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The Castles of Kent

The county of Kent counts an enormous amount of castles and historical buildings. Kent tourism made chosing a bit easier, by making their list of top 10 castles and historic buildings. I guess I have a thing for castles and historical houses 🙂 . Everywhere I go I try to get a glimpse of how the rooms must have looked like back in the day. I remember visiting Spadima museum, a historical house in Toronto many years ago, a couple of weeks ago we visited a few castles in Sintra near Lisbon, in Paris I saw Napoleon’s apartment at the louvre… and the list goes on. It’s just so fascinating to see how people used to live, how the rich and wealthy spurred their money on the most bombastic entry halls and staircases, majestic gardens, overly decorated living rooms, portret paintings on each wall, etc…

During my visits to my boyfriend’s home in Essex, we always try to have a cultural day out. As he is from Essex, but close to Kent, we went and explored the castles of Kent. That’s how we got to visit 4 out of the top 10 buildings already. To be fair, 3 of them are so close together we did them all in a day!

Leeds castle was the first we visited and I immediately loved it! The building is huge, with an easy route that leads you through the castle, starting in the basement. Here you learn that it wasn’t easy to just storm the castle. The steps are mad uneven and other little tricks to misguide possible robbers… The further you go through the establishment, the more you discover about the little details and the former rulers of the castle. 

 

For our second castle excursion, we combined Hever, Chiddingstone and Tonbridge castle. If we had more time, we would of added Penshurst Place. As all of these properties are in a close proximity of each other. Initially we wanted to bike from one castle to the other. But the only bike hire shop we found was closed the day we went (Monday). You’ll have to ask the bikeshop for a bike-friendly route between the castles. Since the streets are not very bike friendly: there are no bike paths and the speed limit is in the area is 30/40 Mph (50 to 65 km/ph) . 

We started with Hever castle, because from browsing the different websites, it appealed most to me. It had some original rooms on show, a beautiful garden, and a lot of history to tell, even leading up to King Henri VIII second wife Anne Boleyn. We explored the castle, the gardens, tried some archery and ran through the maze. The castle is very child friendly, with an adventure park for the kids. Bring a picnic and you can easily spent the day here.

 We were getting hungry and decided to have our picnic at the next venue; Chiddingstone castle. Being a bit younger than Hever castle, dating from 1500 as supposed to 1270. It’s a very different estate, the focus here is more on the exhibition of art collections than the history of the house. However they still have a few rooms set up. We took our picnic in their large garden, looking out at the castle. It’s free to enter the gardens, although a £2 (€ 2,20 / $ 2,50) donation is requested at the parking lot. While we weren’t keen on seeing the different art exhibitions, we drove of to the next property Tonbridge castle. 3 castles a day might have been stretching it a little bit. We didn’t arrive in time to be able to enter the castle. So we had a small stroll around the grounds. The castle offers an hour audio tour, taking you back 700 years ago to the life of being a lady or lord.

What I would have done differently

  • Maximum 2 castles a day. It was a bit ambitious to try and do 3 in a day. Depending of course on how much you want to see of each castle. Pick and choose what kind of castle you like the most and have an amazing day out!
  • Perpared a better picnic and spend more time in the gardens

Tonbridge Castle
A quick review of the castles:

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