Ightham Mote estate is a medieval moated manor house set deep within the charming Kent countryside. Hubby was in charge of choosing our port of call – thinking that we had never visited the area. But as we arrived, and I saw the unmistakable Oast houses that litter the skyline, I had a serious case of déjà vu.
Back in 2010, my sister had organised a country walk from Sevenoaks train station and we had strolled past Ightham on our journey. I recall standing on the road situated to the side of the gardens, and marvelling at the house nestled in the valley, watching all the visitors milling about and wondering what it was called. Fast forward to now, and it was a pleasant surprise to finally discover what I had been looking at all those years ago.
Ightham Mote was once described by historian David Starkey as ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses’. Built nearly 700 years ago, the house has been owned by Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high society Victorians. The last owner was an American man, Charles Henry Robinson, who donated the estate to The National Trust.It was a crisp, winter’s day for us to explore the gardens, water features and orchard. It was so cold, that there were pockets of ice on the pathways which I nearly slipped on. Monkey didn’t care and immediately ran across all three moat bridges and pretended he was a knight of a castle. He also insisted on knocking on all the doors.
Monkey was fascinated by the pond and I had to dig out all my pennies for him to make several wishes.Walking into the famous central courtyard, we were hit by the size of the house and its 70 rooms. From this vantage point, you are able to see the different building phases which have been constructed over the different centuries. Monkey, though, was most interested in the Grade I listed dog kennel. He called it his ‘playhouse’. We just thought, ‘That must have been one hell of a big dog…’From the picturesque courtyard, we then took a tour around the billiard room and inside Mr Robinson’s private apartments. It was interesting to see some of the historic artefacts, as well as the original furnishings of the 1950s era.
Although I wanted to check out Scathes Wood, the weather was getting chilly and Monkey began complaining that his hands were hurting. Therefore, we had no other option but to head over to the Mote Cafe for some tea. Even though it was busy, with other folks who had the same idea, we managed to find a table. Monkey stopped moaning once the Victoria Sponge arrived…
It’s a shame we weren’t able to explore Ightham Mote and its surroundings properly. I can imagine that in warmer temperatures, with the flowers in bloom, it would be a completely different experience. In Spring for instance, the woods are blanketed by bluebells, meanwhile the lawns are open for picnics and lazy strolls. So, I think it would be rude not to make a special excursion back to get a different view of this sublime country estate – and to try another slice of cake.Igtham Mote, Mote Rd, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0NT; Open 10.00am-17.00pm daily; Adult £10.80; Child £5.40; Family £27.00