My next adventure outside London sees me explore a real gem of Kent – Hever Castle & Gardens. An historical place of real significance steeped in nostalgia and grandeur, the Castle’s history spans more than 700 years. The medieval castle, gatehouse and walled bailey were built in 1270, and in the 15th and 16th centuries one of the most powerful and influential families in the country lived there, the Boleyns – who added the Tudor dwellings around the grounds.
Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, who would become King Henry VIII’s second wife and the Queen of England for just 1,000 days. The King wanted Anne to be his wife rather than his mistress, so as a result of this he renounced Catholicism and created the Church of England.
The Castle later passed into the ownership of Anne of Cleves – another of Henry VIII’s wives, and from 1557 onwards various families owned it including the Waldegraves, the Humphreys and the Meade Waldos.
Over the years the Castle fell into gradual decline before William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination into restoring it. He commissioned the ‘Tudor Village’, now called the ‘Astor Wing’ and creation of the glorious gardens and lake area.
Walking through the Castle offers a wonderful perspective into the medieval and Tudor era, with a treasure trove of historical artefacts, furniture, fashion, paintings and decor. If you love your period dramas or history, you’re certainly in for a treat while you stroll in and out of the rooms, with something captivating and enlightening to discover.
A step outside the Castle takes you to the spectacularly beautiful gardens, which were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and Son, who turned marshland into this beautiful area. My walking adventures have seen me explore a number of Italian Gardens and the lovely one at Hever Castle was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures.
Over 1,000 men worked on the grand design for the garden, with around 800 men taking two years to dig out the 38 acre (14.2 ha) lake at the far end of the Italian Garden. In four years 125 acres (50 ha) of landscape were constructed and planted, which includes the colourful walled Rose Garden which contains over 4,000 bushes.
It’s not just stunning greenery that is on offer, but the Gardens have many water features, including Half Moon Pond, the Cascade, the cool and shady grottoes, the formal Loggia fountain inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome, and the less formal Two Sisters’ Pond. While you walk around you must keep your eye out for trees that were planted over 100 years ago, as well as the Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk.
Although an historically influenced garden, there have been several changes to it over the past few years, namely the Millennium Fountain being installed on Sixteen Acre Island. Also, a 100 metre herbaceous border has been reinstated and Sunday Walk and Church Gill Walk created, providing a peaceful woodland garden following the course of a stream. Additionally, the Yew Maze and a fun Water Maze provide plenty of enjoyment for visitors.
When you visit Hever Castle you’re visiting the Gardens just as much as the Castle, and you haven’t done your trip justice if you don’t walk around the entire lake area to see the watery wonders on show.
Hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my journey around Hever Castle & Gardens and stay tuned for my next ‘Beyond London’ discovery. Thanks for reading and in the meantime, you can follow all my walks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also, why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you – and you can also read my very special walk of San Francisco too – and that’s not all – you can also listen to some of my walks on my London Wlogger podcast.
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