To my great joy, I soon discovered that Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle, was just a short train ride away from London, so of course I had to go and see it! Not only is it another castle to visit, but it’s also connected to Anne Boleyn – I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip by me. Not even getting stranded in the middle of nowhere could dampen my spirits about this day, and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere did indeed almost happen!
There are two options when travelling for visiting Hever Castle. You can take the train to a stop that’s a little further, but a busy station, and catch a taxi from there to the castle. Or you can take the train to a stop that’s a little closer and pretty much deserted, and then walk to the castle from there. I chose option number two, largely because I didn’t want to spend money on a taxi if it was unnecessary, but also because I was told the walk to the castle was quite scenic and I felt like being adventurous.
So I took the train to Hever Station, a tiny station in the middle of nowhere that was indeed completely deserted – there isn’t even anyone assigned to work at the station. There’s just a speaker box for you to call someone if there’s a problem. I got off the train with I think just two other people. Before I left the vicinity of the train station, I checked the board to see what times the train back to London was due to arrive, that way I could return to the train station and not have to wait forever for a train. I saw one was supposed to come at 5:05 and so I decided to aim for that one as my departure train. With that in mind, I set off on what was to be probably my most venturesome day thus far.
My biggest qualm with choosing the walking route to the castle, of course, was my neverending fear of getting lost. But Google Maps was my friend that day and I followed it to the castle without any problems. From the train station there were two roads you could take. The other couple that had gotten off the train went down the road to the right, but my map was telling me to take the left route, so, with some hesitation about going off on my own, I headed to the left.
It was probably about a twenty minute walk to the castle, and it was quite pretty, all countryside and greenery. The only problem was the street was quite narrow and there was no sidewalk or even any space to walk off the road, as either side of the road had bushes right up next to it. So every time a car came along, I’d have to squish up against the bushes, and some of those bushes had stinging nettle, which had a fun time of attacking my legs. Also, every time I rounded a curve, I pictured a car zooming up the other way, not being able to see me, and WHAM, no more me to speak of.
But I was happy, because it was a pleasant walk and it gave me views like this:
Plus, I was going to Hever Castle, and like I said, nothing could dampen my mood, not stinging nettle nor fear of being squished by a car.
And then at last I was there! And it was wonderful and it was beautiful and it was everything I ever wanted.
Anne Boleyn’s childhood home! When she was queen, her motto was The Most Happy, and I was certainly among The Most Happy in that moment, and every moment that followed that day. It was a bright, sunny, gorgeous day, and I was indeed Most Happy.
I went into the Yew Maze first, which was actually a bit of a challenge so that was fun to get through (I do love me a good maze).
Then it was into the castle I went! Oh, it was marvelous. There were so many portraits of Anne Boleyn, and overall it just had really lovely room set ups. They had some of the things that belonged to her, like prayer books she had written in and had her signature, which was super cool to see. No photos were allowed inside the castle, so I can’t show you its loveliness, but I was enthralled by everything.
Hever Castle is surrounded by vast grounds, so that’s where my exploration took me next. I went through the gardens, went around the lake area, checked out the Water Maze (although I didn’t go in as I didn’t want to get wet and there were waaaaay too many screaming children running around in there). I went and had some tea and cake, which felt very fancy, and I ended off at the Tudor Maze.
The Tudor Maze was a maze, where to find the right path, you’d have to go through the archways in the order of Henry VIII’s wives, which for me was easy peasy, but none the less fun. At the end was a tower which you could climb and then you went down a slide to exit. Probably catered more so to children, but also to history nerds who are children at heart (AKA me).
My day at Hever Castle had come to an end, and I walked back to the train station to catch the 5:05 train. Unfortunately it never came. There ended up being a problem with the train lines further up, so all trains through the area had been cancelled. This was announced over the loudspeaker, as again, no one actually works at this train station. Hmm, problem, how am I going to get out of here without a train? They had dispatched a bus to replace the missing train, but the pick up spot for that looked to be all the way back at the castle, and by the time I would have gotten there the bus would have come and gone, and by the time I would have gotten back to the train station, the trains may have started again but I might miss the last train. So that was a dilemma.
Luckily, I was not the only person stranded at this train station. There was a very nice young French couple with their baby there as well. I probably would have panicked much more had I been alone. By an even greater stroke of luck, a taxi pulled into the station (again, this is a completely deserted, in the middle of nowhere train station, taxis don’t just come there on their own whim). He was there to pick up a passenger that was supposed to have departed from the six o’clock train, but as that train had not arrived, the taxi driver was without a fare. The French couple asked if he could maybe get them back to London. He said he could get them as far as East Croyden, where from there they’d be able to easily catch a train into London. They agreed and invited me to join them, which was a much appreciated gesture. I had my out!
I can’t remember how long exactly that taxi ride was but it was the longest I’ve ever taken, well over an hour I believe, and when we pulled into the train station at East Croyden, the couple wouldn’t even let me pay a part of the fare. So that was extremely kind of them and I couldn’t believe how lucky I had gotten to not be stranded in the middle of nowhere. I swear, you meet the nicest people when you’re travelling alone. A train to London came right away and then I was home safe and sound not long after that.
All in all, it was a wonderful, wonderful day.