If you ignore the substantial Astor Wing (open to the public only as a venue for hire), Hever Castle itself is quite small, but what stories its walls can tell. Most famously, the castle was the family home of Anne Boleyn, and then later, when the Boleyns had fallen out of favour, it was given to Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves as part of the divorce settlement. Some of the castle’s most exciting exhibits include Tudor portraits of all of Henry VIII’s six wives (there are also dressed models up in the Long Gallery). Children are always riveted by the violent life and times of Henry, his wives and their offspring, and this is a great place to come and introduce the subject. The other rooms in the castle are appealing too, thanks to the Astors having furnished them in grand style. There’s so much more for families here though than just a castle. The beautiful Italian gardens offer great hide and seek opportunties, while the yew maze will have everyone foxed for a good while. The adventure playground is popular too, but nothing beats the brilliantly designed water maze. Visitors must try to get to the central grotto by choosing a path across the pond using the concentric circles of stone slabs and trying to avoid the surprise jets of water that surge into the air if they stand on a forbidden path. Within minutes the kids are trying to find the jets rather than avoid them, so it’s best to take a spare set of clothes. Taking a walk around the huge lake is enjoyable, but even more fun is rowing across it on the traditional wooden rowing boats available at the boathouse (visible as you first enter the grounds from the car park). The exhibition of miniature model houses makes a good diversion on rainy days and the events field comes to life during regular living history demonstrations.
|Venue name:||Hever Castle||Contact:|
|Opening hours:||Castle & Gardens £15; £12.75 reductions; £8.50 5-15s; under-5s free; £38.50 family. Gardens only £12.50/£10.75/£8/free/£33|
|Transport:||Rail: Edenbridge rail then taxi|
|Price:||2013 dates: until Mar 31: Castle noon-5pm daily; Apr 1-Oct 31: Castle noon-6pm daily; Nov 1-Dec 23: Castle Wed-Sun (times tba). Gardens 10.30am-5pm daily|