Hever Castle has for quite some time been on my wish list of places I’d like us to visit. Last week it finally came true, and it turned out to be a truly magical experience!
I’m sure the castle and gardens are amazing at any time of the year, but now during the Christmas period it’s made extra special with decorations, light displays and a woodland trail. There’s also a Santa’s grotto, for an additional fee, for those who wish to meet the big man and receive a little gift.
The theme for this year’s Christmas at Hever Castle is Alice in Wonderland, and I think they’ve embraced the theme beautifully. It’s hardly possible to do the full experience justice in words and pictures, but I’m hoping that this post will be able to convey some of the magic to you.
We timed our visit so that it would still be light outside when we got there, but not too long until dusk, so that we’d get to experience it all after dark, too. I was keen for us to check out the adventure playground in daylight, and as it’s near the entrance, it turned out great to start off there.
We were very impressed by the large medieval style castle, which offered a sensory rich environment with many different areas to explore. Two of my favourite bits were the tower with music-making equipment in it, and the room with a labyrinth floor, where there was a sensor on the wall that made some music start when someone entered the space. Meanwhile, Penguin’s most favourite part of the playground was a humble rope bridge.
Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn who later became wife of Henry VIII, and as can be seen on the educational table in one of the pictures above, that didn’t end too well…
After having enjoyed the playground for a while, we searched out the nearest toilets for a quick visit before making our way down to the actual castle. This was our first proper view of it, and a very good first impression indeed:
There were hints of the Alice in Wonderland theme as we approached the castle, and as we got inside, the theme was carried on through most of the rooms, with decorations like playing cards, white rabbits, roses, top hats, tea pots etc. Very fanciful and fun!
For anyone looking for festive inspiration, there was plenty to be found. I quickly lost count of the number of Christmas trees…
Penguin was as usual keen to hurry on through the castle. Whenever he’s in an environment that’s new to him, he likes to explore every corner of it as quickly as possible, to get a good grasp of the place. I think he creates a sort of map of it in his mind, and feels more in control once he’s done that. We did find a chair halfway through, where he was happy to sit down for a minute or so, and he stopped briefly at the beautiful window seen above, to look out at the old-fashioned carousel in the courtyard.
As we returned outside, it was starting to get dark, and all the lovely lights were adding to an increasingly magical atmosphere. Penguin really liked the hall of mirrors, so we went in and out of there a few times.
We bought a drink from a stall holder and sat down on a bench by the carousel for a while, just enjoying the place and taking it all in, before moving on to the woodland trail which had its starting point just opposite the castle.
The first special feature of the woodland trail was a little hut where we found the White Rabbit! He had an ‘Eat Me’ cake and a ‘Drink Me’ potion, and seemed quite anxious about all the strange things happening in this Wonderland…
Opposite to the White Rabbit’s hut was the path leading to Santa’s grotto. Here as well as in other places, they’d gone all in with fake snow on the trees, creating a pretty realistic winter wonderland. In fact, realistic enough for Penguin to eat a pinch of snow before he realised it wasn’t actually real snow (not recommending anyone to do this, and we didn’t mean to let him taste it, he was just too quick for me).
As we ventured further into the woods, things got ‘curiouser and curiouser’…
We walked past the hookah smoking Caterpillar, and then encountered the Mad Hatter (in real human form) and the Cheshire Cat, and visited the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Further down the path we met the Queen of Hearts (who was very much a panto style English queen), and she offered us “a piece of coal”, which turned out to be a chocolate heart. Penguin happily gobbled that down straight away.
By the time we emerged from the woods it was completely dark outside, and there were now some moving light displays projected onto the castle and nearby trees. Unfortunately I only captured a shaky video of it, so you’ll have to make do with this still from my video clip, or even better go and see it for yourself if you have the cance!
We popped into the castle shop and found that there was also a (permanent) exhibition of miniature model houses to be found here! It showed what life would have been like in large houses from Tudor times to the Victorian era.
Before leaving the shop, we encouraged Penguin to choose a Christmas decoration to hang in our tree, and after a good while he picked out a very glittery red apple.
We almost didn’t want to go home at the end of it all, and Penguin kept stopping to look back at all the wonderful lights. I can’t say I blame him, and this visit to Hever counts as one of my own top experiences in life so far. Such a beautiful place and an amazing Christmas display!
If you’d like to visit Hever Castle this Christmas period, you can find all details about times, prices etc here: https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/whats-on/hever-castle-christmas/
Thanks so much for this time Hever Castle, we hope to be back again before too long! x
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