"The king has been very good to me. He promoted me from a simple maid to be a marchioness. Then he raised me to be a queen. Now he will raise me to be a martyr."
-- Anne Boleyn
Visiting Hever Castle was a trip through time: imagining Anne Boleyn growing up and running through the fields with her sister never realizing later they would be wife and mistress to the same man, peering out her bedroom window for her first glance at Henry VIII, strolling through the rose gardens arm and arm while courting the infamous king, and imagining the town in the aftermath of her death. It was a day full of history, romance and tragic love stories....for the kids however: water mazes, hedge mazes, jousting tournaments, and shield decorating would trump the day!
We always say that the journey is half the adventure and never has this been more true. We exited the train and were directed down a quiet country road.
Further instructions were "look for the footpath on the left." We strolled happily for about 1/2 a mile through farmers' fields crossing 'kissing gates' until we opened to the small village of Hever.
The field was so perfect with the long grass blowing in the wind that the kids re-enacted the opening song from Little House on the Praire, a family favorite.
Before you reach the castle is a fascinating old stone church. Inside is the tomb of Thomas Boleyn, father to Anne and grandfather to Queen Elizabeth I.
Prior to our visit we had read and learned enough about both Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII that the boys were very excited (especially since there are rumors that her headless body haunts the castle!)
The grounds were beautiful and the first thing we did was feed the ducks. If that was all we did that day, the kids would have been satisfied and called it an amazing day. They sure do love to feed ducks and the cafe nearby the ponds sold small amounts of duck food.
A tour of the castle was captivating with beautiful Tudor decor and secret doorways, although we saw no ghost that certainly didn't stop them from looking. We also learned a new medieval job that I am sure we stick in their memories: "Groom of the Stool." Look it up if you are curious. Here's a hint: the boys are still using it in their jokes.
We enjoyed a beautiful picnic on the grassy hill overlooking the castle. As we visualized it hundreds of years ago with Henry VII walking the grounds, the kids rolled down the hill. We even saw a young man propose on bended knee.
The real joy of the day was the jousting tournament presided by none other than King Henry VIII. The kids were memorised as they cheered on the red team. Henry VIII comments the event and is hilarious. The crowd is divided between the red and blue teams and you cheer your team to victory.
If that is not enough to fill a day, why not try an amazing hedge maze...
or water maze...
or shield or crown decorating...
Kids and will entertained and parents will get a chance to view the beautiful gardens and grounds.
When you have exhausted the possibilities of the Castle, stroll over to a fabulous British pub and partake in a well deserved pint and meal before heading home.