When you think of a 14-century moated castle, romantic and beguiling doesn’t really spring to mind – well not if you imagine a Game of Thrones-esque fortress rising from the ground in a bleak midwinter.
However, there really is a fairytale castle set in the Tunbridge Wells countryside – a National Trust gem which we visited back in the summer called Scotney Castle. And, with over 700 acres of parkland and woodland to explore, as well a Victorian country house mansion to visit – there is plenty for families to enjoy.
It’s not difficult to see why Scotney Castle estate was once described as: ‘Like stepping into a picture’. Not least of all the picturesque surroundings and the delightful gardens filled with bright, colourful rhododendrons, azaleas, wisteria and roses – with the centrepiece being moated Scotney Old Castle, which stands on an island on a small lake.
The country house itself was built by Edward Hussey III from the sandstone quarried from the grounds of the Old Castle and is positioned to overlook the Castle. You can take a tour of the house inside and view several rooms, including the ‘Salvin’, which was designed by the house’s architect Anthony Salvin.
We didn’t go inside, purely because it was such a glorious day and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine. But I was surprised to find out some quirky house facts including former PM Margaret Thatcher used to rent the Belfry flat during the 1970-80s, when it served as a weekend escape, and Richard Gere starred in a 1979 film here called Yanks.
We even went inside the castle to see some of the priest holes – hiding places for Catholic priests during a time of persecution around 1558 when Elizabeth I wanted to eradicate them. Of course, Monkey tried to climb inside…
After wandering amongst the outside ruins covered in creepers and an abundance of bright foliage, we came to the water’s edge and Monkey spent a while counting all the ducks swimming in the lake.
We then went back towards the main house and took the path down to the rock garden before heading to the walled garden which had fresh vegetables and produce for sale. Monkey enjoyed running through the rows of vegetable patches and looking at the scarecrows. It was so peaceful.
By this time we were all melting, so grandma kindly offered to buy us all ice-cream and we all sat under the shade of the tree gobbling up our sweet treats before they melted into oblivion.
Had we had more energy, we could have taken a stroll along the nature play trail and let Monkey climb through tyres, balance on a fallen tree and build a den in the Wilderness Camp. We could even have taken the estate trail to the working hop farm and the unmistakable oast houses.
But we were all too lethargic from the summer heat to go much further than our immediate vicinity. And to be honest, our surroundings were picture perfect enough.
It goes without saying that Scotney Castle is available for private hire – a truly magical scene for a spectacular wedding – and a truly enchanting setting just to while away a few hours. We were certainly captivated by its charm.
National Trust’s Scotney Castle Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 8J; Open 10.00am-7.00pm daily; Adult: £13.00; Child: £6.50