“ Lamberhurst / Tunbridge Wells / Kent TN3 8JN. „
This year I have visited Scotney Castle Garden and Estate twice because it's the nearest tourist site that belongs to National Trust. It is only 15 minutes drive from my home to there.
Scotney Castle Garden and Estate is located to the south of Tunbridge Wells and is surrounded by kentish country views.
Scotney Castle is a brown colour building which has three levels. It is a typical Victorian country house. It was a home of the Hussey family from the late 18th century.
As a National Trust property the house is open from March to December. It has a small cark parking for 30 cars roughly. From the car park to the left you can see two adjacent toilets. One of them is newly built.
However walking along a short distance you can see a small gate that is not open to public. Passing by it you come in the main entrance of Scotney Castle. Inside the castle you can see old furniture, paintings and many antiques from different countries. Because of lack of staff now you can just visit part of rooms. There are volunteers in every open room to explain the displays. It has a special display in one guest room to tell how Victorians protected their properties when they went out for long period.
The garden is very big compared to the castle. In 1835 Edward Hussey III converted the garden in an Elizabethan style. The space of the garden is not flat. It separates into smaller gardens with different plants. It may take you up and down several times. Do remember you just have one entry/exit point. Despite the vibrant colours you can stand in the top of the garden and have a look over spacious Kentish farmland. The rockery garden is the central view point, but it could be very wet and muddy after a rainy day.
To me Scotney Castle Garden and Estate is like a home the owner just left yesterday. The owners left many personal things there. From the displays I can catch the hobbies of them. I think the owner liked cats very much. In every room you can see cat's paintings and gadgets.
However I did not think the owner wished visitors to stay very long. There is a little space to stop and take break. Too many displays inside and too narrow footpaths outside made me want leave as soon as possible although I did like the views I saw there.
Last but not least you can visit other sites, which are near to Scotney Castle, such as Sissinghurst castle Garden, Bodiam Castle, they belong to National Trust too. Bayham Old Abbey is just five minutes of driving time from Scotney Castle, but it belongs to English Heritage.
My reviews are also posted under Blossom S. For more pictures pls visit my blog I want to see the world: http://blossom-iwanttoseetheworld.blogspot.com/
Once again here we were with a Friday afternoon off, a rare, for this year, sunny sky and National Trust membership tickets in our hands. Flicking through the members handbook, we were looking for somewhere to go within an hours drive of Brighton, preferably that we had not visited before.
Early May is a wonderful time to be looking at gardens, so we narrowed it down to two options, Sheffield Park or Scotney Castle. My wife was keen to see a house AND garden, that knocked out Sheffield Park - no house, so off to Scotney we went.
The journey should not have taken more than forty-five minutes, only the driver (me!) overshot the turn off, leaving us with a scenic but long drive through the Kent countryside to arrive at Scotney Castle Garden and Estate, conveniently located at the roundabout where the A21 (London to Hastings road) dual-carriageway ends, south of Tunbridge Wells.
As with all National Trust properties so far visited this year, this one is well sign posted by the familiar brown signs. Turning off the main road, you climb up through very attractive woodlands on a private road, at the end of which, bearing off to the left, you will find the large car park, from which there is no sign of the gardens.
To the left, a short walk from the car park are situated the wonderfully clean and well kept toilets, adjacent to some modern buildings, which turn out to be the regional offices of the National Trust. There is a large lawn, behind which lies a walled garden, this area is a suggested picnic spot. You are not allowed to take food and drink into the gardens themselves.
A short distance through the woods, following sign posts, you come to a large manor house "Private not open to visitors", to the right of which is the small wooden admission kiosk and shop buildings. If what you have observed of this place so far is immaculately kept but, ultimately, of little interest, prepare yourself for a big surprise once actually admitted to the gardens themselves.
As usual I will put the admission costs along with the opening times at the bottom of this review, suffice to say here that, as usual, we waved our National trust cards and entered without having to pay.
You are quickly reminded that this is a steeply sloping site - on two sides indeed, to the south and east. There were several wheel chair users here on the day of our visit, and, to be honest, I did not envy their helpers having to push them all the way back to the top of the hill, there is only one entry / exit point. On the other hand, the paths are all hard surfaced - this is not a garden that you will walk away from in a muddy state if the weather has been wet.
The first and most memorable impression here is of the sheer vibrant colours on display. We were fortunate enough to go at exactly the right time to see the best and most intense of the spring colours, looking at the photographs when we returned home I felt that they barely did these gardens justice.
According to the guide book there is a riot of changing colours to be appreciated here throught the year, changing with the seasons. Lucky are those on whose doorstep these wonderful gardens are situated, although we fully intend to make that journey at other times of the year to observe the transformation of seasonal colours.
The gardens as they are laid out now date from around the 1830's when Edward Hussey III set about creating a "Picturesque" landscape garden. This in a sense was a reaction to the "Capability Brown" school that had been creating large open park lands with strategically placed trees. In many cases the purpose of this was to show off the "big house" to its best advantage and in turn to make the most of wide open sweeping views from that house. At Scotney, the reverse was to be the case, the garden would offer many nooks and crannies, winding paths, steps and flower boarders, the original house - the castle - being a feature of the garden.
Here at Scotney, Hussey had purchased a large estate during the late 1700's, upon which was sited a moated castle, a romantic ruin, surrounded by a steeply sloping garden. He actually died before very much changed at Scotney, his son Edward died the following year, leaving Edward III to inherit the estate. He lived with his mother on the nearby Sussex coast at St Leonards. He decided to move to Scotney in 1835, the castle was uninhabitable and so he set about building a new manor house at the top of the site - overlooking the gardens, the romantic centrepiece of which was to become the castle of 14th century origin. Edward was fascinated with landscaping and as a site for his hobby had inherited his dream property.
As with any park or garden, Scotney has evolved over the last 170 years, however the basic layout was devised by Edward Hussey III. The biggest changes took place following the great storm (or "hurricane" as we locals tend to refer to it) of October 1987, when many of the century old cedars and cypresses were quite literally blown down over night. Almost 20 years later, there is nothing to see of the devastation caused, many have been replanted, whilst use has also been made of some of the "clearings" created.
Particularly appealing (to my eyes at least), is the fact that although beautifully tended, wild flowers are allowed to flourish here, none more stunning than the carpets of bluebells seen during our visit in May. The harmonious mix of wild and "managed" plants here we found a rare treat.
Initially walking down from the admission kiosk, you do not have sight of the castle, it is the stunningly colourful azaleas and rhododendrons that assault the senses - I was going to say "draw the eye" but that would be far too weak a statement to make in this case! The extraordinary pinks, yellows, oranges, reds and every shade of "off white" imaginable make this something of a Technicolor feast.
We turned right and found ourselves in the rocky Quarry Garden, just below the main (new) house. Even on a hot day, this is a damp and cool environment as little sun penetrates here due to the rich canopy of white Ghent azalea and deep reddish pink Acer. Surrounding us are many species of fern and one of my favourites the magnificent magnolia. We were lucky as these were late flowering this year - usually being at their best in April.
Below the Quarry the path opens out and a wide expanse of lawn (known appropriately as the "Main Lawn") drops away, here you catch first sight of the castle with its moat at the bottom of the hill. Again, a breathtakingly beautiful scene, there are indeed not one but two islands on the lake, the castle being approached by crossing a bridge onto the first in order to gain access to the second.
Naturally we are drawn down to the Old Castle at this stage and cross the two bridges in order to find the building itself surrounded with its own immaculately manicured garden, truly a garden within a garden. The main feature at the front, having stepped onto the main castle island, is the circular carriage drive surrounded in the most beautiful beds of tulips (red, orange and white) on our visit.
The castle is open for interior viewing, but regrettably most of the rooms are "wired" off due to a shortage of staff to mind them. The interior is simply furnished and you view the various rooms through open doors, it is not surprising that rather than restore the castle, Edward Hussey decided on building a new house. The rooms here are small and would probably never have qualified as being "comfortable".
This is a small manor house type castle - a castellated house as was common in the 14th century. The large circular Ashburnham Tower is the oldest part of the building and is actually now the best preserved of all.
The Tower, so named due to Roger Ashburnham being the original owner and builder, was one of four - one on each corner. The castle was built between 1378 and 1380, a time when an invasion by the French appeared highly likely. When built the castle was considerably larger than today - completely filling the second island.
The Catholic Darell family, were the longest standing owners, who during their 350 year ownership made major changes, one of which was totally remodelling the castle, pulling down the other three towers in order to build a large range, now ruined, on the east side of the building. The fact that they were Catholic was significant during the early 17th century as a Jesuit priest, Father Blount was hidden in the priest's hole, which you can still see here today.
Due to legal and financial problems the Blounts were forced to sell Scotney, in 1778 Edward Hussey, a barrister and well known cricketer, became the new owner. The Hussey family passed over the castle and gardens to the National Trust in 1970 upon the death of Edward Hussey III's grandson Christopher.
Christopher and his wife Elizabeth, had spent the last eighteen years of his life putting the gardens at Scotney into order, so that it could be enjoyed by others. He obviously felt that leaving the splendid gardens to the National Trust was the best way to achieve this.
Walking off the island and away from the castle, you pass through a tree lined walk leading through to a less colourful, more wild area of the gardens. On the far western end of the bridge island is to be found a gabled wooden boathouse. At the far end of the moat can be found a Henry Moore sculpture "Three Piece Reclining Figure - Draped." Moore was a friend of Christopher Hussey. Regrettably the beauty of this, along with the majority of the rest of the famous sculptors' work is rather lost on me!
A circular path takes you all the way around the moat, providing fine views across the old castle and up the hill to the new house with all of the colourful garden in the centre of the view. On the far northern point of the moat is situated the ice-house, a thatched wig-wam type building with a door "extension" at the front. In days prior to electricity, blocks of ice were cut from the moat during the winter and stored here in order to be used in the kitchen through the summer months.
Rising along the top of the site is "Top Walk" which takes the visitor back up, almost to the new house. One of the best views of the whole garden can be enjoyed from the Bastion, a purpose built viewing platform to the side of the house. This is the highest point in the gardens, above the quarry and looks across the top of the garden and down over the castle and to the river Bewl and open fields beyond.
From here we return to the small, but well (if expensively) stocked shop and then out again to the car park. As well as the expected souvenirs, the shop is also selling a good range of plants and shrubs - regrettably none of which would grow happily on our very chalky spoil here in Brighton!
We agreed that this is a place to which we would return later in the year. It is a superbly relaxing and colourful afternoon out. Plenty of benches are provided on which to sit and admire all aspects of the garden, although we enjoyed lounging on the lawn overlooking the castle and moat.
That concludes our tour of Scotney Castle Garden, although there are also many walks to be enjoyed on the estate through Scotney Woods, comprising of 770 acres of parkland, some of it ancient woodland, and what are described as "unimproved meadows".
Scotney is a place of rare colour, beauty and interest and if you were ever find yourself in the Tunbridge Wells area, with a fine afternoon to spare, I would thoroughly recommend a visit.
From RICHADA who really has very little interest in gardens - known for not being able to identify a tulip from a poppy - that is quite some recommendation!
Scotney Castle Garden & Estate
Tel: 01892 891081
Family £13.00 Groups £4.80, child £2.40.
Estate walks and Car Park: Free
Guide Book £3.50
Shop & Garden: March - October 11.00 - 18.00
Old Castle: May - October 11.00 - 18.00
The Castle, Shop and Garden do not open on Mondays or Tuesdays.
The car park and woodland walks are open every day of the year.
Please note that the "Criteria" below is totally irrelevant to a garden such as this. there is no hotel on this site - nor does it offer any catering facilities.
One of England's most romantic gardens, set in a beautiful wooded estate.