Can You See France From England?

When two countries share a water border, the possibility of seeing one country while standing on another is always intriguing. Such is the case with France and England. They are separated by a water border that is only 21 miles long.

Can you see France from England?

You can see France from England in Dover town in South East England. It is necessary to go to the top of the cliffs of Dover on a clear day. France is on the opposite side of the Cliffs, with the Strait of Dover separating the two countries.

To see France from England more clearly and up close, I highly recommend this premium Binocular from Nikon.

In this article, I have explained why the locations of the strait of Dover, Dover town, and the Cliffs of Dover are strategic enough to help you get a clear view of France from England. I have also included the best time for an amazing view and I have included other attractions for you to check out

Can You See France From England?

Can you see France from England

To clearly see France from England, you need to be in the right place at the right time. I’ll explain more about it later.

Throughout this article, I will constantly refer to the Strait of Dover, Dover town, and the Cliffs of Dover. The reason being, they are all interconnected. The cliffs of Dover overlook the Strait of Dover and both of these features are found in Dover town.

Why is this important for your adventure? I will that explain below:

The Strait of Dover

Can you see France from England

The strait of Dover is the narrowest stretch of the English Channel. The English Channel is the part of the Atlantic Ocean that separates the Southern Coast of England from the Northern Coast of France. 

At the strait of Dover, the Channel narrows to a width of 150 miles at the widest part and 21 miles at the narrowest part and proceeds to join the North Sea. That said, from strategic locations along the strait of Dover, you can actually see the coasts of France.

Dover Town

Can you see France from England
Photo by De Facto

Dover is a coastal town and a major ferry port in South East England. The town hosts a harbor that extends for more than 240 hectares. It is located along the narrowest part of the English channel and faces France across the Strait of Dover.

The distance between Dover town and Cape Grey Nose (Cap Gris-Nez) near Calais city in France is 21 miles. Dover is, therefore, the part of England that is closest to the European continent. For this reason, it is used as the point of entry from France to England. 

So, can you really see France from England? Absolutely! But not from just anywhere in Dover. You would have to head up to the most outstanding attraction of Dover town; the White Cliffs of Dover.

The White Cliffs of Dover

Can you see France from England

With a white chalk face and a height of 350 feet, the White Cliffs of Dover are some of the most outstanding landmarks in Dover and England as a whole. The cliffs extend for 8 miles on both sides of the coastal town of Dover, overlooking the Strait of Dover.

You can walk along the cliffs using the different trails. Here you will get spectacular views of the deep blue sea, the beautiful wildflowers growing, and the chalk-white edges of the cliffs. 

You can also enjoy watching the ferries, ships, and boats that keep the Strait of Dover busy. In a single day, over 400 sea vessels use the Strait.

One of the most thrilling views, however, is being able to see France across the Strait of Dover.

For more spectacular views, you can head to the 12th century Castle of Dover, which is built on top of the cliffs.

Why Are the Dover Cliffs the Best Place to See France From England?

Can you see France from England

The perfect place to view France is on top of the Cliffs of Dover. The reason being, the cliffs are at an ideal height for you to see farther.

A short Geography class here: If you are standing at any beach in the area (or at the base of the cliffs), you are only likely to see up to 3 miles away. This is due to the curvature, or the round shape of the earth. This shape determines how far the horizon appears. 

That said, even with the help of a binocular or telescope, you can’t see France (21 miles away) from the shores of Dover. However, for every foot that you climb up, the horizon moves further away, meaning that you get to see further and further. 

Now, if you are standing at the top of the cliffs (350 feet above the sea level) and assuming your height is 6 feet, then the horizon will appear about 23.1 miles away- and that’s how far you can see on a clear day. 

This explains why the Northern Coast of France (21 miles away) is visible from England, but only when viewed from the top of the cliffs. Like I said above, climbing up the castle or any ground higher than the cliffs adds a few more miles to how far you can see across the strait.

The Best Time to See France From England

Dover’s climate is similar to the rest of England with pleasant weather throughout the year. July and August are the warmest months with the temperatures reaching highs of 720 F. 

The two months also receive the highest rainfall in the whole of England. The warmer weather, however, makes it easy to see far – when it’s not raining. 

As such, May, June, September, and October are the best months to visit Dover and see France from England. For July and August, expect to be interrupted by rain from time to time. When the rain stops, however, you will be able to see the Northern Coast of France clearly. 

The best time for viewing is between 10 am to 6 pm. If you were to visit during the early morning hours, the channel could be covered in thick fog. By around 9 am, most of the fog is usually gone and the channel gets even clearer as the day progresses.

During a clear night, you can also see lights from buildings in the French city of Calais and if you are lucky, you may catch some lights from moving cars.

Note: The details of what you see on the other side may vary from one person to another. Why is that? Even in the right place and at the right time, how good your eyesight is will determine how well you can see in general. Also, you should consider that the length between the White Cliffs and France is covered with water that reflects light, which can affect your vision for long-distance viewing.

Other Places to Explore in Dover

If you choose to include several activities in your adventure, Dover city has plenty of sights to offer. I have sampled a few that are close to or located on the White Cliffs of Dover.

Dover Museum

Photo by Chris Whippet

The Museum is situated in the town center. Here,  you will get in touch with the history of Dover, including collections that date back to pre-historic times. How would you like to have a look at the world’s oldest sea-going vessel? The Dover museum is home to the Dover Bronze Age Boat – estimated to be 3000 years old.

You can learn more about Dover at the Visitor Information Center and even buy a souvenir at the gift shop. To have a look at local art, there is a temporary exhibition at the museum. The entire building is wheelchair friendly.

The Dover Castle

The Castle dates back to the 12th century. It is one of the largest castles in England and as I mentioned before, you can have an even better view of France. And that is because it sits on top of the White Cliffs. The castle has played a great role in defense for several decades.

It’s most outstanding attractions are a medieval palace, WWII (World War 2) underground hospital, numerous wartime secret tunnels, WWII bunkers, imposing walls, and a WWII fire command post. You also buy snacks, food, and drinks at several eateries within the castle

The Roman Lighthouse (The Roman Pharos)

Photo by Miles Milo

Within the confines of the Dover Castle is the Roman-built lighthouse. It was built by the Romans back in AD 43 when they invaded England. It was meant to guide ships into the Dover harbor.

Besides it being the oldest lighthouse in England, it is also one of the oldest in the world. Next to the lighthouse is the Anglo-Saxon Church of St. Mary in Castro. Here, you can have a quiet time, and it’s especially popular with Christian believers.

Final Words

You can definitely see France from England with the right location and at the right timing. While watching France from England isn’t the same as going there in person, the experience is still thrilling. Dover city has many attractions that you can add to your to-do list to make your entire trip even more interesting.

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