A weekend stay at Hever Castle: In search of Anne Boleyn
The saying goes that "Every Englishman's home is his castle". Whilst the entire nation may not strictly live in castles, the UK certainly boasts a number of castles that can make you feel like royalty for a weekend.
Hever Castle in Kent, UK, is a shining example. 30 miles South East of London, Hever is easily accessible by car or train (if you do not mind a walk down country lanes to reach your final destination).
Hever started its life as a country house in the 13th century. It was developed by each owning family into the double moated castle that stands there today.
The castle's most famous occupant was Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII. Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn's childhood home and her family owned the castle for the 15th and 16th century.
For any history buff, Hever Castle is an absolute treat!
There are 3 options for overnight stays at Hever Castle: the Astor Wing, the Anne Boleyn Wing or Medley Court.
We opted to stay in one of the 28 individually decorated and luxurious rooms on the Astor Wing. The Astor Wing was commissioned in 1903 and so it is a later addition to the castle itself, but retains all of the charm and elegance of the main building.
Prices per stay vary depending on what room you wish to book and what time of the year/day of the week suits your needs- anywhere from £190 for a double room up to £295 for a night in a suite.
Included in your stay are a fabulous (and vegetarian friendly) 5* breakfast, tickets for both days of your stay to access the castle and gardens, access to the Billiards Room, and access to the Music Room (a private lounge area to take your drink and book and curl up in front of the fire).
Things to do at Hever Castle
St Peter's Church
Approximately 100m outside the gate of Hever Castle stands St Peter's Church. This beautiful building has been on the site for approximately 750 years and replaced an earlier Norman Church. It is estimated that a place of worship has been maintained at that site for over 850 years.
It is the family Church of the Boleyn family, although given the sad history of the Boleyn's only Anne's father, Thomas Boleyn, is buried within the Church.
The most obvious attraction at Hever Castle is the Castle itself!
Step inside the double moat (if one moat is good, two must be better!) and marvel at the rooms of the Castle which tell the history of the building and its most famous inhabitant.
Learn the tale of Anne Boleyn as you explore the rooms- how she spent her childhood at Hever Castle, was sent away to the French Court and returned a beautiful, sophisticated young woman, fluent in French and clearly intelligent. She caught the eye of King Henry VIII and his passion for her led to him setting aside his first wife and turning his back on the Catholic Church, starting the Church of England so that he could marry Anne. She served as his Queen for a tragically short 1,000 days before her execution for adultery at the Tower of London.
The rooms are elegantly maintained and the history of the building and its owners are set out on helpful boards throughout the Castle, which can be partnered with an audio tour.
As you progress through the Castle you can learn about all of its owners and the many famous visitors that have graced the Castle with their presence, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill and many others.
Just out the front of the Castle stands the Yew Maze. On Saturday when we arrived it was raining gently (it was February!) but we decided to give the Yew Maze a go. We got to the entrance and our traditional race to the centre started. This comprised of me shouting "race you to the middle" and leaving my Travelling Buddy slightly baffled behind me. After 5 minutes I could hear him calling me from the centre as I trudged into yet another dead end.
When I did make it to the centre I was greeted with a pleasant view of the monolith and, over the hedges, the Castle itself.
At that point Mother Nature decided enough was enough and allowed a downpour. There is nothing like trying to get back out of a Yew Maze in the pouring rain!
Created between 1904 and 1908 the Garden was designed as a display setting for sculptures owned by William Astor. The gorgeous gardens contain multiple pieces of art brought over from Italy, some of which are over 2000 years old.
An added bonus is the rose garden to the right hand side, with one long wall entirely covered in beautiful trailing roses.
On the Sunday morning, full of breakfast and with the sun shining, we decided to tackle the Lake Walk. It takes approximately an hour to make your way around the lake at Hever Castle, contructed in the early part of the 1900's. The views are pristine and the wildlife magical, but bring wellies (or borrow them from the Astor Wing) and beware of the free roaming sheep!
Where to eat/drink
There are many options for places to stop for a bite to eat or drink within Hever Castle's grounds.
We opted for lunch at the Moat Restaurant which offers views directly across the moat at the Castle itself and serves a varied and reasonably priced menu of sandwiches, snacks and hot meals.
For dinner we ventured out of Hever Castle's grounds and approximately 500m up the road to the King Henry VIII Pub. This gorgeous little gem of a pub promises "food fit for a king" and certainly did not disappoint. Served under candle light, the menu was delicious and varied. A three course meal with alcoholic drinks for two people came to £50.
If you fancied having a read of something to get you in the mood for Hever Castle then "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory is worth your time.