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“The Sound of Silence”

Hever Castle & Gardens
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Hever
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the intriguing second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. The castle is a romantic double moated 13th-century castle which houses historic 16th-century portraits, paintings, furniture, tapestries and treasures. Comprehensive information on the history of Hever Castle can be found in the guide book and audio tours are available from the Hever Shop, Visitor Centre or castle entrance. Visitors can explore the magnificent gardens for all seasons which include Italian, Rose and Tudor gardens, topiary, yew maze and splashing water maze, or take a stroll around the informal areas of Sunday Walk and Anne Boleyn's Walk. Hever hosts a number of special events throughout the season including gardening events with the head gardener and his team. Family fun includes jousting tournaments each summer, one of our most popular events.
Useful Information: Wheelchair access, Activities for older children, Activities for young children
west wickham, kent
Level Contributor
22 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
“The Sound of Silence”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 August 2014

After a lovely picnic on the pontoon, Sunday evening's Simon and Garfunkel's Story certainly wasn't silent it was absolutely de rigueur. Next show is in Tunbridge Wells soon so if you missed Hever's open air experience I would certainly recommend you try the TW Assembly Rooms. My favourite was The Boxer but Cecilia and Mrs Robinson were great too. Brought back found memories.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
Thank amanda c
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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eastbourne
Level Contributor
95 reviews
26 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 62 helpful votes
“Lots to do whole day outing”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 August 2014

I came with a group, there is so much to do, we left not having done everything. The kids enjoyed the water maze and the castle. We didn't get to go on the lake as we ran out of time. Overall a great day out

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank elaineharris77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Dormansland, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
61 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
“Beautiful castle.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 August 2014

This is a slightly delayed review. We went to see Father Christmas at Hever Castle last December. I knocked one point off for the Father Christmas experience. The staff really weren't that bothered and Santa himself was half hearted at best. We would not return here to see Santa, however we would return here to see the castle. Even in the rain and wind it was stunning. We spent a lot of time looking around and reading the history of the castle. I hope we will return before Autumn begins because it seems to have even more to offer in the summer months.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank Kim79my
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sevenoaks, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
40 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“An excellent concert”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 August 2014

Saw Big Girls Don't Cry at The Festival Theatre at Hever Castle as part of their summer festival. It was a very good show with music from Jersey Boys, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Very professional and a lovely setting on a summers evening, the pavilion restaurant was open and many people were enjoying a picnic before the show on the grass areas. Easy parking and all in all to be recommended.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
Thank david f
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Hever Castle - needs improvement”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 August 2014

I, my mother (disabled) and my father all visited for the jousting in July.
Disabled parking was excellent. The castle looked pretty from the outside. That is where the experience changed.

The gift shop was extortionately overpriced and therefore could not buy any merchandise as would have expected at least a little memento for my mother.
My father was able to enter, however, my mother and I, pushing her in her wheelchair, were unable to enter the castle though we did go over the drawbridge as far as the 'step' then had to turn around. Why they can't provide a ramp is a mystery to me as most other organisations even castles will provide this and fail to see how this would be for ‘health and safety’ reasons.
The statement below is quite wrong:

Castle: Visitors should consider access to the Castle according to their individual needs. From the drawbridge there is one step down to the Gatehouse followed by three steps down to the Courtyard. We regret that it is not possible to install a ramp for these steps for health and safety reasons. From the Courtyard there is one step up and down into the Castle’s Entrance Hall.

......Particularly wrong is the sentence "one step down to the Gatehouse followed by three steps down to the Courtyard." This was totally untrue.

My mother is able to stand for a short time and would have been able to take 'one step down' followed by 'three steps down to the Courtyard' which is why we came to Hever so she could enter the castle - albeit only the ground floor, and see the jousting as having been unwell for some time this was her first outing which was supposed to be a lovely day out.

The steps were very very large steps, of which the description should have been ‘a large step down, two to three paces across and three very large steps down, five paces across the courtyard then up other large steps’.

Having waited for the jousting to begin in the courtyard and the appearance of the King and Queen for ages and ages in the searing heat with no shaded places for her wheelchair except under a tree where I had to stand for ages, we decided to make our own way to the jousting area.

At no place in the leaflet nor on the website does it mention that this is NOT accessible for wheelchair users. I was, however, quite determined that having travelled a long way that she should see the jousting and struggled to push her uphill over bumps and lumps and more large hilly bumps and then down to the jousting area. There was no path for disabled people in wheelchairs, nor pram users who were also struggling with their very young children.
We waited for a very very long time for the jousting team to appear. Way longer than that advertised and the extremely earpiercingly loud music piped in from loudspeakers behind us was way too loud.

(Though when the jousting team finally arrived, they were keen and enthusiastic, good showmen all round.)

The temperature that day was in the late 70’s at least more like 80 degrees where we were and for my mother in her wheelchair, the very young children who were becoming overheated especially infants in their prams, there was no shade in which they could sit nor take shelter from this the searing heat. ALL THE SHELTERED PLACES, of which you had to pay extra and get there very early were all taken up and sold out. Again, this is not mentioned in the leaflet nor on the website.

My elderly father became quite ill and could not tolerate the heat even with the brolly he borrowed to shelter himself, it was dangerously hot for the young and old. My mother also became overwhelmed by the heat and we had to leave the jousting area, whereby I had to push her back up the steep and very bumpy incline.

I had to buy them ice creams and extra water which came to over £9 for 3 ice creams, a coke and a water. Ridiculously priced.

I strongly advised Hever Castle that before next year they:
• Provide a smooth and clear pathway to the jousting area.
• Provide a robust and purpose built shaded area- albeit canvas overhead shelter, in which the elderly, mothers with young children and infants can shelter from the sun.
• Provide reasonably priced drinks near the jousting area and tap water sprinklers/ sponges sprayers for the elderly, young mothers and their children to keep cool in searing heat.
• Mention in their leaflets and website that the castle is totally inaccessible to wheelchair users and disabled people with limited movement, who need to be in a wheelchair most of the time.
• Dramatically lower the price of the ice creams, water and fizzy drinks for families who have already paid a high price to enter the premises and do not need to be fleeced any further.
• Stock less overpriced items in the gift shop so people can actually purchase a keepsake.

What a very expensive, stressful and disappointing day.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
7 Thank sara h
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sarah C, Public Relations Manager at Hever Castle & Gardens, responded to this review, 22 August 2014
We are sorry to hear that you had a stressful and disappointing day, however we cannot agree with everything you say.

Starting with the gift shop, our prices compare favourably against other similar venues and even the high street. Clearly there will always be cheaper items on the internet, but internet sites do not have the cost of maintaining and staffing a shop. We work very hard at keeping our prices competitive as our hope is that more people will use us as a resource and indeed that is one of the reasons we offer a 10% discount to annual pass holders. Our Retail Manager ensures that the shop has several items at various price points up to £10 which people can buy as mementos of their visit. He also stocks more exclusive Hever branded items priced at over £10 which customers have actually asked for. If you are aware of particular items which are overpriced against other well-known tourist attractions, we would be very happy to look at this, as it is important to us that we are at least competitive and hopefully cheaper.

With regard to the castle entrance, the description of the access on our website is accurate. We have no interest in misleading people. The first three steps are in fact 4½ inches (11cm) deep and the bottom step is 5½ inches (14cm) deep. As far as we can tell, the majority of steps in houses are typically 7 to 8 inches (18-20cm) deep. We cannot put a ramp there, as stated in our access statement, because there is not sufficient space to put one in at the correct angle. We would also have the problem that the ramp would be a trip hazard for other people. If you can give us an example of a castle with a courtyard as small as ours which has ramps across four steps, we would be most interested to see it. The other difficulty is that if one has too many ramps, they then become obstacles potentially for people trying to escape the castle in the event of a fire. We do regularly consult with the fire brigade and our insurers, plus we have had audits from the local authority and they feel that we approach disabled access appropriately. We have a great many disabled visitors at Hever Castle and a great many return. You are right that it is not easy to get into the 700 year old castle and we do not claim that it is, however many wheelchair users do enjoy the ground floor and take advantage of the iPad tour of the upstairs – which sadly are not accessible because of the narrow staircases.

With regard to the jousting, we are not aware that the jousting was late. A great many disabled people do go to the jousting and mostly they do not have any trouble accessing it. Neither does the access seem to put off the phenomenal number of families who bring young children to the jousting field in buggies. We do, of course, have the difficulty of the geography of our land. It is not flat, but there are surfaced paths all the way to the jousting field, albeit not necessarily the most direct route. You will be pleased to hear that we are reviewing the literature we give to people as they enter the grounds and we plan to show the best routes for people to take to get to the jousting if they are a wheelchair user.

In terms of shade we introduced some covered seating a few years ago and we have planted a significant number of trees around the arena in the hope that over time they will provide welcome shade. Again the difficulty is that if one covered an area to create more shade, then those behind would have a restricted view and when we have 3,000 or more people watching the jousting, we need most of the slope behind. To create sufficient shade there you would have to have a very high structure and it would have to be made to a very high standard to withstand the strong winds we occasionally get. Last year we lost two marquees which were totally destroyed by winds. Saying all of this, we are determined to try and create more shade and we are exploring possible options.

We do have someone walking around the grounds selling drinks and ice cream and of course if people do not want that, they have the option of buying something before they come in. In terms of the price, the caterers are not allowed to sell ice creams and drinks for more than the typical price at similar sized visitor attractions. The caterers have to do benchmarking every year and we are generally cheaper than the National Trust, English Heritage and much cheaper than Historic Royal Palaces. Indeed our prices are not, to our knowledge, more expensive than at any other attraction that receives over 250,000 visitors in the South East or London. We would be very happy for you to point out an example where other venues might be cheaper, on a like for like basis where the venue is of a similar size with a similar number of visitors per year. We are looking at providing some drinking fountains, as I think this would be a good idea. Alas it is not straight-forward, but it is something we wish to happen.

We feel it is important not to rip people off and we imagine that is why we have so many return visitors. Indeed every visitor’s poll we have done shows that the vast majority come here because of someone’s recommendation.

The problem is that heritage attractions cost a phenomenal amount of money to maintain. No-one is being greedy in terms of what they charge, but if you want to maintain a building that is several hundred years old, often utilising the most expensive and beautiful materials, it simply cannot be done on the cheap and as the castle and gardens are privately owned the Government does not give us any help at all. Hever Castle, by way of example, has approximately 100,000 panes of glass and in the eight years I have been here, we have spent in excess of £60,000 just maintaining and repairing our windows and we have not covered even half of the windows. Most of the guttering is copper or lead and is probably 100 times more expensive than plastic which most buildings have now. Indeed the last quote we had to make copper guttering for us in 2008 was £500 per metre. We have in excess of 1,500 metres of guttering and downpipes. We also look after, preserve and clean a substantial Tudor portrait collection which usually involves specialists and costs hundreds of pounds just for one picture. There are 120 acres of gardens to maintain including a large classical sculpture collection (some are 2000 years old) and again we are sure you will appreciate that this cannot be done cheaply.

We do not like people going away from Hever Castle unhappy. We hope you will understand the reasons we have given for why things are the way they are here at Hever and indeed at most heritage attractions of our size.
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