Friday, 27 February 2015

Culture: Hever Castle

Anne Boleyn

Last Saturday, Maxx took me to Hever Castle. Famously known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, I was really excited to explore the castle and the beautiful, extensive gardens, as well as stay in the luxury guest rooms just next door.

It really was the most relaxing weekend away I've ever had. I felt truly replenished and at harmony during our brief stay. Maxx and I arrived around 3:00pm on Saturday - the castle closes at 4:00 during 'off' season - so we had a quick nosy in our magnificent room in the Astor Wing before wandering around the gardens until they closed. First things first - there were so many ducks. It was heavenly as I love ducks (I know I love almost all animals but the duck is in my top 5). There were also 3 swans, including one just over a year old who was adorable. He made this honking noise which was just so cute - I was feeding him by hand on Sunday.

We chilled in our room - 'Hazel' - for a couple of hours before getting ready to go to dinner. The hotel was beautiful; the walls were lined with landscapes and portraits, and there was a billiards room and music room to relax in if we wanted to. Our room was spacious, with a comfortable double bed, TV, tea and coffee set, armchair, desk, wardrobe, and possibly the most opulent bathroom I've ever seen. There were Molton Brown smellies, with a bathtub from a bath-lover's dreams. It was perfect.

Astor Wing
There isn't a restaurant on the premises, however the hotel had handily compiled a list of nearby pubs. We chose the King Henry VIII, a two-minute drive down the road (we didn't fancy walking along the winding, black road!). The food was delicious, but what I liked most was that the walls were covered in portraits of Henry VIII, his wives and children. 

Sunday morning, we went to the breakfast room for our Full English. There was also yoghurt, cereal, fruit, porridge, toast, pastries and fruit juice available. This room had beams running across the ceiling and was also full of paintings. Maxx and I barely spoke to each other - we were too busy looking around and eating!

Kent swanAfter another short amble around the gardens, we went inside the castle. It's quite a haunting experience, being in someone's childhood bedroom when you know the stark truth of what happens to them. Anne Boleyn's life is overshadowed by her brutal death, and it was hard to forget about that when walking through her old home. There are a few artefacts of Anne's in various rooms, as well as love letters between herself and Henry, original furniture dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and old torture instruments from Europe. Included in those were three German beheading swords - the guide told me they were similar to what would have beheaded Anne in 1536.

The Castle is quite small so it only takes about an hour / 90 minutes to explore. With the rest of our sunny afternoon, Maxx and I walked around the grounds. There's an Italian Garden, showcasing many sculptures and busts, as well as a maze, water maze, Japanese tea house and several water features. The gardens were lovely, with a few flowers starting to blossom - I can't wait to go back in summer and see everything in bloom.

Hever Castle is one of my favourite castles in England. I can't really explain why, but I felt a special connection to Hever - I think I'll go back many more times in my life. It was such a memorable, wonderful weekend in every respect and I hope to return very soon. 

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