In the years we’ve been together, Terry and I have visited our family in Kent (Terry’s brother, Niko, and family) half a dozen times or more, and every single time we’ve been, we’ve told ourselves we’d definitely fit in a visit to Hever Castle
– the childhood home of Anne Boleyn – at some point. And then, every single time, we’ve totally not done that, because… I have no idea why, actually.
This year, then, I honestly didn’t have high hopes of making it to Hever Castle – so, naturally, this was the year we finally went.
(Side note: we drove to Hever from just outside Ashford, and decided to take the scenic route, rather than the motorway: this is something I really recommend if you have the time, because the countryside in this part of the world is just glorious, with so many picture=postcard little villages that my camera roll was full before we even reached the castle itself. But back to Hever Castle,,, )
ow, Hever Castle is probably best known for its Anne Boleyn connection, and, I have to confess that most of what I knew about it came from my – admittedly quite obsessive – binge-watching of The Tudors
a few years ago. What I wasn’t prepared for, then, was how absolutely beautiful the place was going to be: both the castle itself, which was built in the 13th century, and has a proper moat and everything, to the gardens, which are some of the prettiest I’ve seen – and I’ve seen a lot
of castle gardens in my time, trust me.
After a quick lunch at the on-site cafe, and a wander around the rose garden, we headed straight to the castle itself:
s regular readers might have noticed, since Max arrived, Terry and I have mostly been skipping the interiors of the various castles and stately homes we visit, in favour of the grounds, where we figure the presence of an excitable toddler might be a little less intrusive. This time, though – and I’m honestly not sure what we were thinking – we decided to throw caution to the wind, and take an 18-month-old into an ancient castle, filled with priceless antiques. I mean, here’s a photo of Max, shortly after arriving in the castle grounds that day:
Yup, the door handle obsession is still going strong, so, as pushchairs aren’t allowed inside the castle, Terry put Max on his shoulders, from which vantage point Max spent the next 30 minutes or so shouting, “MOANA!” and “DOOR HANDLE!” at regular intervals. At least I never had to wonder where he was, right?
Being able to hear Max at all times, was actually a bit of a blessing, as it happened, because if I had one complaint to make about Hever Castle, it would be that it was absolutely packed with visitors. – to the extent that many of the rooms were too crowded to be able to see them properly, and we were having to stand in line to file past certain paintings, or other items. The crowds weren’t exactly surprising, of course, given that it was the start of the summer holidays, when most tourist attractions are at their busiest, but it did mean we weren’t able to see as much as we’d have liked, which was a shame: so my main tip if you’re thinking of visiting Hever Castle would be to try to visit out of season if you possibly can!
With that said, what we did see was all really interesting: I was particularly interested in the Boleyns, and seeing some of the places Anne would have seen when she lived there, but the castle has had many different owners in its long history, including the Astors, who bought Hever in the early 20th century, and did a huge amount of restoration work to it, along with the creation of the pleasure gardens. One of my favourite exhibits inside actually dated from that era, and showed some of the inner workings of the castle during that period, including ledgers kept by the staff detailing income and outgoings, plus things like detailed plans of who would stay in which bedroom during house parties, etc. It was all very Downton Abbey, and totally fascinating, so I’d have really liked to have been able to spend a bit more time there.
peaking of the gardens, though, they really are spectacular, and well worth a visit in their own right, even if you don’t want to tour the castle itself. In fact, if I lived nearby, I’d definitely want to get the annual membership, just so I could visit the grounds as often as I wanted. I mean, look at them:
(For those who asked when I posted this on Instagram, my jumpsuit is from Miss Selfridge, and you can buy it here…)
hey weren’t just pretty to look at, either: there was also tons of stuff to do, including Tudor-dressed performers to entertain the kids/crowds, a regular maze, a water maze, boating, archery, and more. As for Max, meanwhile, he’d spent the whole drive there telling us that he wanted to play in a sandpit (That boy is obsessed with sandpits right now, as my floors will testify), so he was beyond thrilled to find this waiting for him at the playpark in the castle grounds:
Not just any old sandpit: a really, really cool one. That Anne Boleyn probably… no, actually, she didn’t, did she? I just like to think she played here as a child, because it would be nice to think of ol’ Anne having at least a little bit of fun, given what was to become of her, no?
As for us, meanwhile, we had tons of fun at Hever Castle, and the fact that no one ended up married to a murderous monarch was just an added bonus, really.
We’re still working on getting Max to smile in photos – or even just look at the camera, really. Maybe next time…