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Hever Castle in Kent is somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for absolutely ages, and although I was able to have a very quick tour earlier in the year, I couldn’t wait to return and spend a whole day there. It’s the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and supposedly one of the most haunted places in the UK. But forget about ghosts, the gardens and grounds are absolutely beautiful, and they have so much on offer for children that it makes a fantastic day out. We were lucky enough to visit for their Once Upon A Castle weekend, complete with smoke breathing dragon, Flame, and a trail for the children to follow.
I’m starting to think that I’m cursed when it comes to visiting Hever Castle, as both visits have now been very rainy, despite being preceded by a spell of beautiful weather! But we donned our raincoats and the boys were very happy to head off and explore the grounds.
The Italian rose garden has to be one of the highlights of Hever Castle. Home to over 4000 roses of every colour, set amongst beautiful architecture.
We followed the wisteria pergola down to the loggia, with its stunning arches and views over the lake. The boys loved jumping in the puddles, and Ben insisted on going down the steps on his bottom, so ended up very wet!
Hever Castle itself is the stereotypical fairytale castle – a moat, drawbridge, pillars, stone walls, and huge topiary guarding the entrance.
We stopped by to visit Flame the dragon before he started his walking around, but despite being quite keen beforehand, Max was less brave when face to face with a dragon!
As Flame wasn’t going to be doing a walkabout for some time, we grabbed lunch and then headed to the Water Maze. Hever Castle actually has two mazes – a traditional yew maze, and a water maze. I knew the boys would love the water maze, so raincoats on, we headed over the moat to find it. It’s a circular maze, and the idea is that there is only one path to take you to the middle of the maze without getting you wet. All other routes are lined with traps that will spray you with water, triggered by your weight as you step on the trap.
As you can imagine though, the objective for a child is to get as wet as possible! Max thought jumping on the bouncy steps to set off the jets was the best thing and got us all suitably soaked. Both boys managed to put their feet in the water (Max was most put out by the ‘seaweed’ on his shoe!), but they loved setting off the traps! As you can see, John and the boys did find their way to the middle and up to the top of the tower.
I can imagine on a sunny day the water maze is massively popular, but we had it all to ourselves, which was brilliant! We’d taken a change of clothes for this just in case, which I would highly recommend – especially if you are lucky enough to have some sunshine.
I knew from following Hever Castle’s blog page that they had a beautiful wildflower meadow, located further around the lake. Once we were done with the water maze, we headed to the flowers, which to me were well worth the walk. The mix is carefully planned to ensure a longer flowering time and a rainbow colour display, and I thought it was really impressive. Beautiful poppies, cornflowers, cosmos, and although they were a little bit wet from the rain, they were absolutely stunning. Plus, there were paths to walk amongst the flowers – always my favourite.
Luckily, Max also thought it was worth the walk, as we found this “Ninjago house” overlooking the lake!
By this point it was time to head over the the events field to catch the jousting, so we made our way over, taking a route through Diana’s Walk, which I’d spotted from the other side of the river. It’s very much a late summer garden, with purple verbena and pink echinacea set amongst billowing grasses. The pathways through it draw you in and invite you to explore (and play a bit of hide and seek!).
Sadly by the time we got to the jousting field it was raining quite a bit, but Max was so excited to see it that it perked us all up. And luckily it wasn’t wet enough to need to call off the jousting, so we huddled under the umbrella and soon enough King Henry VIII appeared, with a procession of knights and the jousting began!
I was surprised by quite how much both boys enjoyed watching the jousting – they were both clapping and cheering and got carried away with it all. Hever Castle have jousting displays running at weekends throughout the summer, on August 10-11, 17-18, and 23-26, so lots of opportunities to catch it.
We’d been hoping that the rain would have eased off after the jousting, but it showed no signs of stopping for the rest of the day, which sadly meant that we were unable to see Flame the dragon walking around (much to Max’s disappointment, as he’d now decided he was definitely brave enough!) as he isn’t able to move around in the rain. Such a shame, but I really hope we can return to Hever Castle for this event next year and see if Max is brave enough then!
We all had a fantastic day at Hever Castle, and I highly recommend it for a family day out, or if you’re a lover of beautiful gardens, or a history nut. It really does have something for everyone.
If you’d like to know about the events Hever Castle has on over the summer, just click here to find out more.