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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Kent Castles - Day 4

I had the biggest breakfast ever this morning so it was a good job that the porter was keen to do all the luggage handling, with me just counting and telling him where to load it all! 

We had a slightly earlier start this morning, leaving the hotel at 0930hrs. We avoided the motorway on our scenic journey through to west Kent on this very clear, fresh, sunny autumn morning to our destination, Hever Castle.

There have been three main periods in the construction of this historic castle. The oldest part of the castle dates to 1270 and consisted of the gatehouse and a walled bailey. In the early 1500s the Bullen family bought the castle and added a Tudor dwelling within the walls and so it became the childhood home of its most famous inhabitant, Anne Boleyn. It later passed into the ownership of Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. From 1557 onwards the Castle was owned by a number of families including the Waldegraves, the Humfreys and the Meade Waldos. Finally, in 1903, William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination in restoring the Castle, building the ’Tudor Village’ and creating the gardens and lake.

Hever Castle is now a tourist attraction, drawing on its links to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, its mazes, gardens and lake.

There is an annual events programme with assorted events including jousting tournaments and archery displays in the summer months and an annual patchwork and quilting exhibition in September. The castle has also become the venue for a triathlon. The Castles to Country Houses exhibition contains a collection of 1/12 scale model houses ranging from the medieval to Victorian periods.

The castle offers three floors containing antique furniture, Anne Boleyn's prayer books, instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings. There is also a museum of the Kent Yeomanry. The remains of the original country house timbers can still be seen within the stone walls of the fortification, while the gatehouse is the only original part of the castle. It has the oldest working original portcullis in England.

The grounds of the castle include a yew maze, planted in 1904. There is also a water maze, opened in 1999, the object of which is to get to the folly at the centre without getting wet, while in the children's adventure playground there is a tower maze. The castle gardens contain a wide range of features including an Italianate garden, rose gardens, a herb garden, and topiary.

When we walked through the entrance, down the drive through the trees and around the corner to the sight of the castle standing proud in glorious sunshine with a back drop of the blue sky and surrounded by trees in their autumn colours, I can only describe it as being like a Fairytale. It is a very impressive building in a stunning setting, which was the climax at the end of a successful tour.

We had an easy journey home, all of our feeder vehicles were in position and waiting for us when we pulled in the yard. The transfer of luggage went smoothly and before many minutes, all passengers were in the back of a mini bus and on their way home. I have had a very enjoyable few days and I am not looking forward to the mundane day to day work of school runs and university sports until I next go on tour, which as far as I know, will be at Christmas. So this is me signing off until then. Keep safe everyone. x