Ever dreamed of staying in a castle? Hever will exceed all expectations
Set within the grounds of the historic Hever Castle estate near Edenbridge, Kent, are 28 beautifully presented B&B rooms. With plush fabrics, opulent beds and castle views, the rooms are supremely comfortable, decorated with great attention to detail and plenty of Tudor touches. In our opulent bathroom, wood beams and antique pictures set off the claw-foot tub to perfection, while an outsize buttoned headboard gave the bed a regal air.
Rooms are not located in the castle itself but in one of its Edwardian (but convincingly Tudor-style) wings – all the better to enjoy the stunning views of the castle from your window.
Best known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the unfortunate second wife of King Henry VIII, who met her end at the executioner’s block, this double-moated castle dates back to the 13th century; the Boleyns added the Tudor dwelling that stands within the medieval castle. The castle is full of priceless artefacts – furniture, antiques and tapestries – including the prize possession of two prayer books signed by Anne Boleyn herself.
The fact that it is all so wonderfully preserved is thanks to American-born tycoon William Waldorf Astor and his wife Nancy, who bought the castle – which had been neglected for years – in 1903 and set about restoring it as their home. They lived in the castle itself and created a ‘Tudor village’, complete with dining and sitting areas, as accommodation for guests, employing 748 craftsmen to make their dream a reality. They installed cutting-edge technologies: central heating and a private water supply.
You can appreciate Astor’s vision – and his lavish tastes and passion for history – when you wake in the morning and open your luxurious, floor-sweeping curtains to that view: the historic castle sitting placidly above its moat, awaiting the day’s visitors. Once you’ve finished taking it all in, it’s time for breakfast, a veritable feast: freshly baked pastries, fruit, yoghurt and local juice, plus a tempting menu of cooked options, including a full English breakfast and grilled kippers.
Breakfast might fill you up for the day, but there are various café and restaurant options in the hotel grounds to tempt you later on. If you want to venture further afield, two options stand out: just outside the castle gate is the King Henry VIII inn, a cosy half-timbered affair with open fires, wood panelled rooms and a menu of rustic country dishes. A few minutes’ drive away, The Wheatsheaf is another historic pub, built around the end of the 14th century. It’s a surprisingly gourmet offering for a country pub, with tasty, inventive dishes made from local produce.
Access to the castle and grounds is included in the room rate, so before you leave, a tour is a must. Admire King Henry VIII’s Bedchamber – he was thought to have been a visitor while courting Anne Boleyn – and visit the collection of Tudor portraits, one of the country’s finest.
Beyond the delights of the castle itself, the grounds make for a pleasant wander. The work of Astor, they include a picturesquely pergola-ed Italian Garden, a Tudor knot garden and a yew maze. The perfect place to lose yourself for a while before reluctantly bidding the castle farewell.