Castles and gardens
Kent is home to not only some of the most charming, but also some of the most historically important castles in Britain. Some defended our shores against invaders, while others were the childhood homes of pivotal figures in English history.
Built during the Hundred Years’ War by a Knight of the Shire, Bodiam is a picturesque monument that retains much of its original exterior features, including a look-out tower and wooden portcullis. Visitors can discover the castle’s history, join a guided walk of the grounds, or try activities such as archery and falconry.
Dover Castle has stood guard over the Kent coast for over nine centuries, and is a fantastic place for a family day out. Visitors can discover Henry II’s medieval world in the Great Tower, walk the wartime tunnels where Operation Dynamo was masterminded, and see one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the world. A range of events takes place throughout the year, including jousts and cinema experiences.
The childhood residence of Anne Boleyn, Hever is a homely castle that has a fabulous collection of Tudor paintings, tapestries and furniture. The grounds house a 100-year-old yew maze, a water maze, English rose garden and a manmade lake, excavated in the early 20th century which visitors are welcome to go boating or canoeing on. There’s also archery and shield painting available in the summer months.
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Formerly used as a prison, poorhouse and farm, Sissinghurst has a long and complex history beyond the gardens that are there today. These were established in the 1930s by garden writer Vita Sackville-West, and are arranged in a series of ‘rooms’, each with its own theme. Visitors can wander through the peaceful gardens and ramble over the 460-acre estate, part of which is still farmed.