I have been thinking about taking tour groups to Hever Castle for a while now so today I decided to share with you some details of our recent visit and see whether I can persuade you all to visit this amazing magical place, childhood place of Anne Boleyn (the second in the line of 6 wives of Henry VIII).
As you gather, the whole day was nothing short of brilliant. The journey there takes you on small country lanes, past Churchill’s beloved Chartwell (about this other gorgeous place look out for another blog) and through tunnels of trees and greenery. There’s a reason they call Kent ‘the garden of England’ and it certainly didn’t take us long to see it.
On arrival, the 38 acres lake was one of the first sights our eyes fell upon. That and the rowing boats out on the water were a most promising sight on a hot summer’s day. Then there was the Loggia which we were to discover is much bigger and more imposing than our eyes first lead us to believe. The walk around the lake took about an hour, about as long as the boat hire – great if, like us, you have a divided party of fairly firm land lovers mixed with would be water creatures. The lake walk was a great introduction to the large grounds of the estate with magnificent views of the Loggia and the Japanese Tea House across the lake.
Before returning to the boat hire the lake walk leads you through the well-tended gardens the Waldorf Astors took great pride in. I say gardens because the one very large garden is cleverly divided into several areas: the Italian Garden, the Rose Garden, a sunken garden and so on. There is something for everyone so there is no surprise that the recommended visiting time for the garden is about 1.5 hours. Our party (adults and children) just had to stop by the water maze and see if we were up to the challenge of reaching the heart of the maze and back out again without getting wet.
Next, we headed for the Castle, which is a proper castle, complete with ghosts and surrounded by a moat inhabited by very large koi. The recommended visiting time for the Castle is 1 hour and audio guides are available for hire. If you are of the organised type and particularly keen on your history then a guide can be pre-booked in advance to cater to your particular interest (or you can book me to accompany your group). For now, however, I leave you with just a few facts which I hope will be sufficient to pique your interest:
- Hever’s history spans more than 700 years during which it saw 37 owners from 13 different families. Of those owners, the Boleyns were certainly some of the most famous. Thomas Boleyn, father to Anne, made this into a lovely family home where the family received a few visits from Henry VIII and Anne received 7 of his love letters.
- In the early 20th century the Castle belonged to the Waldorf Astor family who spent a lot of time and money carefully restoring it close to its 16th century glory. During the restauration, they made sure that the materials used were in keeping with those of the 16th
- According to David Starkey the Castle has “one of the best collections of Tudor portraits after the National Portrait Gallery”. This comprises a portrait of Henry VIII as well as portraits of each of his 6 wives.
If you are still undecided then check out the Castle website for the dates on which you can pre-book your afternoon cream tea, check out the “festival of theatre” programme and consider also taking your children to the new playground due to open at the end of July and which promises to be amazing. Hever Castle really offers something for everyone and makes for an excellent day out.