Knole House, a National Trust property, sits within Knole Park. The park is the only surviving deer park in Kent and covers over 1000 acres, only 100 acres of which is managed by the National Trust, the remainder being managed by the Knole Estate. It is situated on the edge of the town of Sevenoaks in Kent This review concentrates on Knole Park and the Gatehouse Tower as I will review Knole House separately. My husband and I are National Trust members but we had a voucher to take a non-member with us before the end of September, which is why we chose to go when we did. However, we found the NT site confusing and ended up ringing the property for more information on how to use the voucher; basically we had to book timed admission tickets for all three of us. Parking is included in all admission tickets – THERE IS NO LONGER A PARKING ONLY OPTION. Pedestrians can enter Knole Park free of charge and many do so, taking advantage of the colour coded routes round the areas of parkland, woods, hills and valleys – the whole park being a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Some people park in the town’s nearby public car parks but it might just be possible to find roadside parking spaces for those who don’t mind a bit of a walk to the entrance.
There are maps of the area sited next to the picnic area and near the Brewhouse cafe so you can get an idea of the distance the routes cover. If planning to go to Knole I suggest checking the website for the latest information as opening times, prices etc. are quite complicated and I think details change with the seasons. I note that the website currently offers an Outdoor and Tower Admission for £6 for adults which includes entry to the Gatehouse Tower, Brewhouse Cafe, shops, courtyards, facilities and car park while the Full Admission price of £12 additionally includes admission to Knole House and its Showrooms.
Knole House is well worth a visit and I review the house separately but some people just like to walk, run or cycle round the park, others just sit around or picnic in the extensive grounds among the grazing deer, although the deer should not be approached. There is a NT cafe at Knole selling light lunches and drinks, but at weekends it can become very busy. We gave up waiting and ate the snacks and drinks we had in the car and stopped to get something to eat in Sevenoaks itself before heading for home. There are also picnic tables near the car park and toilets near the Brewhouse Cafe.
Road access is next to Sevenoaks School, the school my husband attended, so as we drove in he told me for the umpteenth time about the occasion in 1967 when the Beatles filmed in Knole Park for Strawberry Fields Forever and he went with others to watch some of the filming from a distance. I have been inside Knole House before, some years ago, but have also done filming there myself – as an extra, or supporting actor – outside, in very cold, snowy conditions for the film Burke and Hare (not the best film I’ve been in!). This is another reason to check the website before visiting as Knole is sometimes closed for filming of period productions.
We parked the car and decided to climb the Gatehouse Tower first. I’ve never been inside it before and we clambered up the steep spiral steps, hoping that nobody would come down as we were going up as the stairs are very narrow. There are two rooms In the tower; Edward (Eddy) Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville, had an apartment in the gatehouse tower between 1926 and 1940. Visitors can see his bedroom on one floor and music room on another. The music room contains his collection of books, music records and gramophone as well as his visitor book containing the names of many notable literary and artistic people from the 1920’s and 30’s – Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey among others: a portrait of him by Graham Sutherland hangs in the music room. He was a musician, writer and music critic and although born with a silver spoon in his mouth he doesn’t seem to have had a happy life, suffering from health problems including mental health issues. Later in life he was a member of the House of Lords. There are 77 steps up to the top of the tower from where there are magnificent views over the rooftops and chimneys of Knole House itself, the outbuildings, the surrounding parkland and the countryside beyond. Well worth the climb.
We then toured Knole House (but that is a separate review) following which we had a walk round the outside of the garden as it wasn’t open that day and looked at Knole House from different angles before walking back to the car and driving into Sevenoaks, where there are plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafes. It was a very good day out.