One of my favorite things to do in the UK is exploring this country and discovering more about its history. A few months ago, when the summer was just about to slip away, I went (quite excited) with my family to Hever Castle in Kent, to learn more about Ann Boleyn’s childhood home.
We headed straight away to the south east of London and after a 2 hour drive we arrived at Hever Castle. We were actually very impressed by what we discovered. If you want to know why Hever Castle may be the best castle in the UK, just read on !
Castle with rich history
Hever Castle dates back to the 13th century. It was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I).
It was the backdrop to a succession of tumultuous events in Britain’s history, which makes it even more exciting to discover!
The splendid rooms contain many remains of the past: fine furniture, tapestries, antiques, important collection of Tudor paintings and two prayer books inscribed and signed by Anne Boleyn herself!
This room (above) is said to be the one in which Henri VIII has slept “on several occasions during his courtship with Anne Boleyn”. No need to say there is a strange excitement in the air when you stand in this room. Henri VIII has marked history in such a way I had shivers up and down my spine examining his bedroom!
Those boots are … huge (even if it does not show on the picture). But that’s intentional. They are Postilion’s boots (and the large leather and iron postilion’s boots date from 1690!). “A postilion was a man who rode one of a pair of horses that pulled a coach. It could be very dangerous if a leg became caught between the two horses, so each postilion wore one boot on that leg to protect himself from injury”. Clever !
After the Boleyn’s ownership, Hever Castle belonged to another of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves, and from 1557 onwards it was owned by a number of families including the Waldegraves, the Humphreys and the Meade Waldos. Until William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination in restoring the Castle.
Even on a grayish rainy day, we were stunned by the beauty of the gardens.
They were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and Son, turning marshland into the magnificent gardens we can admire today.
Counting a lake, Italian sculptures, cascades, grottoes, its marvelous collection of trees and flowers, these “award-winning gardens set in 125 acres of glorious grounds” may be a source of joy for some, a source of inspiration for others!
Those fond of roses will even be happy to know that Hever Castle has its own “Hever Rose”, which was launched by Dame Judi Dench, the award-winning British actress, in 2011.We really enjoyed our stroll in the gardens and promised to ourselves to come back later on a sunny day when the colours will be at their best …
Major fun attractions
Due to the high number of activities and things to explore at Hever Castle, I can only recommend you to plan a full day of visit with a lunch on site, to make the most of this amazing place. Here are the fun attractions organized at certain times of the year (details below).
This is one of the main reasons why we decided to visit Hever Castle. We had heard about jousting tournaments taking place throughout the summer holidays every year, and we were eager to experience such a thing!
Each tournament begins with a procession (all kids can join) from the Castle forecourt when Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn lead visitors across the grounds to the Jousting Arena.
Then the tournament starts and spectators choose which knights they support, and cheer them to glory (and THAT is exciting to witness!). This is a very funny performance full of action, stunts, falls and fights (as the “brave knights compete for points to find the season’s champion knight”) that everyone (no matter the age) will be thrilled to attend!
This is an excellent way to get to know the ancient sport of archery. This attraction is available during the school holidays and at weekends until (and including) the autumn half term, for both adults and children. Unfortunately we had not enough time to have a go at archery as there were too many things to explore at Hever Castle !! Next time, for sure …
Another amazing activity for you to enjoy at Hever Castle: painting your very own shield and/or crown to take home as a souvenir of your day out. It is available every weekend and during school holidays from 30 March until the end of October.
Commando Series returns this week end actually (Sat 9 & Sun 10 Nov)! This is a course full of fun and challenging obstacles, organized annually through the Hever Castle Estate for everyone from 8 years old (under 11s must be accompanied by an adult). There are different levels from the toughest ‘Treat Me Like a Commando,’ to the more supportive ‘Just Get Me Round’ and ‘We Are Family’. Tempted?
Near the Castle you will find your way through the Water Maze and the 100 year old Yew Maze.
You will end up completely soaked but very happy! Adults are very welcome to join in the fun …
If you want to experience an after dark visit of Hever Castle, you can book a “Twilight Christmas” ticket online. This must be an incredible way of exploring the Castle and Gardens, for sure!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are planning to plan a visit at Hever Castle, please share your experience and opinion here!
To go further:
Hever Castle: Hever Rd, Hever, Edenbridge TN8 7NG