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Hooray for Hever!
The 13th-century childhood home of Anne Boleyn is back in business and packed full of family fun. From educational trails around the magnificent gardens to playgrounds and wildlife-spotting, Hever Castle is a fun and educational day out for you and your family, all a short drive away from the M25.
Perfect For The Kids
Nature trails: Hever offers a veritable hoard of activities for kids. Before you arrive, head to the website to download trails around the castle, gardens, and a lake walk for you to follow. (The site also has tips on summer holiday fun at home -- make your own Tudor neck ruff, anyone?)
You might also like to wander to the 38-acre Hever Lake and follow the lake walk. It takes about an hour and you'll encounter all kinds of wildlife, from kingfishers to herons, owls to woodpeckers. Bird and fish food is purchasable on entry.
Educational trails: Spot patterns, unearth shapes, and get estimating around the gardens with the maths trails for both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, or use your map-making skills to sketch your own with the help of the geography trail.
Gardens and mazes: There are also over 4000 roses in the Rose Garden, and 4 acres of the Italian Garden. The Water Maze is now open (under 5s must be accompanied). Try to find the maze's centre without getting squirted, but bring a towel and waterproof shoes just in case you run into puddles!
Playground fun: If the kids still have energy after all that, Hever Castle's playgrounds are also now open. A queueing system is in place, and all children must be accompanied. Hand sanitiser is provided, and extra cleaning has been implemented. Acorn Dell is perfect for younger visitors, whilst Tudor Towers Adventure Playground offers secret dungeons, three towers, and its own moat for older kids. Phew!
Hever heaves with 700 years of history (sorry). The site dates from 1270 when a double-moated castle was constructed. From the 15th century, the castle belonged to the Boleyn family and was the place where Anne Boleyn -- second wife of Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I -- grew up.
Hever housed more than one of Henry's six wives, however: the Castle and grounds passed into the ownership of Anne of Cleves after the Boleyns, who, if you recall from the 'Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived' chant, was Henry's fourth wife.
After a period of decline, it was restored by William Waldorf Astor in the early 20th century, who returned it to its former glory and hugely expanded the gardens to 125 glorious acres.
If you're a Boleyn-boffin, head to The Book of Hours Room, where two of her own prayer books are illuminated -- look out for her inscriptions and signature. Henry VIII is also rumoured to have visited the castle multiple times during his courtship of Anne, and in the Staircase Gallery, you'll find a rare portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I's cousin. Plenty of further Tudor titbits will keep the would-be historian intrigued (we're including either you or your kids in that description).
Curiosity piqued? Be sure to check out Hever Castle's website, which has loads of informative timelines about its ownership, heraldry, and the lives of some of its famous inhabitants.
The venue has put in place a raft of new measures to keep visitors and staff safe from coronavirus.
Tickets must be pre-booked -- remember your booking reference number -- and onsite payments are now contactless. Social distancing must be followed: there will be a one-way system in operation, with hand sanitiser dotted around the site. If you'd like a map, they are downloadable from the Hever Castle website.
Only tickets for the gardens are currently available online, but you can enter the castle by upgrading your ticket on the day, at its entrance. This is so that guest numbers can be monitored, as the rooms now hold only a limited number of visitors.
In light of this, it's likely you'll have to wait to enter the castle. Advise your kids that patience is the best practice. If you'd like an audio guide, these are available and sanitised between uses, but it is advisable to bring your own headphones (a standard 3.5mm jack is required).
Restaurants are providing a reduced service: The Waterside is alfresco for groups of up to 6 people, and The Moat provides more on-the-go options. That said, Hever has plenty of beautiful picnic spots, so packing your own lunch is a perfect option.
Where is Hever Castle? It's situated on the border of Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and is well connected to motorways and rail routes. Use postcode TN8 7NG if you're inputting into a sat nav. Parking is free, and accessible parking is available.
Access: Only tickets for the gardens are currently available online, but you can upgrade to a castle ticket at its entrance. This is because of Covid-19 safety measures.
Opening times: The grounds open at 10.30 am, with the castle at 11 am; the final entry is 4.30 pm. Note that children under 15 cannot enter the Castle unless accompanied by an adult.
Things to see: The castle itself, gardens, play areas, Hever Lake, Water Maze, flower meadows, lake walk, boating and archery are all open. The Yew Maze, Military Museum, miniature model houses and garden exhibition are currently closed. Accommodation is open, as is the golf course and The Waterside restaurant.
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Kidadl provides inspiration for everything from family days out to online classes, arts, crafts and science experiments. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
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