Is Hever Castle worth visiting? The answer is a resounding yes!
Even on a chilly day in spring the grounds of Hever Castle are lit up with a brilliant carpet of daffodils. Instead of forbidding thick stone walls and cold drafts, you’ll find intimate rooms cozily furnished with nary a suit of armor in sight. Dare I say it’s a very feminine castle and rightly so as it was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.
Visit Hever Castle
- 13th century double moated castle
- Childhood home of Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of King Henry VIII
- Purchased and restored by American millionaire William Astor
- Privately owned by Guthries family
- Open mostly year round 7 days a week
- Admission to Castle & Garden from £10.75 (child) -61.10 (family)
History of Anne Boleyn and Hever Castle
Anne Boleyn, the ill fated second wife of Henry VIII called this 13th century double moated castle her childhood home.
Anne was born in 1501 and moved to Hever in 1504 after her father inherited the castle. She was sent to live in France from the age of 12 to 21 before returning to England to join the royal household with Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first wife.
During this time Anne’s sister Mary had become King Henry’s mistress right under Catherine’s nose. Young Anne had fallen in love and become betrothed to Henry Percy the Earl of Northumberland and so was banned from the castle and sent back to Hever!
But in 1527 Anne started receiving love letters from none other than the wayward King himself! So in 1533 they were secretly wed after he had his marriage to Catherine “annulled” and Anne became Queen of England. She gave birth to Elizabeth later that year but because she was unable to produce a male heir to the throne, she was convicted of infidelity and cruelly beheaded in 1536.
Her daughter however proved to be quite the survivor and became Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen who reigned on the throne from 1558 until her death in 1603!
How Hever Castle Not Only Survived but Thrived
So now you know the most famous occupant of the castle, but did you know another famous American family purchased and restored it? Hever castle was originally constructed as a hall in 1271 and over the centuries was gradually added on to.
By the 16th century, Anne’s father built a ceiling over the great hall thereby creating the Long Gallery spanning it’s whole width. In the 17th century the wooden drawbridge over the moat was replaced by the stone bridge you see now. Quite the Fixer Upper!
But as time went on the castle was in constant threat of falling into disrepair until an unexpected white knight came along and saved it.
In July 1903, the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor purchased Hever Castle and embarked on an ambitious repair and restoration of the castle and grounds. Astor had became the richest man in America when his father died in 1890. and he moved to England with a fortune of $100 million.
Astor poured his love of art and culture into renovating Hever Castle to the highest standards available. The budget for the restoration was believed to be in excess of £10 million, a fortune in any era!
Everything from door locks to windows were replaced or repaired to replicate the materials of the original 16th century building. For eighty years, the Astors, were the happy occupants of Hever, one of Britain’s finest landmark castles.
Then in 1983, the Guthries a family from Yorkshire, purchased the castle from the Astors and still own it to this day!
What to See at Hever Castle
Although it’s easy to spend an entire day here, if you have only a few hours to visit, my recommendation is to focus on the castle and the gardens. You can choose several levels of admission, but a castle and garden ticket is a must to get the full flavor of Hever’s history.
Visit the castle first to get a feeling for who’s lived here over the centuries. Although some areas are closed off to the public, you’ll be able to enter the Inner Hall, see the beautifully warm and cozy Drawing Room as well as the Long Gallery and Anne Boleyn’s bedroom. Be aware there are some twisty stairs to climb to see these two rooms as well as King Henry VIII’s bedchamber where he was rumored to stay whilst courting Anne.
What impressed me most was the incredibly intricate woodcarving and ceiling details, all a result of the extensive restoration by William Astor. Don’t miss the Astor suite and children’s rooms to get a glimpse of the eight decades they were in residence.
Hever Castle Gardens
Even on an overcast and chilly day, the gardens are well worth visiting. I can only imagine how stunning they are in full bloom but touches of brilliance and color are everywhere even in spring.
William Astor was inspired by his time as Italian interior minister and decided to replicate an Italianate style formal garden at Hever complete with centuries old sculptures. Facing the lake is an ornate sculpture inspired by the Trevi fountain of Rome.
The Rose Garden, Tudor Garden and Blue Corner are a feast for the eyes at any time of year and if you’re an avid gardener you won’t want to miss these award winning gardens.
Find Out More About Hever Castle
Although it’s a privately owned property, Hever is run much the same as a National Trust or English Heritage property.
There are two cafes on the property to make it easy to get a bite to eat or cup of coffee or tea. The Moat restaurant is just inside the main entrance. The Guthrie Pavilion cafe is situated on the right next to the Rose Garden before you get to the lake. Fancy an afternoon tea? You can have that too.
The large gift shop is just beside the main entrance, and is also home to the Miniature Model House exhibit tucked in behind all the kiddie costumes and toys. Your grandkids will love it!
Fancy staying at a castle?
How about the next best thing. Luxury bed and breakfast accommodations are available, in those historic cottages tucked behind the castle. Or stay in nearby historic Royal Tunbridge Wells – don’t forget to stop in one of my favorite stores, Fenwicks!
I’ve only touched on the delights of this gorgeous historic home. There are special events throughout the year as well as a stunning golf course, so be sure to check out all of the amenities and attractions available. What really impressed me was attention to detail. This family run estate caters to all ages. From a huge play area for children to golf and luxury amenities for adults. You could easily spend days here and not run out of things to do!
Here’s an interactive map of the castle and grounds to plan your visit. Allow at least two hours or more to fully appreciate the castle, grounds and gardens. Just don’t get lost in the Maze!
How to Get to Hever Castle:
If you’re staying in London, take a taxi, tube or train to London Bridge rail station. There’s a tube and a rail station at London Bridge, you want RAIL.
Direct service runs to Hever station approximately once an hour and the journey takes 50 minutes each way. The cost of a round trip ticket is under $13. (You can also get this same train line from East Croydon rail station) Look for the end destination of this line to be UCKFIELD.
From Southern England
If you’re staying in Brighton or on the south east coast of England and don’t have a car, you’ll need to take the Regency bus (No.28, 29) or a taxi to Uckfield rail station. Pay for bus tickets on board the bus with a CC. From Uckfield to Hever the rail journey will take about 30 minutes and a round trip ticket is under $9.
From Gatwick or Heathrow Airport
If you’re driving from Gatwick Airport, allow 40 minutes each way depending on traffic. From Heathrow or Brighton allow a little over an hour.
Directions from Hever Train Station:
If you take the train to Hever, you’ll have two options to get to the castle. Either walk through fields or by road OR hire a taxi.
WALKING- Depending on the weather, walking can be quite nice if you don’t mind a few muddy fields and have the time. Look for the signs as you come out of the station and follow the red and white striped posts.
1. Walk out of the station (which is unmanned) and look for this sign.
2. Turn left into the narrow path next to the field and keep walking, looking out for the red and white posts as below. You’ll walk along a path and then through several largish fields.
3. Keep on going until you meet up with the road. You’ll see this sign once you come out of the fields and then you’ll turn left to walk along the road up to Hever Castle.
Or if you want to stick to the road instead of the paths, you’ll turn left on the road at the first sign above coming out of the station. Essentially you’ll be walking around the fields by road. This route takes a little longer on foot. Be sure to watch out for cars whizzing by.
TAXI – You’ll need to call ahead for a taxi to meet you at the station as there are no taxis at Hever station. Another alternative is to get off at Edenbridge station the one before Hever as it does have taxis nearby. Either way to be safe, call Relyon taxis at 01732 863800, Edenbridge Taxis 01732 759 821 or Edenbridge Cars 01732 864 009 to book ahead of time. Don’t have a UK phone? Book online. Don’t forget to arrange for the taxi to pick you up when you’re ready to leave the castle.
When to Go
Hever Castle is open mostly year round. Be sure to check dates and times before you go. Book ahead and buy tickets online to get a bit of a discount!
- The gardens open at 10:30, but the castle itself doesn’t open until Noon.
- Castle and Gardens day visitor ticket is about £20 ($25)
Check their very comprehensive website for details on ticket times and dates as well as directions.
Book a Home from Home
Why not book a characterful cottage and spend a few days exploring Hever and the local area which is brimming with historical homes like Winston Churchill’s former home Chartwell, National Trust Scotney Castle, Sissinghurst, Leeds Castle and so much more.
I know you’ll appreciate Hever Castle as much as I did. It’s smaller than I expected but cozy and brimming with history and gorgeous detail. The gardens alone are worth a visit especially if you’re visiting during spring, summer and early fall.