Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. More recently, Hever Castle is renowned for its gorgeous gardens and its family-friendly attractions. Now run as a private enterprise, we discovered there is lots of family fun to be had at Hever Castle and gardens.
Hever Castle History
Hever Castle was built in the 13th Century and enlarged as the Boleyn family grew in power. Anne Boleyn spent her childhood at this castle. Upon the death of the Boleyns, the castle went to Henry VIII who gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. It passed through various families before eventually being bought and restored by Wiliam Astor in the 20th century.
William Waldorf Astor was part of the wealthy New York Astor family. He had left New York City in a huff when he lost an argument with his family on who was “the” Mrs Astor. The official Mrs Astor was the controlling force of New York high society. In England he acquired a series of grand houses and an English peerage. No word on if being a peer of the English realm was better than having a wife who was just another Mrs. Astor.
Since the 1980’s, the Hever Castle & Gardens have been run by a company as a tourist attraction.
The Gardens of Hever Castle
Hever Castle has one of the most important Edwardian gardens in the country according to the Royal Horticultural Society.
The Hever Castle gardens were established by William Astor over the course of 4 years. Created from marshland, the various gardens are indeed stunning.
They include a neo-Tudor garden with traditional pathways and clipped topiary. When the roses at the walled Rose Garden is in season, it has 4000+ roses in full bloom. The Italian garden contains the statues Astor collected as souvenirs during his European travels.
The 38-acre lake was hand-dug by 800 men in 2 years. Even though labor was much cheaper in those days, it did help that William Astor was very, very rich.
Children’s Activities at Hever Castle
There are plenty of activities for the children to do, such as rowboats for hire or the adventure playground. The yew maze, planted in 1904, is fun to navigate as are the wisteria clad pergolas.
It was also the first time that I had seen a water maze. The goal is to reach the centre island but if you step on the wrong stone, water squirts up to soak you. My kids loved the water maze!
Depending on when you go, Hever Castle puts on shows such as jousting tournaments or other activities such as Easter Egg Hunts. We went on a May Bank holiday weekend and so there were lots of extra activities on offer. My children loved the archery and the painting activities. Characters in historical outfits were milling around adding to the atmosphere.
Details on Visiting Hever Castle
Located only about 30 miles from London, Hever Castle is an easy day trip from the city. The opening days and hours vary throughout the year so you should check their website before visiting. You can get tickets to both the Castle and gardens or to the gardens only. There is admission charged for adults and reduced admission for children between the ages of five and 15. Children under the age of 5 are free.
Good To Know
You can stay at Hever Castle Hotel which runs as a luxury Bed & Breakfast.
The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory