From the White Cliffs of Dover to the majestic Canterbury Cathedral, the county of Kent has a vast range of both natural and historic attractions to explore.
But if you want to take in some of the area’s history and natural beauty in a single day, travelling by coach between two of its magnificent castles is an excellent way to do so.
Hever Castle and Gardens, and Leeds Castle are two of the county’s best-loved historical attractions and are handily situated around a 50-minute drive apart, via a journey that will take you through some of Kent’s lush green countryside, should you opt for the scenic route.
Hever Castle and Gardens
Hever Castle is currently closed for the winter, but will reopen to the public on Saturday February 10th, just in time for the school half-term. The castle was the childhood home of King Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn. However, the exhibitions on offer don’t just focus on the Tudor period, but explore the life of the Astor family who subsequently resided in the castle until 1903.
Indoors, see Anne Boleyn’s childhood prayer books and her girlhood bedroom, as well as what is regarded as one of the UK’s finest collections of Tudor portraits. There’s also currently a fascinating exhibition showcasing some fine miniature model houses, which are sure to delight fans of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, as well as anyone who longed for the ultimate doll’s house in their youth.
Outside in the sprawling castle grounds are a hedge and a water maze that have been in place for over a century – just think how many others have gotten lost in there over the years!
You can choose to take a guided tour around Hever Castle, but if you’d rather make your own way around, there are still some fun trails to follow to keep little ones and big kids alike entertained, with the springtime snowdrop trail around the grounds a particular highlight.
It’s a common misconception that Leeds Castle is located in Yorkshire, when it is in fact situated just outside of Maidstone in Kent – just under an hour away from Hever.
Leeds Castle has its origins in the Norman period, but over the centuries it has been used by everyone from the wife of King Edward I, Queen Eleanor of Castile, to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
The main exhibition at the castle will immerse you in over 900 years of history as you learn all about its many fascinating residents and the societies that they lived in.
Catch falconry displays and medieval jousting reenactments at certain times of year and make sure you check out one of Leeds Castle’s more unexpected attractions: its dog collar collection. Yes, the castle is home to the world’s largest collection of dog collars, with more than 130 unique items on display, providing a bizarrely fascinating insight into centuries of pet-keeping.
Image credit: Chrisds via iStock