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  • As childhood homes go, there aren’t many who can lay claim to having an entire castle to run about in during their formative years. Then again, Anne Boleyn wasn’t your average child.

    Former wife of the irascible monarch Henry VIII (and eventual figurehead for enormous change in the reformation of English law), Anne Boleyn spent much of her youth scampering about in the huge halls of this magnificent Kent estate, owned by the well-off and well-respected head of the family, her father Thomas, The Earl of Wiltshire. Of course, heads are something you probably don’t want to mention too much around the Boleyn abode, what with their former occupant having been unceremoniously parted from hers in 1536.

    Aside from its obvious hook, the castle has a great deal to admire and does much to keep the spirit of ye olde worlde alive. The summer seasons see archery, shield painting and jousting tournaments taking place, with bona fide knights charging at each other with lances longer than is strictly necessary (though we’re sure accuracy is at the heart of these memorable proceedings). Those who think highly of themselves can even book out a Royal box for a real taste of times gone by.

    But where this heritage site differs from so many of its peers around the country is in its evolution. Having been through three major states of transformation in its 700 years – from medieval stronghold, through noble ownership, and on to its modern incarnation as shaped by William Waldorf Astor – the castle grounds present a veritable hotbed of historical and cultural morsels to sink your teeth into. Walled Italian-inspired gardens wait to be walked around, the enormous lake demands to be boated about on and a triple threat of mazes anticipate exploration almost as soon as you’ve set foot in the carpark. There’s even an Edwardian-style Japanese tea house for those who really like to think outside the bailey.

    But, if all the above fails to impress, there’s one thing Hever has that will take you back to the deep-seated desires you once had for your own childhood home; ones that were never realised, no matter how hard you wished for it.

    This house has a moat and – as we are all aware – moats are just really, really cool.

IMAGE CREDIT: Steve Slater
February 4th 2015