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Visiting Hever Castle Childhood Home of Anne Boleyn

Hever Castle Kent England

I’ve always been fascinated by Tudor history and royal life in general, so I couldn’t have been more excited about our visit to Hever Castle the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. You probably already know, but just in case… Anne Boleyn was the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I.

Over the course of it’s 700 year history Hever castle has been home to 37 different owners including another of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves (wife number four), and William Waldorf Astor who was the richest man in America. It was Astor who brought the castle back to its former glory, and to the state in which its in now.

The Tudor Village at Hever was built by William Astor to accommodate his guests

Our visit to Hever took place during the winter holidays, which meant there were a number of special events going on at the Castle both day and night. Clare, of Suitcases and Sandcastles, and her family are frequent visitors to the Castle, and we were delighted to have them as our guides.

Father Christmas

Our first stop was a visit to Father Christmas in his grotto. The whole experience was really quite magical, and very different from what we’ve experienced here in the United States.

Stepping into the Grotto I felt a bit like we were walking into Narnia. There was an entire forest inside the tent, which from outside looked quite normal. It must have been magic!

After checking in for our appointment* the boys were given markers and paper with which to write their letters to Father Christmas. A very short while later one of the elves came to collect the boys and as we walked through the forest we searched the trees for hidden animals.

After a short chat, my boys are quite shy, Father Christmas gave each of the boys beautifully wrapped presents to take home with them!

The Maze & Gardens

Next up we explored the Castle’s 100 year old yew maze. Built by William Astor, the hedges are 8 feet tall, and with a quarter mile of pathways to explore getting to the center is harder than you might think.

Entering the maze…

Elliot & Harry solving the Hever Castle Maze

We split up into groups and after wandering around for a while I found Simon who was much better at navigating the maze than I was, and before too long we made it to the center! Hooray!

The Center of the Maze

Having worked up an appetite solving the maze and exploring the gardens we decided lunch at the Moat Restaurant would be our next stop.

The sun peeked out for a few moments, so we enjoyed our food outside while playing with our gifts from Father Christmas.

View of the Castle from the Moat Restaurant

The Castle

After lunch it was finally time to visit the castle! I opted for the audio tour and really enjoyed it. The Castle isn’t particularly large, and even taking my time, and many photos, I still got through in about 90 minutes.

The Courtyard 

The Inner Hall

The Astor Drawing Room

The Waldegrave Room

The Long Gallery

Somehow knowing that at one time Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII stood in the very rooms I was standing in made them seem more real, and less like two characters in a book. Reading about historical figures is one thing, but there is something about walking into their bedroom that really brings them to life. Even 100s of years after their deaths.

Artifacts within the castle include Anne’s illuminated prayer books, original letters exchanged between Anne and Henry both during their courtship and at the end of their relationship, and a Jacobite Rhyming Sword.

Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours

Jacobite Rhyming Sword

The Castle was dressed up inside and out for the festive season, and each room had a different carol playing with a corresponding Christmas tree and the history of the carol on display.

The Adventure Playground

While I happily wandered inside the castle taking my sweet time the boys took advantage of the daylight and explored the Adventure Playground.

After a lovely day exploring we went home for tea and a rest before returning for the Castle’s evening festivities.

Hever Castle At Night

When we came back for the evening festivities the Castle grounds were lit beautifully including a magical 12 Days of Christmas Trail. The trail included everything from the Partridge in a Pear Tree to the 12 Drummers Drumming! Night photos without a tripod were near impossible, but we did manage a few!

The Castle’s grounds, including the lake, were lit beautifully.

There was a  vintage fairground located just in front of the Castle, which was complete with carousel, fun house, and a Coconut Shy game.

Afterwards, another look through the castle this time with the entire group at a much quicker pace. I was more than a little thankful about my earlier visit.

The castle was lit in rainbow colors.

The boys in the Inner Hall

We did get some fun photos with the boys in front of the various holiday decorations, and as we were leaving “snow” was falling in the courtyard.

We’ve got it pretty good these days, you know, with flushing indoor toilets, running water, heat, laundry machines, modern medicine you get the idea, but I do like the idea of walking in the footsteps of history. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to visit some pretty amazing historic places many of them royal and all of them old!

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You might also be interested in these other castle related posts:

London: Historic Palaces & Royal Residences
Along The Way… Surprise! Another Castle!
24 Hours in Edinburgh

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