively it may have been a wayside shrine on the road between Dover and Folkestone.

Only the flint and mortar core of the foundations and a small area of stone facing survive.


Exterior viewing is available at any reasonable time during daylight hours. The Heights are surrounded by chalk meadows full of wildflowers, butterflies and birds. There are three circular walks which can be followed individually or together, to explore the history and wildlife of the area.

  • Drop Redoubt circular walk – 1 mile (45 minutes)
  • Grand Shaft circular walk – 1 mile (45 minutes)
  • Citadel circular walk – 2 miles (2 hours)

The Western Heights Preservation Society holds an annual Open Weekend giving the public a rare opportunity to see inside the Drop Redoubt and North Entrance. Displays, stalls and groups of Napoleonic re-enactors carry out drills and skirmishes to bring the past to life.

The Grand Shaft is open once each month – please see the WHPS website for dates.

The Knights Templar Church can be viewed during daylight hours.