If you are anything like me, you can't go to Europe without visiting a castle or two! I love the history, the architecture, and that giddy little girl fairy tale feeling I get every time I see one. So naturally when I visited London, I had a few castles on my list to see, and I wanted to stay in at least one. When I stumbled upon Hever Castle, the former childhood home of Anne Boleyn in Kent England, I was pleasantly surprised they had a bed in breakfast right on the grounds! I was instantly sold and booked 2 nights.
Hever Castle is located just about 30 miles from central London. Click here for full directions and information on how to get there. It's easy to arrive by car or train. I opted to take the train to Edinbridge Town Station and then took a taxi to the castle from there. I recommend booking your taxi in advance or call for one when you arrive as there usually isn't any waiting unless someone just got dropped off. The next station after this one, Hever is closer to the castle and about a mile walk to it.
The Bed & Breakfast
One of the best parts about visiting this castle, is the option to stay at the Bed & Breakfast right on the grounds. Built in 1903, the rooms are Tudor style and were originally for guests of the castle's prior owner William Waldorf Astor. There are two wings, the Astor Wing, and the Anne Boleyn Wing both with their own restaurant and complete with Tudor charm! And though you can visit the castle without staying here, I highly recommend booking at least one night. Staying at the Bed & Breakfast gives you full access to the 125 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds---after hours when the tourists are all gone!
As the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the castle itself is the main tourist attraction providing daily tours for groups and individuals. Being a guest of the B&B, grants you access to go in on your own or you can also book a tour. Several tour groups show up in intervals throughout the day, so at times it can be quite crowded. I waited for a window when the larger groups left, and opted for doing a self tour. All of the rooms and areas to explore inside the castle are well labeled, and since it is not very large, it is easy to do this in a couple of hours. Filled with several historical artifacts, clothing, and decor It was soo cool to see Anne's bedroom and the rest of the rooms inside.
The Castle Gardens & Grounds
With over 125 acres to walk and explore, the grounds and gardens were my personal favorite and what I felt were the highlight of visiting this castle. After 5pm when the castle itself closes, guests of the Bed & Breakfast can roam around and enjoy it to themselves! I took advantage of this, and spent a few hours exploring the different gardens and the full walk around the lake. Highlights below of my day, and for a more detailed list of what you can see, check out the Interactive Map to help plan your trip.
Half Moon Lawn
This beautiful spot is a good starting point as you begin to walk the grounds, not from the castle. It's a huge green lawn perfect for a picnic with fountains, statues and this pretty half moon reflecting pond.
The Italian Garden
There is a lot of Italian influence here in the gardens, and one of the first things you'll see on your walk through them is the actual Italian garden. This section is filled with beautiful arches and William Astor's Italian sculpture collection.
The Rose Garden
No castle grounds would be complete without a rose garden! And this one surely doesn't disappoint. It's huge! This photo doesn't do it justice, but plan to spend a bit of time walking through this beautiful spread of over 4000 different colored roses.
Just behind the rose garden is this stunning Italian structure, the Loggia. With its inspiration taken from the Trevi Fountain in Rome, this beautiful lakefront spot is definitely one of the most picturesque areas on the grounds providing one of the best views of the entire lake. Take a stroll through the arches and stairways, then head to the cafe located right inside to grab a light lunch, coffee, or a glass of wine where you can sit and enjoy the view!
The Lake Walk
If you are up for an easy walk that takes about an hour, then be sure to take a stroll around the 38 acre Hever lake. The path is a full loop around the lake with lots of wildflowers, and other points of interest like the Millennium Fountain, and a cute Japanese tea house. It also gives you an excellent view back of the full Loggia. If water activities are more your thing, canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats are also available to rent and explore the lake that way. Tours of the gardens, including this walk can be booked here if you are looking for more detail on the history and conservation/maintenance that goes in to keeping this place so beautiful!
Pictured above is the Hever Church. Set toward the entrance of the castle, this charming church is part of the Sunday Walk, and Church Gill Walk which are both accessible from the main street of the castle
(see below) This would have been the walk that the family at the castle took to church on Sundays.
As mentioned, there is much more to see at Hever Castle than just my highlights. But even if you don't cover it all, the grounds itself are so beautiful that just randomly walking around you'll find pockets of little bridges, ponds and greenery for miles. it's easy to make a day out of it to enjoy the peace and quiet and soak it all in- and pretend you are royalty for a day!
OTHER CASTLE SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Miniature Model Housing Exhibit: On permanent display in the Hever store, a collection of 1/12 scale model homes to reflect the Tudor/Victorian period.
Event Field: Book for Jousting performances and other events.
Yew & Water Mazes: Two mazes can be found on the grounds, one with and without water. Makes for a fun afternoon for the kiddos!
Hever Golf Course: Enjoy 27 holes of golf right on the grounds.
Archery & Shield Painting: For all ages, available on weekends and school holidays.
Adventure Playground: Take a break, and let the kids play!
Hever Castle is a perfect 2-day trip to escape to when visiting London. I'd love to hear what castles you recommend, as I've got a ton more on my list. Leave me a comment or send me a DM with your favorites!
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