Any long-time readers of this blog will know that I love castles – maybe it’s because I’m a history nerd, maybe it’s because I’m a princess deep down – who knows. In any case, you can imagine my delight when I realised that Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, offered overnight stays and had availability over my birthday weekend last year.
We booked our trip somewhat last-minute, so didn’t know what to expect from our stay at Hever Castle. Thankfully, we ended up having the BEST time exploring both the castle and the surrounding areas within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Hever Castle is only about an hour’s drive from home, so thankfully we didn’t have too far to go. The rooms aren’t situated within the castle themselves, but are instead located in the BnB situated just behind the castle (don’t worry, the building is still gorgeous), so be sure to follow the right signs/directions on your way in.
Rooms are spread between the Anne Boleyn Wing and the Astor Wing, both Edwardian wings decorated in Tudor style. During the time of our visit, there was a very fancy private function happening in the Astor Wing, so if you’re looking for a venue for an upcoming special event, Hever Castle would be perfect!
We booked a deluxe room in the Anne Boleyn Wing and it was gorgeous. The rooms are the perfect balance of traditional features with modern amenities (of which, the luxuriously huge bath and shower were my favourite – they were particularly lovely to come home to after a day of exploring in the chilly November weather).
If there’s one thing that stands out from our stay, it’s the bed. I can’t explain how comfortable the pillow/mattress/duvet combination was. I’d have happily spent the entire weekend in bed! It was certainly very hard to leave the next morning.
We spent the majority of the day exploring Hever Castle and the accompanying gardens. Tickets to the castle and gardens are included in the price of your overnight stay, so there’s no need to pay for this separately (saving £15.55 for the garden, and an additional £3.25 for the castle upgrade ticket – prices correct as of 2020).
Some areas of the gardens remain open outside of usual opening hours for overnight guests to continue exploring. We took advantage of this the next morning, opting to take some photos of the castle before any visitors arrived!
The panelled rooms, tapestries, artwork and antiques filling the rooms of Hever Castle are looked after/restored beautifully. You should allow at least 1 hour to explore the Castle.
The 125 acres of gardens will take up the majority of your day to explore. From the beautifully manicured gardens to a beautiful lake-side walk, to a 100 year old hedged maze and more recent addition water maze, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! Visiting in November also meant that the gardens were filled with beautiful Autumnal shades.
Be sure to check out the upcoming events at the time of your visit, especially during the school holidays as there’s usually an array of great activities on!
After quickly freshening up in our room, we drove circa 5 minutes to The Wheatsheaf, a gastropub set in a Grade II listed building, known to be a favourite haunt of King Henry VIII (obviously because of the good food, not because of the close proximity to Anne Boleyn’s home…).
The food was delicious (I opted for the fish and chips while Callum ordered a huge burger) and the atmosphere great – we were seated by a lovely warm fire which was truly needed before our evening activities…
With my birthday (2 November) being in such close proximity to Bonfire Night (5 November), we happened to be staying at Hever Castle at just the right time for a brilliant fireworks display.
The King Henry VIII pub (which is a 5 minute walk from Hever Castle) put on an impressive show. If you happening to be visiting on this weekend, make sure you bring some warm clothes!
On a normal weekend, the King Henry VIII pub also serves food, so is a great option if you are looking to eat while staying at Hever Castle (especially as you’ll be within stumbling distance of your accommodation, so don’t need a designated driver)!
Bookings in the Boleyn Wing have access to a small breakfast room within the BnB serving a full English breakfast alongside a continental buffet, both complementary during your stay.
After reluctantly checking out of our room at Hever Castle, we drove 20 minutes further into the Ashdown Forest before reaching a small town called Hartfield, known for “Pooh Corner”.
Pooh Corner is a small gift shop/tea toom/museum dedicated to all things Winnie The Pooh. If you are passing through the area, it’s definitely worth stopping by to relieve your childhood!
From Pooh Corner, you will be able to pick up maps for The Winnie The Pooh Walk (something that we failed to do, resulting in us getting lost for much of the rest of the morning)!
If you park in Pooh Car Park at Chuck Hatch Lane (TN7 4DN), you can join the woodland trail (circa 20-30 minutes) through the forest to reach Pooh Sticks Bridge.
The bridge is fairly small so you may be wondering why it’s so popular. If you are familiar with Winnie The Pooh, you’ll know the game “Pooh Sticks” (where you each drop a stick into a river from a bridge and the person whose stick appears first on the other side of the bridge is the winner). This bridge is thought to be the location where Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne first played Pooh Sticks with his sons, hence the popularity!
After playing Pooh Sticks, we meandered through the forest some more enjoying the scenery. The “official” Pooh Walk continues on through the Hundred Acre Wood, also passing the “Enchanted Place” and “Roo’s Sandy Pit”, alongside the A.A. Milne Memorial and other points of interest.
A colleague recommended afternoon tea at Ashdown Park Hotel to me while we were exploring earlier in the day (he actually proposed to his wife in the Chapel at the hotel!) and thankfully we managed to get a last minute booking.
The afternoon tea and hotel interior were gorgeous (we felt very out of place in our jeans and muddy trainers/boots after wading through the forest).
We opted for the standard afternoon tea (£26 per person or £48 per couple). They even offer a Winnie the Pooh themed afternoon tea for kids (I wish it was available for adults too)!
After eating, we tried to walk off our food coma by exploring the hotel grounds. Most impressively, the hotel has a chapel with incredible stain glass windows which can be rented as a wedding venue. As there were no weddings happening that day, we were allowed to explore!
On the road approaching Ashdown Park Hotel, there’s a few small car parks leading to walking paths with incredible views. Before driving home, we decided to pull into one and enjoy the view!
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