Rachel Bailey paid a visit to the historical castle and grounds of Hever in Kent. Here, she recommends eight sights groups should seek out during a visit – just don’t forget the camera.
1. The Italian Garden: This is a splendid area of the gardens, and was designed to display previous owner William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures. Think long sweeping lawns and tall clipped yew hedges, complemented by manicured beds bursting with colour. Over 1,000 men worked on the grand design, which overlooks a 38-acre lake at its far end.
2. The Rose Garden: This was a real highlight for me. The colourful walled Rose Garden contains over 4,000 bushes and smells absolutely divine, with the roses flourishing from June until the end of September. Planted in blocks of colour from dusty lilacs to rich reds and pure whites, varieties range from the Alba and Bourbon to Hybrid Tea and Floribunda.
Pictured: The Rose Garden.
3. The Long Gallery: From the autumn, groups will be able to see a new permanent exhibition in Hever Castle’s Long Gallery which will depict the entire saga from the War of the Roses to the Reformation through its art collection. It will be guest-curated by renowned historian and television and radio presenter, David Starkey.
4. Diana’s Walk and the Lake Walk: Diana’s walk is new and opens this week at Hever, showcasing a new part of the garden running parallel to the Italian Garden. It’s wheelchair friendly and has plenty of new plantings to view. The Lake Walk, meanwhile, takes between 30 minutes and an hour to complete and offers great views of the lake and its wildlife.
5. The English Yew Maze: Love a maze? Take on Hever’s, which is surprisingly complicated and will no doubt see you hit a few dead ends before finding your way to the middle. It’s 100 years old, and was built in the Edwardian era by William Waldorf Astor, who along with a number of other wealthy people created mazes for their own enjoyment.
6. The Tudor Garden: Alongside the Yew Maze lies the Tudor Garden, made up of a series of small, sheltered gardens with neatly clipped hedges. These simple gardens were laid out as they might have been in the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Most impressive is the Chess Garden, which showcases huge chess pieces cut from golden yew.
Pictured: Giant chess set in the Tudor Gardens.
7. The Drawing Room: There are many impressive rooms inside Hever Castle, but a favourite for me was the Drawing Room which contained the domestic offices in the Tudor period and became the Drawing Room in 1905. Oak panelling, comfy-looking sofas and impressive furnishings in pastel shades give it a real wow-factor.
8. The Book of Hours Room: This is a real treat for any visitor with an interest in Tudor or religious history. There are two beautiful illuminated prayer books on display in here which belonged to Anne Boleyn – each bears her signature. These personal prayer books were popular in England from the 13th century until the Reformation.
Hever Castle: a bit of background
Historic Hever is a romantic double moated castle, famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Its history spans over 700 years, and its gardens sprawl across 125 acres. There is no end of fascinating areas (indoor and outdoor) to explore at Hever, and it’s particularly suitable for groups with keen interests in history, photography and horticulture.
Pictured: The Drawing Room.
Benefits when visiting as a group (15 or more people):
• Discounted admission rates
• Private guided tours of the castle and gardens
• Free visits for the GTO and coach driver
• Free parking
• Special group menus
• Dedicated staff to plan your group visit
To make a group booking, call 01732-861701, or e-mail email@example.com.
For more information visit www.hevercastle.co.uk.