A quintessential Kentish day out: Hever Castle
The Tudors knew a thing or two about how lovely Kent is – both Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had houses in the Garden of England, and Anne’s residence was the magnificent Hever Castle in Hever, near Edenbridge.
The house itself actually dates from well before Anne and her family lived here, having originally been built in the 13th century, but one of the fascinating things about Hever Castle – and one of the reasons that people love visiting there so much – is that there are many different eras of history represented in one building and its grounds. The house may be from the 1200s, but the gardens, for example, were designed and paid for by William Waldorf Aster in about 1903.
So what is it that makes a day at Hever Castle so perfect? Is it the fairy tale surroundings? The special events? The history? The fun? It’s all of the above and then some.
As well as being able to take a leisurely stroll around the outside of the castle, you can go inside and take a tour. Within the rooms you will find antique furniture, Tudor paintings, some rather interesting exhibitions, and of course the remarkable prayer books that have been inscribed by Anne Boleyn herself as well as much more to enjoy. Hours could very easily be whiled away inside this moated castle.
Outside there is even more to do – including an excellent adventure playground for the little ones to let off some steam. Shaded by trees and made of wood, it’s a paradise for children. The main focus is a huge maze-like structure that dominates the playground and allows for almost endless running around, hiding, climbing, jumping, and fun that will be remembered for years to come. For the teeny tinies there is a mini play area too.
The Yew Maze is always an exciting prospect, and no matter how many times you visit Hever Castle, this is a big draw. Large yew hedges line gravel paths that turn corner after corner and, if you are lucky (or know what you’re doing and where you’re going!) you will eventually reach the centre of the maze. It is quite an achievement, and one that should be celebrated (perhaps with an ice cream, or a piece of homemade cake? It’s all available here!).
The gardens themselves are impressive and beautiful, and it could indeed take a whole day to enjoy them. Hever Castle’s grounds consist of 125 acres, and the gardens are an integral part of it all. In the Italian Garden there is classical statuary to marvel at, and in the English Rose Garden you must see the enormous topiary chess set – plus there are 4,000 rose bushes which smell divine. Within the grounds you’ll also find a boating lake (which takes up 38 acres just by itself) – why not hire a rowing boat and explore Hever in style?
And when you get peckish, you have a difficult choice ahead of you. Will you relax on the grass with a picnic blanket and food from home, or will you eat in one of the two restaurants (the Moat Restaurant and the Guthrie Pavilion offer lovely home-cooked meals, including children’s portions, and scrummy cakes and cookies too)? Whichever option you end up going for, it will be the right one. You could even try it all – Hever is open from 10.30 until 4.30, and you’ll build quite an appetite with all that walking!
The events held at Hever Castle throughout the year are always worth attending, and Christmas is no different. This year, the theme is ‘Once Upon A Castle’, highlighting just how much of a fairy tale castle this really is – with a gorgeous grotto, vintage fairground, the chance to grow your own beanstalk, a fairy tale trail to follow, huskies to meet and a lot more besides, make Hever Castle your family Christmas treat (year after year).