The winter months are a dull time for exploring historic properties. Most of them close up for the season and I’m fast running out of options for places to visit near London at this time of year. Thankfully Hever Castle was open over the Christmas and New Year period so I jumped at the chance to use my brand new Historic Houses Association membership.
Located in the village of Hever in Kent, the castle is about an hour’s drive outside London. You can also get there by train from London Victoria or London Bridge to Hever station. It’s about a one-mile walk to the castle from the train station.
Hever Castle was originally built in the 13th century and is most well known for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife. It later passed into the ownership of another of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves, as part of the settlement following their marriage annulment.
From there the building passed through various owners, eventually falling into a state of disrepair. In 1903 it was acquired by William Waldorf Astor who restored and extended the castle and grounds.
When I visited on the New Years Day bank holiday the Christmas decorations were still up and they had a carousel and vintage fairground stalls outside the castle.
Inside the castle they were celebrating the history of pantomime. Starting from its origins through to the fairytale stories and characters we know today.
My next stop was to visit the Yew Maze. Hever Castle actually has two mazes but the splashing Water Maze is closed during winter.
Alongside the Yew Maze is the Tudor Garden, featuring a series of small, sheltered gardens with neatly clipped hedges bordering the castle moat. One of these is the Chess Garden, with its chess pieces cut from golden yew.
There are 125 acres of gardens to explore, including a 38-acre lake.
- Hever Castle is now open Wed-Sun until April. From April until end of October it will be open daily. From November until 6th December it will be open Wed-Sun, and then will be open daily until Christmas Eve.
- Grounds open at 10:30am, Castle opens at 12pm.
- There are two types of tickets available: Castle & Gardens (£16.90) and Gardens Only (£14.20). It’s slightly cheaper to pre-purchase tickets online.
- Historic Houses Association members can visit Hever Castle for free.