Hever Castle in Kent is one of our favourite castles to visit in the UK. The childhood home of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, is a picture-perfect castle in beautiful grounds. There are so many great activities for families here from trying your hand at archery and rowing to watching knights jousting and getting lost in the mazes. Here’s a list of our favourite things to do at Hever Castle.
Explore the castle
The 700-year-old castle has everything children require from a castle: a moat, an impressive drawbridge and a gatehouse filled with armour and instruments of torture.
It also boasts one of the UK’s best collections of Tudor portraits. The connections with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn make Hever a must-visit for anyone interested in the Tudors. You can see the bedchamber where Henry VIII is believed to have stayed and the signed, exquisite prayer books belonging to Anne Boleyn.
Our favourite time to visit is at Christmas when all the rooms are decorated with Christmas trees.
Find your way around all three mazes
There are no less than three mazes at Hever Castle. Kids love the Tower Maze in the adventure playground and my two love the challenge of finding their way around the traditional Yew Maze in the shortest time possible.
The Water Maze is the most fun of all and a brilliant place to cool down on a hot summer’s day. Stepping stones lead through the reeds to a stone tower in the centre. Step on the wrong stone and your path will be blocked by jets of water. Most children positively delight in getting soaked so bring a towel and a change of clothes.
Watch a jousting tournament
You can watch knights jousting most weekends over the summer. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn lead the procession of spectators all the way from the castle to the jousting field where big crowds gather to watch the Blue Knights battle the Reds.
The hour-long show is a real spectacle. The knights knock each other off their horses, spear metal rings onto their lances and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Children are invited to join the King’s Army. The raggle-taggle bunch are given helmets, swords and pikes and made to parade around the field.
Take a boat out on the lake
We love rowing on the large lake at Hever. You can hire a rowing boat or a pedalo and spend a very happy hour mucking around on the water, rowing over to the Japanese Tea House and ringing the bell in the middle of the lake. See if you can sport the ducks’ house in the shape of a miniature castle.
The lake is a great place to teach children how to row. It’s usually fairly peaceful and you can see dragonflies, herons and kingfishers on the lake. There’s also a steamboat cruise.
Wander around the gardens
The extensive gardens are a pleasure to explore and there are plenty of good places for hide-and-seek. The formal gardens are a delight: the Italian Garden has shaded grottos and classical statues and there’s a colonnaded loggia beside the lake with a fountain and sculptures inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
The giant topiary chess set in the Tudor Garden will make you feel as if you’ve wandered onto a film set for ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Don’t miss the lovely sunken garden hidden behind a hedge in the Italian Garden – it’s a wonderfully tranquil spot often missed by the crowds because it’s so hidden away.
Walk around the lake
With 125 acres to explore, there’s no surprise that there are some lovely walks around the grounds and the wilder parts of the gardens. Our favourite is the Lake Walk which goes all around the lake. You can download a nature trail to complete as you go round. It’s a great place to spot birds like kingfishers and crested grebes and even on busy days it’s always quiet here, right in the middle of the countryside.
Have a picnic in the grounds
The stunning grounds are perfect for a picnic. Spread out your rug on one of the big lawns in front of the castle and watch the ducks and swans in the stream nearby. There’s lots of space here for children to have a run around. If you prefer to be away from the crowds, you’ll find quieter spots along the Lake Walk.
If the weather’s not good enough for sitting outside, there are two excellent cafés serving sandwiches, cakes and hot meals.
The next jousting tournament at Hever takes place this coming Bank Holiday Weekend.
Hever Castle is open every day until 30th October, then from Wednesdays until Sundays until Christmas. Adults, from £13.10; children, from £8.30; under 5s, free.