Newest Review: ... near Edenbridge, Kent, England. You can drive your car to get Hever Castle. There are two parking areas, the bigger one of which is n... more
Hever Castle (Kent)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Hever Castle (Kent)
Advantages: Lots to do - lovely gardens and interesting Castle
Disadvantages: I could only find one set of toilets - some activities weather dependant/seasonal
You pay as you drive into the grounds, the adult price was £13 for the castle and gardens (£10.50 for the gardens only) with discounts for Senior Citizens and families. Children were £7 including the castle. Parking is on grass so keep that in mind when considering footwear and weather, fortunately it was sunny when we visited. Depending on where you parked, it is only a short walk down to the main part of the castle and gardens. We parked near the Moat Restaurant and Gift Shop, and there were people picnicking outside. We visited last year with Tesco Clubcard Days Out vouchers.
It is worth noting that you cannot picnic within the 'proper' gardens, so if you are bringing a picnic you need to sit by the Moat Restaurant. We popped into the Moat Restaurant (we weren't organised enough to plan a picnic) - it's not a cheap place to eat but we were impressed with the quality of our meals. All main dishes are then served with new potatoes and a seasonal vegetable selection in an individual dish. It was well-presented, fresh and cooked properly. The drinks selection included fair trade teas and coffees; old-fashioned colas etc were part of the soft drink offering. They also did desserts and cakes, although we just shared a mini bar of luxury chocolate. Overall our lunch was over £20 including drinks but it was tasty and enjoyable and I cannot complain about the quality. The staff cleared and wiped down the tables regularly, so although it was a busy time we managed to get a clean table and our plates were cleared promptly.
Later in the afternoon we stopped at the Guthrie Pavilion near the lake for a sit down and a cold drink and shared one of their home-made cakes. If you are a chocolate fiend then you will enjoy the Chocolate Brownie we had, and there was a good selection to choose from. Service here was quite slow, and tables were not always clear. I believe that you can get lunches here, and part of it is waiter service.
We had to queue 40 minutes to get into the Castle. It doesn't look that big from the outside but there is lot to see inside and, in my opinion, is worth doing. There is an audio tour available for an extra charge. We enjoyed wandering around the rooms at our own pace, and in spite of the number of people, we didn't find it too crowded for the most part. The signs and historical information is clear and concise.
The first part of the castle dates from the thirteenth century, but the main part was done when the Bullen (Boleyn) family arrived in the early sixteenth century.The Astor family later maintained and restored it. It has been open to the public since the 1980s. Inside there is an extensive collection of Tudor portraits of all of the key players and is considered the finest collection after the National Portrait Gallery. Also the Pampered Prince Exhibition, which looked at Henry VIII's childhood which was informative. As well as these exhibitions there are opportunities to learn about the history of the house and its famous residents, which included Henry's 4th wife Anne of Cleves. There are short biographies on each of his wives to read. The Castle also contains two of Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours (personal prayer books) which are highly decorated. They are in cabinets, but some transcripts are available to read. One exhibition that was popular with younger visitors was the one depicting armour, swords and assorted instruments of torture. There is also an exhibition on the Astor family who bought and restored the Castle in 1903 (to be honest, we weren't really interested in them and skipped thois part). Some of the rooms you see are decorated as the Astor's had them, rather then how they would have been in Tudor times. You do get to see Anne Boleyn's bedroom and efforts have been made to keep that part authentic. All in all I think we were in the Castle about an hour and a quarter so this aspect represents good value for money and is worth taking the time to do.
It is worth visiting the Yew maze, which was created by William Astor in 1906 and, whilst not a large maze, it was quite entertaining. However, paths are narrow and made of earth, so can get muddy, making it impossible for wheelchairs or pushchairs but also difficult for others with limited mobility. There is also a water maze but that is more for kids, they seem to love leaping in and out of the water sprays. If you are going with kids, then pack a change of clothes!
There are a number of walks you can do, but due to time constraints we didn't attempt one. The lake walk which takes you all around the lake should take an hour however. You can hire boats on the lake for the rather pricey rate of £10 per half hour. My boyfriend wanted to impress me with his rowing prowess so off we set. He then recalled that he had only rowed once and actually wasn't that good. There is a number to call painted in the boats if you get into difficulty and you get a laminated map so you know what you are looking at should you make it more than 50 yards from the boathouse before going round in circles. The boats can be hired at weekends and during school holidays in the summer months.
There are various gardens to view and the Italian gardens and Walled Rose Garden were my favourites. You can smell the Rose Garden as you enter it, it is lovely. Obviously this experience would vary depending on the season and the weather. The gardens are well designed and well cared for. There are also a number of topiary animal figures around the Castle itself.
OTHER FACILITIES AND ATTRACTIONS
The only toilets that I saw were by the Guthrie Pavilion which is quite a walk from the entrance. As far as the Ladies' facilities were concerned, there were plenty of adequately stocked and clean cubicles, so no queuing. However there was only one hand dryer, whilst it was a high speed Dyson Air-blade one, it still caused a bottle neck.
There are two Gift Shops that I saw, one by the Moat entrance that offered a range of children's toys, as well as quality adult gifts, Not all are Castle related, but 'Past Times' type scarf and tie clip gifts. There is a smaller shop by the Guthrie Pavilion offering books and gardening gifts as well as plant cuttings.
Most of the gardens are disabled friendly, although some of the paths are gravel. The Castle can only be accessed downstairs by wheelchairs. However the toilets, restaurants, shops and other attractions are wheelchair friendly.
There is also a small miniature house exhibition (by the Moat Restaurant - accessed through the Gift Shop), with some scale model houses through history. The houses are in glass cases and as you lean forward to look inside them (part is 'cut-away' so you can see the rooms inside) you WILL bang your head on the glass. EVERYONE did this when I visited, usually more than once. However, they are very well done and anyone with an interest in historical homes will find something of interest in here. It is only small and you will only need 10-15 minutes to view.
There is also the opportunity to do archery and watch various demonstrations throughout the year, but often seasonal and weather dependant.
We had a lovely day here, staying six hours in total, and we definitely could have stayed longer if we had managed to get here earlier. I think it offers good value for money due to the amount of things to do. It helped that the weather was nice to enable us to explore the gardens, and I think this needs to be a consideration when planning a visit. There are lots of activities to enjoy with children and many things that would appeal to adults as well. There seemed to be plenty of staff and the whole thing seemed well organised and efficiently run, if I was to find one quibble it was that I only located one set of toilets.
Summary: A lovely day out
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