We are lucky enough to live close to the southern English countryside which is a veritable treasure chest of historical gems. As we home educate we are always on the lookout for new and exciting places to visit with the kids and Hever Castle has become a firm favourite. The childhood home of Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn, the castle is set in the most incredibly well cared for grounds and is full of historical artefacts to get the educational juices flowing. We recently visited for my husband’s birthday, because he turned 30 and is the sort of guy who chooses to visit a concentration camp whilst on honeymoon (yes really), so a day at a castle is his equivalent of popping a load of E and flinging himself into a moshpit.
On arrival we left the car in a nearby field and wandered down to the large boating lake. Aside from a few swans with an attitude problem, it’s a lovely part of the grounds and you can pay to hire a rowboat or take a group cruise around the other side of the lake. The rowboats are what might be called ‘vintage’ but perfectly functional and each named after a Tudor personality.
We walked through the manicured lawns and rosebushes and explored courtyards and hidden pond areas. Although there are some grassy areas that are not for walking on, there are loads of little nooks and crannies to keep the kids entertained. The water features don’t have fences around them so we kept an extra eye on our brood because
last time we went on holiday our five year old fell in a swamp we are super responsible parents.
The flowers were in bloom and gorgeously scented…
We visited the water maze which is just brilliant for kids- a labyrinth of booby-trapped stepping stones that squirt unsuspecting visitors with water! Thankfully we were prepared with towels and changes of clothes.
After the ‘refreshing’ maze visit we headed to the main field, where a realistic jousting arena had been set up for the daily show. The kids loved seeing Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and even got to join the royal parade around the field, holding pretend weapons and severed heads! The show was fantastic – lots of banter, stage fighting and stunts to keep even our energetic 3 year old entertained.
Feeling inspired by royalty, the kids then had their session at ‘Knight and Princess school’, which was a roaring success. Led by lovely actors, they learned about how one would become a knight in medieval times, and what qualities would be expected of a Princess (financial account management and multi-lingual, no less!) Some princessy dancing and brave sword fighting ended the lesson, but not before each child was ‘knighted’ and given a certificate to take home. (Did you know that the Knighting ceremony used to involve candidates kneeling in front of their master and getting punched in the face; supposedly the last punch they would ever receive? Me neither, although I did think that perhaps we should start giving out OBEs like that as it’s apparently now just a bunch of rich stylists and banker chummy types. Ooh, politics, I’m off track. Back to Hever).
Next it was time to choose a crown or shield to decorate; typically defying gender stereotypes, both of our older girls chose to paint wooden shields and design their own coat of arms. This was great fun until our oldest child demonstrated just how well she had been listening to battle instructions by clonking her little sister over the head with it. Siblings are nothing if not character building.
After a make-it-better ice cream, it was finally time to head back. It was lovely taking our time meandering back to the car, as there are so many beautiful bits to admire on the way.
We had an absolutely fabulous time at Hever, and there was so much to do that we didn’t even get time to go into the castle! School holidays are particularly good times to visit, as there are extra activities and themed days, which kids love. It’s well worth a visit, or to make the most of it get an annual pass and become a proper Boleyn buff!
Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.