If you want a trip back in time to Tudor England, a visit to Hever Castle & Gardens is just the ticket. This beautiful, fairy-tale castle was the childhood home of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and looks fit for any Queen.
Located in the South-East of England, the magnificent Hever Castle is easily accessible by road or train and makes a great day trip from London.
Our travel guide will help you plan your own visit to Hever Castle. It gives information on the castle’s history and what you can expect to do and see on your visit to Hever Castle. Discover what attractions the castle has for children and why a visit is a great day out for all the family.
History of Hever Castle
Hever Castle was originally built in 1270 as a defensive motte and bailey castle. It has a history of over 700 years, but was most famously the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. You’ll see a lot of Tudor features, which can be attributed to her family’s residence there.
Anne Boleyn was born in 1501 to Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Lady Elizabeth Howard. She became Queen of England from 1533 to 1536, after becoming the second wife of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately for Anne Boleyn, she was then beheaded at the King’s orders in the Tower of London.
Another of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves, later lived in Hever Castle. Ownership was then passed to several affluent families, including the Waldegraves and the Humphreys.
Unfortunately, Hever Castle then fell into disrepair, until 1903, when it was acquired by a wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor. Astor invested a lot of time and money renovating the castle and upgrading it to its current glory. It was Astor who created the “Tudor village” and Italian Garden.
What can you do on a visit to Hever Castle?
Take a tour of the Castle
On arrival, we headed straight for the medieval castle itself. This was built in the 13th Century and became the family home of the Boleyn family from 1462 to 1539 .
Nowadays, it is still a truly impressive building. As you’d hope with any good castle, Hever has a moat and drawbridge. As the only invaders now are the hordes of tourists, you’ll have time to stop on the bridge and spot the giant Koi Carp down below. Once in the castle, you can actually wander round the rooms where Ann Boleyn grew up.
The castle is fairly small, so doesn’t take too long to explore and this makes it very accessible to younger children. However little the castle may be, it remains very grand and is in extremely good condition.
Wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor, carefully restored the castle in the early 20th Century. The result is outstanding, as the wood-panelled rooms reflect how it would have looked in Tudor times.
In the oldest part of the castle, you can look at the collections of armour. Rather worryingly, the kids were more interested in the displays of torture instruments from that time.
All of the rooms have information boards, so you know what you are looking at. However, it’s far easier to take the interactive audio guide to find out what’s going on. If your Tudor history is a bit lacking, a children’s version is available!
Private Tours of Hever Castle
If you want a more personal visit, there are several private tours which you can book in advance. The tour of the castle with an experienced guide lasts about an hour, but must be booked in advance.
Alternatively, you can book the hidden Hever tour, which will give you access to some rooms that are not available to the general public. This tour is only suitable for adults and lasts about 1 1/2 hours.
If you are visiting with kids, you could download a trail in advance, but we did just fine without it.
Admire the gardens
After our visit inside the castle, we stopped for a picnic. The castle is in 125 acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens, so there are plenty of scenic spots to choose from.
As you’d imagine, the gardens at Hever Castle are exquisite. For garden enthusiasts, there is a series of themed areas, including an Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and a Tudor Garden.
Even if you are not a specialist, they are really pleasant to wander round. Or like us, you can have a giggle at the naked statues.
Our favourite part of the garden visit was spotting the different creations of topiary.
Go wild in the playground
After exploring the different areas of garden, we headed for the adventure playgrounds.
“Tudor Towers” is an adventure playground within a replica castle and the boys loved it. It had wells, netted tunnels and curly slides to escape.
There was also a new, natural play area for toddlers and children up to seven.
It’s worth taking a book, as the kids will be playing for ages!
Take a trip down memory lane
On the way back from the playgrounds, we stopped to visit the miniature model houses. This is a permanent display of model houses. The models are in 1/12 scale and replicate English country houses from Tudor to Victorian times.
Get lost in the mazes
Then, we headed back towards the castle to the mazes. The first is a traditional hedge maze, which stands just in front of the castle. It wasn’t too tricky and we were soon out and ready to go back in.
The second was a rather unique water maze. There are no walls, but children work their way round the stepping stones towards the grotto in the centre. Some of the stones tilt if you tread on them and water squirts from below to soak the children. They loved it.
Quite honestly, it’s pretty impossible to do without getting your feet drenched, so it’s a good idea taking some spare shoes.
Take a turn around the lake
After a soaking in the water maze, we took a walk around the lake. There’s plenty to spot on the walk, including birds, a very pretty flower meadow, with natural wildflowers and a Japanese tea house. It doesn’t take long and was fairly empty, so a nice way to end our trip.
There is the option to hire pedalos or rowing boats if you want to take a trip out on the lake.
Have a try at archery
There is also archery equipment for hire, if you wish to turn your hand to this historical sport.
Getting to Hever Castle by car
Hever Castle is in Edenbridge, Kent on the Surrey/Sussex border. It is easily accessible by car, as it is just off the M25.
Getting to Hever Castle by train from London
If you’re coming from London, take the train from London Victoria or London Bridge to Edenbridge Town Station. The journey takes about an hour and from the station it is 3 miles. If you are visiting in the summer, it’s probably worth booking your taxi in advance.
Hever Castle makes a really easy day trip from London and is well worth the visit.
Admission prices for Hever Castle
There are 2 different tickets you can buy for Hever Castle: Castle & Gardens or Gardens only. There is not a great deal of difference, so is worth paying extra to enter the castle.
It is slightly cheaper if you buy your tickets online in advance. Concession prices are available for seniors, students and children and under-fives can go for free.