Hever Castle in Kent is a beautiful, romantic double moated castle, and once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.
We visited on a cold morning in late December, with some fog still hanging in the air, which just added to the magical feel. On arrival we were directed to park in the parking area that took us into the castle grounds via the Lake View entrance, and from there we could pay at a small kiosk that let you through into the gardens. Between Christmas and New Year they had a special offer, of £13.90 per adult, to enter both the castle and gardens. Normally I believe the cost is £16.90. There are slightly reduced rates for garden only, or for booking online in advance.
I’m fairly sure I visited Hever Castle as a child, but I only have a vague memory of it. The entrance path led us down the hill to the Hever Lake and Loggia, a lovely place to gaze out over the lake with the last of the morning mist lifting.
We walked on through the Italian Gardens and on to the Castle forecourt. Here, on this particular day, there was a Vintage Fun Fare taking place complete with Carousel, but we passed this by and went on over the drawbridge and into the Castle.
Parts of the castle date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, but much of what you see today is thanks to the wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor, who used his fortune to restore and extend the castle in the early 20th century. I love the fact that he paid attention to detail and insisted that the workmen use, as far as possible, the same materials and tools as Tudor and Elizabethan craftsmen.
The inside is fabulous, lots of wood paneling, ornate ceilings and furnished with antiques galore! And of course, being December there were some lovely Christmas trees on display too. You can do an audio tour, but we opted to do the self guided tour.
It’s difficult to forget that the Castle was once home to Anne Boleyn, with plenty of family Boleyn portraits on display and of course Henry VIII who spent the night here on a few occasions while courting Anne Boleyn. In fact, getting to see the room that is traditionally thought to be Anne’s bedroom was quite a highlight for me as it still has part of her ornate bedhead in the room, (on right of the photo below).
You also get to see the bedroom where King Henry VIII spent the night while visiting, and two prayer books that Anne Boleyn wrote in and that bear her signature.
The Queens’ Chamber has a portrait of Henry VIII (which is a rare 16th century replica) and each of his six wives. I’ve always been fascinated by this period of British history, so enjoyed getting to see all these historical artifacts.
As you go on through the castle, there is a section dedicated to the Astor family who owned the castle for 80 years from 1903 and searched the world for furnishings worthy of it.
The tour finishes in the Gatehouse, the oldest part of the castle dating back to the 13th century and complete with the garderobe, the 13th century toilet that emptied directly into the moat!
It was early afternoon by the time we exited the castle and we were both pretty hungry so went over to the Moat Restaurant to see what we could find to eat. It was fairly busy despite us being late for lunch time, but we managed to find a table and shared and enjoyed a lovely big Sausage roll and piece of Chocolate cake with our hot drinks.
While sitting at our table after lunch we perused the map of the castle and grounds and saw that there was a small Museum dedicated to the Kent and Sharpshooters Yoemanry from 1794 to the present day. My husband was particularly interested to take a quick look, so we walked up to it’s location near the Main entrance. It was well done with interactive and imaginative displays that bring to life the stories of the soldiers over the years.
We needed to walk back through the gardens to get to our car, and by now the afternoon sun was getting low in the sky and a little mist was moving back in. It was lovely to explore the gardens little nooks, we came across the Tudor Garden that has a giant topiary chess set, and wanted to go further but by now it was getting late and the gardens were soon to close.
So we wandered back to the Lake and car park, passing a surprisingly friendly Swan on the way, and took some final photos of the gorgeous evening light on Hever Lake.
Date of visit; 28th December, 2016.