Located in the heart of Hever in Kent, is Hever Castle.
A place which began as a country house built in the 13th century, and on one summer’s day, became the destination of a road trip of me and one of my favourite Kiwis, Emma.
We decided upon Hever Castle as it was the a fun meeting point halfway between where we both live, and with the destination set in my satnav, I was on my way to meet her.
Or at least I thought I was.
As I drove down winding country roads (so narrow there was barely enough space for my humble little Polo) and into a quaint little train station, I found out I had gone to the wrong station. *facepalm* So after driving back through those wiggly little roads, almost getting hit by a jerk in an MX5 who had no concept of space, and admiring a beautifully converted windmill, I made it to the right station, picked her up and proceeded on our way.
After ditching the car in the car park opposite the castle grounds, we walked through the gatehouse at the entryway, picked up our tickets (disclaimer: we were guests of Hever Castle) and off we ventured.
Constructed in 1270, Hever Castle is a tourist attraction which draws on its link to the past to attract future visitors. You see, from 1462 until 1539 it was the seat of Boleyn family and served as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (ya’know, Henry’s VIII’s wife that got decapitated for false charges of ‘adultery’ and ‘witchcraft’ amongst others). The castle has mazes, gardens and a lake, but because of the weather we were blessed with that day, we started with a slow stroll towards the castle, taking in the first section of the gardens and admiring the skills of the groundskeeper.
After taking pictures in the entryway and pretending like I was on my very own episode of MTV’s Cribs, we made our way inside.
Hever Castle has had a fair few owners over the years, which, considering its age is completely understandable—but it’s most famous owners were the Boleyn clan. It started as Sir William’s, before being inherited by his son, Thomas in 1505 and it was during this time that Anne Boleyn spent her childhood there. After that, ownership was passed on again, going first to Anne of Cleves (another of Henry’s wives) before going to the Waldegraves, Humphreys and the Meade Waldos families.
Told you it’s had had a fair few owners!
Eventually, Hever Castle fell into decline and so William Waldorf Astor set to change that. He invested time, money and imagination into restoring Hever Castle and his wealth and vision served him well, by enabling him to create a lavish home that indulged his passion for history and housed his family.
But nowadays, it’s a tourist attraction and people such as you and I can stand upon the drawbridge, look up at the portcullis and envisage what it must be like to play house in such a building.
The castle itself has three floors with ornate details throughout.
Honestly, there’s not a single detail which has been overlooked. From the window panes to the bannisters, to the door handles. The walkways are adorned with old-time memorabilia including old riding boots and suits of armour. You’re not allowed to dress up in these, unfortunately. But they make for pretty viewing.
On the upper floors, you’ll find the bedrooms
Complete with beds that are entirely too high to hop into and require a step in order to get onto them. You’ll be pleased to know that I do not know this from trying, it was just very, very, visually obvious.
We walked past antiques
And a cabinet filled with baby clothes. White (ok maybe cream) baby clothes. A very brave colour choice when it comes to children!
We wandered on from room to room, admiring the overlapping history as we went. We looked at the weaponry and discussed whether we’d use bear traps or spikes to keep our foe at bay, and found the best-dressed painting in the castle.
I mean look at that blazer.
After finishing up in the castle we decided to take a lunch break. Emma was celebrating a freelance anniversary so we popped some bubbles and enjoyed lunch in the sunshine before wandering around the grounds.
I chose a squash quiche with summer and rice salads, and I can’t remember what Emma had because I have a terrible memory.
After sitting and enjoying the sunshine for a while, we decided to stretch our legs around the grounds. There are 125 acres of them so was plenty for us to choose from, but first and foremost we decided to try our hand at the Yew Maze which was planted around 1903.
We took a wrong turn or two, but eventually found the middle where I found litter and let out an audible huff as it’s incredibly annoying that humans can be so careless when there was a bin a literal three minutes away from the maze.
But I digress…
After completing the Yew maze, we walked around the gardens taking in the beauty.
There’s a fair few gardens at Hever Castle, all broken up into different segments making each section its own little journey.
If you like plants, you’ll find a fair few, with topiary, rose gardens, herb gardens and an Italianate garden which includes Fernery, in Hever Castle’s grounds.
They’re beautiful, and as we walked around the gardens we discovered that there was a water maze so obviously we had to do that.
The maze took a few attempts and a close call with a wet ankle for me to get to the middle. Each stepping stone was booby-trapped so that if you trod on a certain area BAM. Would get water-pistoled from a hidden shooter. I managed to bypass this and made my way to the centre and up the tower without getting wet. Others weren’t so lucky.
After strolling around the grounds lapping up the sunshine and conversation just a little bit more, it was time for ice-cream. Because England with sunshine and without ice-cream simply isn’t done.
After this, I drove Emma to the train station (the right one this time) where we bid our farewells and went on our separate ways. But if you’re looking to visit a place with a rich and varied history that spans more than 700 years, Hever Castle is definitely the place for you.