Kent Castles

The south-easternmost county in England is home to a number of excellent attractions, all reachable as day-trips from London by car or public transport.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle ♥♥ had been built about 800 years ago, and at some point owned by the family of one of less fortunate wives of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn. It was acquired by the Astor family (of Waldorf-Astoria fame) at the end of the 19th century and exquisitely rebuilt.
Hever Castle
The inside of the castle is not exactly spectacular, but boasts several beautiful period rooms (the library and the large sitting room are especially fetching). It also holds a couple of exhibitions, including an extensive one on the ubiquitous topic of six wives of Henry VIII.

The grounds are nothing short of spectacular, with pristine lawns (which are heavily used for picnics), several gardens (amongst them an absolutely magnificent Italian garden), a lake (where you can hire a paddle boat for a leisurely ride), a water-obstacle maze (be prepared for your offspring to end up head-to-toe wet – coming with bathing suits or additional sets of clothes is highly recommended), a children’s playground, and so on.

In a good weather, taking in the castle and all its attractions, plus a picnic on the side, will make the whole day go by in a flash.

Dover Castle

No fortress in England boasts a longer history than Dover Castle ♥.
Dover Castle
Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent, the site has served as a vital strategic centre since the Iron Age. The major castle’s structures were built in 12th century, and it was an important coastal residence of the kings for several centuries. The main castle keep, which is the most impressive structure, reconstructs Henry VIII’s visit in 1539 with an interesting exhibition. There is a Royal Regiment Museum, medieval tunnels, Roman lighthouse and Saxon church. Castle walls and yards are interesting to simply walk about, with several impressive vista points.

Tours of the Secret Wartime Tunnels is another supposed highlight of the site, but although not requiring extra fee, they need to be booked in advance as space is limited (hourly tours of groups of 30 is all there is).

Places to Eat

Duke of York restaurant ♥ is located at the intersection of A2 and A258 about 3 miles from Dover town center and the castle. It has the feeling of a chain, but plays as a pub – you have to order your food at the counter, and it then gets delivered to your numbered table. The menu includes traditional British fare, but also dishes such as Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Tikka Masala. Chocolate fondue is reputably unbelievable. Our damage: £55 for a meal for four. Last visit: Fall 2006.

Leeds Castle

The grounds of Leeds Castle ♥♥ are expansive and appealing, containing several gardens and ponds, an aviary, a falconry field, a maze, a couple of playgrounds, a picnic area, and several refreshment points. There are ducks and geese everywhere, not just in a separate duckery.

The castle itself is beautiful to behold from several vantage points. Its rooms are furnished in both medieval and early 20th century styles, but are probably no more than nice. It’s what’s outside that is the main attraction.

Just walking around the grounds is a pleasure, both trough wooded areas and formal sculpted gardens. The maze is quite challenging – getting to its center turned out to be rather hard; the exit from it is through a quite amazing underground grotto. The aviary contains several dozen of species: Parrots, cockatoos, toucans, etc. There are also owls and falcons nearby, with daily displays of falconry (weather permitted). Recently opened Knights Realm playground has a couple of apparatus that the kids cannot get enough of.

Special events, such as Food and Wine festivals, and so on are held throughout the year.

Tickets are valid for a full year after issue, making it easy to come back.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Sissinghurst Castle went through a number of reincarnations over the centuries, fell into disrepair eventually, and now only the Tower and the Long Library are open to visitors. The main attraction here is the garden ♥♥, built by the famous poet and writer Vita Sackville-West in the 1930’s.
Sissinghurst Castle
The 6 acres do not make a “showy” impression, which makes them altogether more authentic as a prime example of English gardens. There are several different “rooms” in these gardens, separated from one another by natural hedges and old castle walls. The Rose Garden, the White Garden, the Herb Garden, the Cottage Garden, as well as the Italian-style Lime Walk, are among the most impressive parts of the estate.

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