What could Henry XVIII, his second wife Anne Boleyn and some of the most known fairy-tale characters have in common? Could you imagine Snow White, Aladdin and the terrible Captain Hook actually being ‘housemates’ in the childhood home of that controversial Queen of England? Try to find, in any of the fantasy stories that you were told, an attractive and young king who got to have up to six different marriages. Probably the part referring to decapitations, any adultery accusation or premature deaths would have been “hidden”.
Our recent visit to the Hever Castle, near Edenbridge (30 miles southeast of London, in Kent), has been a fascinating mix of English history, classic tales, and a breathtaking nature. And to be honest, what had been initially planned as a “great single-day-trip” far away from the city became much more than that. Now I have started the year with a couple of good lessons to keep on hand.
- Pick any history book and discover, on your own, that reality surpasses fiction.
- Mixing “real” history with the fantasy and the common universe fairy-tales, and the “cocktail” will be amazing. The characters of Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm Brothers or J. M. Barrie have always amused me, but placing them together with the remains of the Tudor Times has been superb.
The “tour” started with a train from Victoria Station to East Croydon Station. From there and, in a second train, you can choose to go to Hever, Edenbridge or Edenbridge Town (around £8/single), where you are going to need a cab to reach the castle (£5-10).
Unfortunately, there is not another comfortable way of doing this: just pay for it, relax and look through the window because you are actually in the county considered “the Gardens of England”.
The adult ticket to the Castle and the Gardens costs around £16.90, for those ones between 16-59 and £14.70 for the Seniors, and £9.50 for the kids. However, you are able to get them slightly cheaper if you decide to buy them in advance on the website.
Don’t get too upset if, on the first sight, the fortress doesn’t look that big as you imagined. Just try not to compare it with the “huge” Windsor Castle and discover its three-floor indoors. The oldest part of the Hever Castle dates of 1270 and was conceived as a country house. Later, it was repaired and converted into a manor house by Geoffrey Boleyn, whose grandson Thomas Boleyn (the father of Anne Boleyn) inherited the castle in 1505.
The oldest part of the Hever Castle dates of 1270 and was conceived as a country house. Later, it was repaired and converted into a manor house by Geoffrey Boleyn, whose grandson Thomas Boleyn (the father of Anne Boleyn) inherited the castle in 1505.
Even if the historians can’t be one hundred percent sure that the future queen was actually born in there, without any doubt that was her home until she was sent to the court in the Netherlands.
Visiting her room and having all of those House of Tudor portraits around is, actually, more than great. Guessing how life was in those times, with those prayer’s books that had once belonged to Anne, instruments of torture and furniture, it makes the experience even more real. When I realized that it had been added some “magic powders” to the Christmas decoration, it was just perfect.
Because, obviously, I didn’t expect at all that after crossing the moat I was going to see a “fake” Rapunzel trying to escape through the window…. Or I should never have believed that he Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were smart enough to pick the biggest rooms in the house and leave the tiny one for Captain Hook. Even the fairy godmother of Cinderella had parked her carriage upstairs and one of the corridors was the perfect location for the funny beds of the dwarfs.
During all year round, Hever Castle is a tourist attraction, drawing on its links to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, its mazes, fountains, gardens, and lake. But the additional fantasy for this past “Winter Walks” (27 December – 2 January 2017) made it even better and an absolute joy: kids and grown-ups thirsty of happy-ending spent a day worthy of being explained with a “once upon a time…”