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Lose Yourself In The Hever Maze

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The history of Hever Castle dates back to the 13th Century and the gate house and outer walls from the original castle still stand today. Surrounded by a double moat and situated in the middle of the Kent countryside, the castle has a rich and varied history.
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The history of Hever Castle dates back to the 13th Century and the gate house and outer walls from the original castle still stand today. Surrounded by a double moat and situated in the middle of the Kent countryside, the castle has a rich and varied history.

In 1500 a Tudor manor was built within the original castle walls and later served to be the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII's 2nd wife and future mother of Queen Elizabeth the First. Following her beheading and Henry's subsequent marriage to Jane Seymour who died 12 days after childbirth, Hever Castle was used as part of a divorce settlement for his next wife, Anne of Cleves who resided there for the next 17 years.

In 1903 William Waldorf-Astor, an American millionaire who became disenchanted with his homeland, acquired the castle and grounds. After moving to England and becoming a naturalised British citizen, he not only bought the castle, he spent millions restoring the castle, enhanced the grounds and building a complete Tudor village to the rear of the castle. This was done as he thought that the castle itself was too small for him to live and entertain his guests!

William Waldorf-Astor died in 1919 and eventually Hever Castle was passed to Gavin Astor (2nd Baron of Hever) who also spent much time and money making improvements to the Tudor village. The village itself is really one building that is cleverly designed to give the look of many individual cottages. This was achieved by giving each section a unique look by making each of the cottages different sizes. However, in reality, the whole complex is connected by corridors and was designed to provide accommodation for not only the staff and servants, but for visiting family and friends.

In the early 1960's it was decided to open the castle and grounds to the public and in 1981, Hever Castle, the village and most of the contents were sold to a private company who still maintain it today.

Although the Tudor village is not open to the public and is today only open for private guests, the castle and grounds are well worth a visit. The Italian garden in particular contains sculptures and statues from the Roman era that were collected in Italy.

The castle is well worth a visit as the gardens are stunning all year round and there are also many exhibitions and events that take place throughout the opening season.

The Yew maze is only one of a few in the country that are open to the public and is well worth getting lost in. Other notable mazes (that I have visited) are the ones located at Leeds Castle, also in Kent and Hampton Court Palace just south of London.

Inside the grounds there is also a 35-acre lake which is an ideal spot for a picnic. However, if you decide not to take a picnic with you, there are several places on site, including two restaurants, to control your appetite. These are located behind the Italian garden and near to the castle itself.

I found the food served on site was of a good quality and reasonably priced, compared with many other tourist attractions.

Probably the best time to visit would be during the summer when the schools are on their summer break. Hever Castle is a very popular destination for school outings and can therefore get extremely busy during term time.

All in all, its a good day out and should keep the kids amused, especially if you can lose them in the maze for a while!
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