During July I noticed photos from the lavender fields at Castle Farm showing up in my Instagram feed. I looked up their location and found it was only a 40 minute drive from home, so I decided to pop down for my first ever visit to a lavender farm.
Castle Farm is the biggest lavender farm in the UK. It is a working farm and they harvest the flowers for oil to be used in perfumery, toiletries and aromatherapy. They have a shop on site called The Hop Shop where they sell a variety of lavender products, including fresh bunches which are hand-cut from their crop.
When the lavender is in season, from the end of June through July, Castle Farm offer guided tours of the lavender fields. Their website wasn’t advertising all the available tour times for the day we were visiting so we gave them a quick phone call and they assured us the tours were running.
Once we arrived we were able to book a place on the next tour. We had a bit of time to kill before the tour started so we had a look in the shop which was well stocked with local produce and gifts.
The day we visited was the last day of tours Castle Farm were running for the year, as they were already starting to harvest the lavender. The tour was very popular, we had a large number of people on ours and they added more tours to the schedule in the afternoon to meet the demand.
Our guide led us from the shop across the road to the lavender fields, where she explained that these fields were technically not lavender, but lavandin. While they are similar in appearance, they each different characteristics and uses. Lavandin has a more powerful scent and acts as a mild stimulant. It is an excellent insect repellent and can also be used to help clear a stuffy nose. On the other hand, lavender is a relaxant and the oil is used for aromatherapy massages, to help soothe headaches, and as a sleeping aid.
At the end of the talk we were given a brief opportunity to take some photos of the lavender. As the harvest was already underway there was only a limited area where people were able to take photos, a lot of the flowers had already been cut. We were also asked not to wander too far into the lavender rows as there were a lot of bees around who were possibly a little aggravated at being disturbed by the harvesting machines.
For the last part of the tour we were shown the distillery, where the guide explained the oil extraction process and the various uses of the oil.
I found the tour quite interesting, although I wish I had visited a few weeks earlier to see the fields in full bloom. I’m going to keep an eye on their schedule for next year as they run a few different events during lavender season, including aromatherapy massages and picnics in the lavender fields. They also have a pick your own apple orchard open during autumn and they have home-grown pumpkins for Halloween.
As it is a working lavender farm you don’t have the freedom to explore the lavender fields at your leisure. If that’s what you’re looking for I would suggest a visit to Mayfield Lavender Farm instead. There you can just pay the entry fee and stay as long as you like. But if you’re after something less touristy and are interested in learning more about lavender production then I think you’d find a visit to Castle Farm to be an enjoyable day out.
- Castle Farm is located in Shoreham, near Sevenoaks in Kent. The easiest way to get there is by car and there is a small car park on-site.
- The Hop Shop is open daily all year.
- A guided tour of the lavender fields and distillery costs £5 and lasts around 1 hour and 15 minutes. The tours usually run from late June through July. Tours which run on weekdays have to be pre-booked but on weekends you book a tour on arrival.
- There’s no restaurant at Castle Farm but you can buy refreshments at the farm shop including ice creams, crisps, drinks and snacks. The only toilets on-site are portaloos.