Scotney Castle is a National Trust property located near Lamberhurst in Kent. The main building at the property is a grand 19th Century country house, set in a large, romantically landscaped garden and surrounding estate. The remains of the Old Scotney Castle, which dates back to the 14 Century, has been kept as a ‘folly’ and sits beautifully on a moated island in the garden.
Penguin’s first visit to Scotney was in early April last year, and we’ve been back twice since then, in mid September and this last Sunday (14 January). So we’ve seen it at different times of the year, and I can confidently say that it’s a great place to visit at any time of the year (but try to avoid bad weather, as you’re likely to be spending most of your time their outdoors, exploring the wonderful garden).
Things to do, explore, and learn about at Scotney Castle
On our visits, we’ve mostly enjoyed the vast garden. There are many different paths to explore, so you can take a different route every time. There’s an exciting quarry part, a nature play area for kids, loads of interesting trees, bushes and flowers, several little streams, and of course the large moat with the old castle remains. Penguin loves water, as well as roaming around, so this place is great for him!
If you’re looking for learning opportunities (as we always are, being a home educating family), Scotney can be used for learning about nature, such as different plants and their life cycles, the changing seasons, and wildlife. There’s a child friendly ‘discovery room’ near the main house, with tables and chairs, papers, crayons, nature books, and other materials to support learning. We find it a great place to sit down for a bit at towards the end of a visit, to sum up what we’ve seen that day, perhaps do a bit of drawing, or just gaze out on the countryside views. There are also some kids binoculars available there, in case you want to take a closer look at anything you see.
The animals you can expect to find at Scotney castle are mostly birds, squirrels, bugs and butterflies. There’s a little bug hotel outside the discovery room, and on the surrounding estate (which we haven’t yet fully explored) there are sheep and cattle. Visitors with dogs are welcome, but all dogs are to be kept on a short lead at all times, on the whole estate. As Penguin’s can get quite anxious when dogs get too close, we really appreciate the short lead rule.
The nature play area at Scotney is actually named after two dogs, Badger and Pepper, who belonged to a previous owner of the estate. In the play area, there are things to climb on, swing from, balance on, hide in, and even to play music on. There’s also a tennis ball maze and a good sized mud kitchen. So a great area for exercising all kinds of motor skills, as well as for sensory exploration, and a chance to practice some social skills.
The Old Scotney Castle was made into a romantic garden feature when the new mansion was built. You can enter into parts of it, and there’s a lovely old staircase, leaded windows, massive old fire places, and a funny little cubby hole with a door on it, which is said to have been a priests hiding place.
Getting back to learning opportunities, Scotney is of course also a great place for history studies, from the very old architectural features of the old castle and the times it represents, up to the 1960’s which was the final decade in which there was a private owner residing in the house. The National Trust took over the property in 1970, and the interiors of the big house have largely been kept as they were then, and as you walk through the house you can learn about different styles, from the Victorian era and onwards, as there are rooms which have beem modernised in different decades, with furniture and fittings in distinctive styles of fashion.
One of Penguin’s favourite things at Scotney is the fountain by the main house. On our last visit it was covered up for winter, but as there’s so much else to experience there, Penguin didn’t seem to mind too much about it.
Good to know
Most visitors to Scotney Castle with arrive by car, and the car park may get full at very busy times. There’s an overflow car park, but during wet periods it can’t be used. If you arrive when they’re full, you’ll be asked to wait until a place becomes available. This has happened to us on our last visit, and with Penguin generally not happy to wait in a still standing car for any prolonged periods, it made me slightly nervous, but we only had to wait about five minutes, if that, so it went just fine.
Next to the car park there’s a walled garden with flowers and vegetables, and you can buy fresh produce there. On our September visit Penguin chose to buy a white cabbage, which then kept him busy peeling and snacking nearly all the way home.
You might also like to know that there is a café and a shop at the premises, as well as toilets. The café is quite small, but as long as weather permits, you can sit outside. We usually bring our own snacks when we go out, mainly because of Penguin being quite selective with what he likes to eat, but also to avoid waiting times and queues, as well as low blood sugar levels…
There are three toilets with disabled accessability at Scotney, but no ‘changing places’ toilet. There are baby changing facilities, but none for bigger kids or adults. The accessible toilet we’ve used there (for more room, as we need one of us to accompany Penguin) was large, modern and clean. But there was no hoist there, and I’m not sure if there is one in any of the other accessible toilets either.
If you’re planning a visit, I’d recommend checking if a National Trust family membership would be a good option for you, as they are great value for money. Especially as these places can otherwise be fairly expensive to visit.
So, this is our experience (so far) of Scotney Castle! Have you been there too, and if so, what did you think?
I’m thinking that “Penguin goes to…” could perhaps become a more or less regular feature here on the blog, as we enjoy these outings and would like to share them, from our perspective.