Situated in the heart of picturesque Kent countryside, Hever Castle is a really relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the castle, which dates back to the 13th century, is set in acres of beautifully maintained gardens, which marry elements of Tudor and Italian design. With a day off work at my disposal a few weeks ago, I indulged my inner history nerd and made the short trip to Hever - after negotiating a couple of rather meandering roads! - mind focused on all things medieval.
On arrival, the first thing that greets you is the sight of the enormous lake, flanked on the entrance side by a stunning loggia- the ideal backdrop for a cheeky outfit snap or two! Suffice it to say that I morphed into a kid in a sweet shop when I saw the rowing boats for hire- but more on that later(!).
The gardens at Hever were designed by Joseph Cheal & Son at the beginning of the 20th century, transforming what was previously untamed marshland into the lush landscaped spaces which we see today. Although elements of the design have been heavily influenced by classical Italian architecture, there are aspects which still feel quintessentially English - with plants including the classic rose.
The next port of call- on what was one of the hottest days of the year- was the water maze. Although quite easy to negotiate, it's well worth a visit if only to see the plants and get a feel for the wider landscape of Hever as a whole. From there I meandered over the bridge and past the lawns to make an all important pit stop at The Guthrie Pavilion cafe.
Whilst my wrap, slice of chocolate cake and ginger beer were a little on the pricey side you definitely get what you pay for as far as quality is concerned. However, there are plenty of places across the grounds to stop and have a bite to eat so I'd definitely recommend packing up a picnic to enjoy (weather permitting of course!) After refuelling, I had a look around the plants for sale- all grown on site- which are perfect if you want to take a little bit of Hever home with you. From there, I made my way to the castle...
Surrounded by a moat and yet more immaculately maintained flora, the castle itself appears deceptively small from the outside, but once you take a step over the threshold you realise that there is quite a lot of ground to cover- as well a few flights of stairs too! The original Tudor design has been largely maintained throughout, housing original 16th century tapestries, paintings and furniture, the castle also features some amazing examples or Tudor craftsmanship- keep your eyes especially peeled for the locks on the doors and the carvings which dominate the entrance hall.
After paying a visit to the Yew Maze, it was almost time to head home- but not before a quick jaunt on the boating lake. As a complete rowing novice, I think it’s fair to say that I was slightly over enthusiastic and completely underestimated my rowing ability (which I have now discovered is non-existent!), ending up severely blown off course and colliding with a tree on the far side of the lake. Speedboat rescue complete, I made my way home, muttering something along the lines of ‘Well, Steve Redgrave made it look easy!’ Oh dear!