Hampton Court Palace continues to be a major attraction for visitors but why not time your visit to coincide with the BBC Good Food Feast show?
Held over the 3 days of August Bank Holiday weekend and set next to the Thames with gardens fronting the river from East Molesey right along to Kingston, this is a fabulous day out.
You not only get entrance to the Palace but can also take a stroll around the fabulous gardens sampling gourmet foods and sipping everything from champagne, to Pimms and lemonade, to artisan gins and coffee. There is also a range of street food and handmade treats such as Scotch Eggs, gluten and sugar free cakes.
Additional car parking is made available on these days, just in front of Bushy Park. Just a short level walk to the Palace entrance (£5 all day), so there is plenty of space to park and you can choose what time to arrive without worrying about queues or parking.
To make the most of your day you need to allow an hour or two to have a look around the Palace. I suggest you do this first when your energy is high because then you can relax outside around lunchtime and enjoy the food festival.
Hampton Court Palace itself is well known as the home where King Henry VIII resided (every Englishman’s home is his castle!). It includes ceremonial rooms as well as a look around the King’s own private rooms. Private doesn’t mean they too aren’t palatial in size and one can imagine a staff being required to serve him all day.
The Palace is full of history but one particular thing of interest to those interested in food will be the fascinating Elizabethan kitchens. Here you can see its huge fireplace, splits and fire dogs used to prepare the food for banquets; the scale is really impressive. In the Georgian extension to the Palace you can see more about how the downstairs staff catered for upstairs royalty and guests with a look at the bakery and coffee roasting room.
The food festival itself is a part of the BBC Good Food events held throughout the summer and is laid out right behind the Palace in the formal gardens. The gardens themselves are magnificent, with vistas over the river and down the ornamental lake. There are numerous places to sit in the sun, although on the weekend I attended it was 28 degrees and most people were seeking shade which is also available. It really is a delightful garden.
Arranged in an arc around the ornamental paths, the identical mini marquees are home to all manner of treats; this is an extremely civilised event. With plenty of space, lovely paths and lawns the whole experience feels very relaxed. Most people take a look around the whole Feast event upon arrival, deciding where they would like to buy their lunch and having a nibble or nip of something tasty as they go.
There is plenty to do too, with cooking demonstrations, book signings by the most famous of celebrity chefs (I saw Antonio Carluccio, Michel Roux), cooking and flower arranging classes as well as an obstacle course for children. Children and families are more than happy to visit, with one particular attraction seeming to be the wall of chocolate fudge and another the fresh lemonade stall.
As you walk away in the evening sun back to your car you’ll have had a really good day out. This is a special event, unlike most other food festivals. Feast like a king!