Stroll Through History at Hever Castle & Gardens

Mark Bibby Jackson visits Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent and discovers there is much more to the historic building than tales of a lovestruck king and a queen who lost her head.

Culture & History, Europe, Outdoors

Mark Bibby Jackson visits Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent and discovers there is much more to the historic building than tales of a lovestruck king and a queen who lost her head.

There is something about the story of Anne Boleyn and her ill-fated marriage to Henry VIII that has survived the ages. This is quite literally the stuff of Hollywood. But what of the place where Anne Boleyn lived. How kindly has time served Hever Castle?

History of Hever Castle & Gardens

Although Hever Castle is best known as the childhood home for Anne Boleyn, although it is believed she was born in Blickling Hall Norfolk, the original building long predates Henry VIII’s second queen.

A country house was built in the 13th century, with the existing gatehouse dating back to 1270. In 1462, Geoffrey Boleyn added a Tudor home within the walls. Some of the original timbers remains. Apparently, Hever Castle also has the oldest working original portcullis in England.

Portrait of Anne Boleyn
Portrait of Anne Boleyn

In 1505, the property came into the possession of Thomas Boleyn. Here his daughter Anne was taught, apart from a brief period when she joined the court of Margaret of Austria at Mechelen in 1513. Henry VIII used to stay at neighbouring Bolebroke Castle while courting Anne, although one of the rooms at Hever is made up as Henry’s bedchamber.

After the death of Thomas Boleyn, in 1539, Hever Castle belonged to Henry who bestowed it upon Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, the following year as part of their divorce settlement. The second queen of Hever fared somewhat better than her predecessor, living here for 17 years.

After that Hever fell into disrepair until it was acquired by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor in 1903. Nearly all of what you see at Hever Castle now was created by Astor, who used it as a family home, including the Tudor village, or Astor Wing, behind it.

Hever Castle Tour

Hever Castle Drawing Room
Hever Castle Drawing Room

There is an interesting audio guide to accompany your tour of the castle, which takes you from the inner hall with portraits of both Boleyn sisters and Henry VIII, as well as a watercolour by Winston Churchill, who stayed here. From here you enter the Drawing Room where Astor entertained guests. Filled with Edwardian furniture, this feels very different to the rest of the castle.

Nearby, is The Great Hall with a wonderful tapestry woven in the mid 16th century. Built in 1383, this room demonstrates how Hever Castle has changed with the times, and includes a stone fireplace installed by Astor.

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens
Hever Castle Gardens

However, for me the real beauty of Hever Castle Kent lies outside its confined walls.

Astor also transformed Hever Castle Gardens, creating the Yew Maze, Italian Garden and lake. Even on a busy day in half term when the place is swarming with busy schoolchildren enjoying the unseasonal sunny spring day, the Italian Garden proved a wonderful oasis from the noise. The gardens should be particularly beautiful during April to May when 40,000 tulips will be in full bloom.

From the Italian Garden I continued my walk around the lake. Advertised as being an hour’s walk, in truth it took barely half that time. At times I found myself lost in my own thoughts with only the occasional pedaloo to keep me company.

Hever Castle & Gardens
A walk around the lake at Hever Castle & Gardens

This is another of the many attractions of Hever Castle & Gardens; despite its space, it is relatively compact. Parking is close to the castle, so there is no lengthy walk, or shuttle bus, to reach the main building as is often the case with historic buildings. The gardens themselves are really quite manageable, with plenty of fun activities for the kids including a Water Maze that even tempted me.

My stroll through history had stimulated my appetite, so we stopped at the Pavilion Café for an excellent and wholesome brunch served by the most flexible and polite staff – they were worth the visit on their own – sat overlooking the lake. It was quite magical.

Hever Castle & Gardens
Wholesome brunch at the Pavilion Café

Hever Castle Tickets

Online tickets for Hever Castle cost £20.80 (Castle & Gardens), Garden only £19.05 (Gardens), and £55 (family of four).

Hever Castle Opening Times

The Gardens open at 10:30am, with the Castle at midday. Closing time depends on season. See the website below for further details.

Hever Castle Hotel

Either stay in the luxury B&B located in the Astor Wing and Anne Boleyn Wing, or at Medley Court holiday cottage, attached to the Astor Wing. To book, click here.

Anne of the Thousand Days
Costume which Richard Burton wore in Anne of the Thousand Days
Where is Hever Castle & Gardens?

Hever Castle is located in Hever, Kent, near Edenbridge, some 30 miles south-east of London. The postcode for Hever Castle is TN8 7NG. If arriving by train, Edenbridge Town station is three miles away.

Hever Castle & Gardens

Hever, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG

T: +44 (0)1732 865224
E: [email protected]


All images Mark Bibby Jackson.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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