I am a history fan. Okay, history nerd. I really enjoyed the show The Tudors and because of that, I did a lot of research and reading to see how close the show was to reality but also because I found it fascinating.
We’ve been to most of the highlights of Henry VIII’s life including Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London, but I had wanted to see Hever Castle–famous for being Queen Anne Boleyn’s childhood home.
It was about a two hour train ride south, past Croyden on the way to Uckfield. But we got to see a lot of lovely English countryside, which made me feel good that countryside is closer to London than I thought. The sky threatened to open up, but thankfully, only drizzled on us.
The castle was only about a mile’s walk from the train station, but it was via a footpath through some fields and garden paths. While it was a bit muddy, it was actually quite nice to have a little nature walk with the rain falling around us.
Much like Leeds Castle, the building itself was not that impressive–well, impressive in the ways of castles, but the grounds were spectacular. The interior was almost completely redone since Queen Anne had lived there. In the early 1900s, the Astor family had bought the property and lived there. It was a shame really because all of the furniture and fixtures looked like something out of my grandmother’s house instead of a fixture of Tudor times.
There were several portraits throughout the building which were of Henry VIII and his infamous six wives and Queen Anne’s Book of Hours. The book was her personal prayer book popularly used before the reformation she had later caused. Within the book, she had made some notes, so to not only have this preserved book in possession, but also samples of her handwriting was pretty cool.
We continued through the maze of the castle and came to the top floor. I was a little creeped out by the wax figures representing Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne. But I tried to look past that and see the structure itself. The ceilings were fairly low in today’s standards, but like most of the other historical structures, the ceilings were ornate as well as the woodwork.
We finished our tour of the interior and decided to roam the grounds. I was most interested in seeing the Rose Garden since things were finally in bloom. It was absolutely stunning. Bees floated by taking pollen from the roses making me wish for rose honey. Just past the Italian Garden, Lavender alcove and fountain was a large lake. We decided to walk around it through more nature scenes. We were just thrilled there were not a lot of people there that day. We had many stretches to ourselves where we could embrace the quietness.
People have told us that the police sirens and bus beeps would eventually become white noise from our flat. It has been almost six months, and that has yet to become. We embrace the silence of the country more so now than we ever had.
We stopped to stare at the lake for a little while and Jeff got his chance to feed some ducks and an aggressive swan.
The path was gorgeous and we did our part helping a caterpillar and tiny frog cross the way and not get stomped. The big kid attraction at the castle is a water maze. It’s exactly how it sounds. You walk around stone steps to try and get to the center without getting wet. However, most people come prepared with swimsuits and ponchos to give it a go and get soaked. I walked on a couple stones before I jumped off before getting wet.
We made it back to the castle and made our way toward home. Just outside the castle was St. Peter’s in Hever church. We can’t seem to walk past a church without Jeff wanting to go inside, so we made our way into the tiny chapel. It was the first time we had been anywhere in this country and were the only people inside. We were finally completely alone in a public place, and it was wonderful.
The tiny chapel was actually quite beautiful. There wasn’t anything over the top or outrageous about it, but it was nice and simple. In the center of the pulpit was an “ancient tomb” we were asked not to step on. It was of Margaret Cheyne. She was the wife of a landowner who gave her this memorial when she died in 1419.
This chapel is also famous for being the final resting place of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Queen Anne’s father, and Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather. It was a lovely, small church, and after paying our respects, we headed back toward the train home.
I’m glad we took this stop over to see this castle, but it definitely was off the normal sight-seeing, beaten path.