Stepping through the arched entranceway into Hever Castle is like stepping into a history book. The childhood home of Anne Boleyn feels special. It feels like all the rich history within it’s walls envelops you the minute you step inside. You feel like you can hear echos of the horse drawn carriages on the cobbled floor of the courtyard. You feel like you could catch a glimpse of busy servants rushing along the the darkly panelled walls of the corridors. This 13th century castle is exactly how a castle should be. Moated, the looks of a fortress, and of course, haunted…..
We visited the home of Anne Boleyn after learning we could stay there! Yes, you can stay at this beautiful place! I wrote about our stay, in this post, A Hever Castle Stay if you would like to know more. When you stay at the Castle, you also get access to the Castle and grounds. The day we arrived was a crisp, but bright Autumnal day. It meant we got to see the grounds and castle, surrounded by beautiful blue skies! Is there anything nicer than a cold but bright Autumn/Winter day? I am a fan! But anyway, let me show you around beautiful Hever Castle.
Who was Anne Boleyn?
Just incase you are not quite sure who’s home we are talking about, let me introduce her. Anne Boleyn is a huge part of English history. As the second wife of the notorious King Henry VIII, she was Queen of England from 1533-1536. She was also mum to Queen Elizabeth I. Since it is pretty well known that ole Henry had 6 wives, you can kinda guess how this marriage sadly turned out…..
This portrait of Anne Boleyn hangs in the Inner Hall at Hever Castle
Anne Boleyn was a huge part of the reason that the Church of England and the Catholic Church separated. The then Catholic Pope (Clement VII) would not annul Henry’s first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon), so he could marry Anne. Fuming, he went about closing the monasteries and nunneries of the Catholic Church. This resulted in Pope Clement excommunicating ole Henry. So what did the King do? He became head of the Church of England and broke away from Rome! He certainly went for what he wanted right??
Sadly, his enchantment with Anne was short lived. Henry by now had his sights set on his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour. He didn’t hang about did he! But, as he was still married to Anne, he had to find a reason to get her out of the picture. Move her along so to speak…. So, accusing her of treason and adultery, poor Anne was arrested and carted off to the Tower of London in 1536. Can you imagine! A copy of the letter that Anne wrote from her prison to Henry declaring her innocence, hangs in Hever Castle. It was sad to read, but you could tell Anne had a bit of fire in her belly!
Anne Boleyn Home – Hever Castle
Ok, now the introductions are over, let me tell you all about a visit to Hever Castle. First, the basic info;
Location and Access – It is located just 30 minutes from Central London, and easily accessed via the M25 and M23 motorways. If in London, it can also be reached via train from either London Bridge or London Victoria Stations. The nearest train station is Edenbridge Town, and it is a short 2-3 mile taxi ride from there.
Parking – Free car parks at Hever Castle
Address – Hever Castle, Hever, Edenbridge, Kent. TN8 7NG
Contact – 01732 865224 or the website is here
Opening hours – 10.30am – 6pm (subject to change through the seasons)
Hever Castle Prices – Start at around £10 for a child, £14 for adults
Worth Noting – There are restrictions in place at the moment due to the Covid19 pandemic. This means that the tickets into the castle are limited. All tickets must be booked in advance. See here for details.
The “Boleyn Castle” itself
The original medieval castle was built in the 1200’s. When one of the most powerful families of the time, (the Boleyn’s) moved in during the 15th century, changes were made. The Tudor home was added within the castle walls, making it the bones of the house it is today.
Sadly, like many stately homes and castles, it fell into disrepair. It must be pretty costly to pay the upkeep on a castle right? It was neglected and in a very poor state until an insanely rich American gentleman, William Astor purchased it. Astor then went about restoring the Castle, but saving as much of the original fixtures and fittings that he could. He added the “Tudor Village” (now called the Astor Wing) and designed the beautiful gardens and lake. The Astor wing forms the accommodation available at the castle.
Over the years the castle has had many of it’s room’s repurposed. For example, the Inner Hall, was the main kitchen in Tudor times. The Library was the families offices in the Tudor era. But the 1900’s remodelling and renovation have been done with total sympathy and detailing of its origins. Materials such as those used originally were sourced and used where possible. The fixtures and fittings were made in painstaking detail from illustrations of the time. William Astor was passionate about keeping the tradition and style of the era.
Although the furniture is more recent in style, the castle itself is still very Tudor. I think the marriage of a Georgian-Victorian home and the rich Tudor fixtures are perfect.
As you walk through the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, you will feel the history. Items from Anne Boleyn herself, such as her prayer books, are on display. These beautifully illustrated prayer books Anne wrote in daily, and they bear her signature. You will also see the room that King Henry himself stayed in during his wooing of Anne. It has the most beautiful, carved four poster bed. Fit for a King for sure. This room also happens to have the oldest remaining ceiling in the castle, dated at 1462.
The castle really is a treat to walk through. We spent a good few hours at Hever Castle. I love reading all the information available and really getting a feel for how it may have been. Walking down the same corridors that huge figures from our history have walked! Touching the walls that they touched. There is something magical about that.
Hever Castle Gardens
Even if you were to visit Hever Castle for the gardens only, you would not be disappointed. They are stunning! Nik and I were so lucky to get the gardens totally to ourselves for a good couple of hours. As guests at the hotel, you are allowed into the grounds before the general public. It is a lovely bonus! The morning after the night we had stayed, was total contrast to the previous day. It had that Autumnal crispness to the air. A light mist was still floating above the moat as we set off from our room into the grounds. The sky was swollen with un-fallen rain. The treeline beyond the castle was blurred and out of focus. It was perfect for strolling castle grounds! The day before had been bright blue skies so it was lovely to see it in what felt like two different seasons!
The gardens are sprawling. Set over 125 acres, they have several areas and themes. We were at the home of Anne Boleyn between Christmas and New Year, so there was also a huge, Victorian style fairground carousel! You can just see it in the photo below.
Hever Castle has also won several awards for it’s contribution to helping wildlife with its well thought out gardens. Several beehives are in place, low input grassland and meadows that provide a perfect home for wildlife are all thoughtfully cared for. The lake is also the “des-res” for many species of feathered friends.
Although I loved everything about the grounds of Hever Castle, I think the Italian Gardens were my favourite. They were so serene and peaceful. At the lake end, stone archways towered over steps going to the waters edge.
Beautifully manicured lawns, flanked by stone walls. The Pompeiian Walls, which housed little bays. These bays housed antiquities and marble sculptures. Some of which looked like nature was claiming them back by reaching out and wrapping shrubs and climbing plants around them.
There are so many areas created in these grounds. Along with the Italian Garden, you have the traditional Rose Garden, the Chess Garden with its enormous chess shaped hedges, and the peaceful sunken garden. To think that until the 1900’s, this was all marshland!
Hever Castle – Anne Boleyn home and a fabulous day out
If history and quintessential Englishness are your thing, I honestly cannot recommend you visit Hever castle strongly enough. I can not wait to go back. It has so much going on throughout the year too. Afternoon teas, seasonal guided walks, gardening courses, as well as the beautiful Christmas displays in the festive season. I have only been in the Autumn and Winter seasons, but I fully recommend a visit at that time. It is less crowded (except near to Christmas), and the beautiful colours of Autumn are just stunning in the Hever Castle gardens. We visited Sudeley Castle in the Autumn too. It appears that autumn castle visits are my thing!
Of course, I would also highly recommend staying if you get the opportunity. It really is the most magical place to treat yourself to a night at. Afterall, everyone loves to play at King’s and Queens occasionally right…?
If this has whet your appetite for all the Castle-ness, you may love to read about other castles you can stay in throughout England. I have some beauties for you here, Castle stays in England.