As I mentioned previously I've just been back in the UK for a couple of weeks, my husband joining me for the last week of this trip which we enjoyed with my stepsons (more soon on where we visited). Prior to this though I stayed with my parents in Kent catching up with family and friends. My Mum has retired and my Dad took some time off work whilst I was back and we decided to do a few things together as a family. One of these being a visit to Hever Castle, not too far from my parents home.
The decision as to what we did was largely mine and although I've been there many times before I wanted to do something I could not do in Singapore. Seeing as I've always loved history and I do miss the castles and historic houses that are in abundance in the UK this seemed like the perfect place. We visited on Good Friday and the weather was perfect, in fact it was the best day of the holiday weekend with the weather being much cooler and wetter by the time it got to Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn the Queen consort and second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. The Gatehouse and curtain walls are the oldest, dating back to 1270. Within the castle walls is a Tudor manor house which was added by the Boleyn family. Much later in the castle's history it was eventually purchased by William Waldorf Astor in 1903. The very same Astor who began the construction of the Waldorf hotel in New York in 1890. His cousin later began construction of the Astoria hotel next door and the two hotels eventually joined together to become the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
William Waldorf Astor is credited with making a great many improvements to Hever castle during his time living there. This included building a 'Tudor village' (to accommodate family and guests) and the developing of the gardens and creation of a lake. Astor had a large collection of Italian sculpture and much of that can be seen in the Italian style garden. The castle remained in the Astor family until 1983 and many photos of the family can be seen in one of the rooms that the tour of the castle takes you through.
Visitors are unable to take photos inside the castle but the tour takes you through such rooms as the Long Gallery, dining rooms, the library, what was Anne Boleyn's bedroom and the family rooms of the Astors. There are many Tudor portraits on display including ones of Henry VIII, his six wives, his parents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, his brother Prince Arthur (who was the heir to the throne but died suddenly making Henry the heir) and of Henry VIII's children amongst many others. There is also a collection of armoury and various instruments of execution and torture, looking at those certainly makes you wince. Outside in the gardens, if you want to get totally lost, there is a maze which Astor added in 1906.
I couldn't tell you for certain how many times I've been to Hever castle over the years but visiting it and other places like it around the UK is something that I've always enjoyed doing. Certainly not being in a position to go as much as I used to, I think made the day even more enjoyable. I'm not sure if, until moving to Singapore, I really appreciated how lucky I was to have access to places such as this as it is very easy to take it all for granted. I love a lot of things about Singapore but there will always be things about the UK that I appreciate all the more now for my time living here.