Hever Castle is famous for having been the home of Ann Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. There are many original features and aspects of this moated Castle left intact, as well as later sympathetic additions and renovations by the Astor family, who bought the property in the early 1900's. The Tudor feel of the Castle is intensified by the (mostly) 16th Century furnishings and the many portraits. At the time of my visit there was a display in the long gallery featuring the coronation of Ann Boleyn as Queen to Henry VIII, in line with the current Golden Jubilee – well worth seeing. There is the option of an audio tour but I found there was plenty of information available, as well as knowledgeable assistants. Unfortunately only the ground floor would be accessible for wheelchairs as there are stairs, including some steep spiral stone steps.
It is well worth taking time to explore the gardens. These were remodelled by Lord Astor and include a long Italian garden to house his collection of ancient Roman sculptures, an impeccable rose garden where the roses, after all the rain, were looking magnificent, a maze, colour-themed borders and a topiary chess set amongst others. The large lake offers boating and lake walks and the Pavilion restaurant alongside offers a good range of light meals and teas as well as being available, together with the Tudor Village accommodation, for weddings, conferences and other functions. The little nursery alongside the Pavilion offers an extremely wide range of home-grown herbs at good prices.
There is always something going on at Hever from jousting weekends to theatre productions, as well as themed activities for children during the school holidays. At the time of my visit there was archery, shield making and a water-maze in progress. Dogs are also welcome in the grounds and around the lake.
Access is easy; there are large car-parks; the toilet facilities are plentiful and clean; the staff are friendly and helpful and there is an excellent RHS shop. Being an RHS partner property, entrance to the gardens is free for RHS members, with just £2.00 extra to pay for entrance to the Castle.
Hever Castle has something for all the family and after one visit, you would want to go back again and again.