Set in a spectacular location high above the famous White Cliffs, Dover Castle commands the shortest sea crossing between England and the Continent and boasts an immensely eventful history. Visitors to the Castle today can step inside the Great Tower and be immersed in the medieval world of King Henry ll’s Royal Court or re-live the turbulent war years through a tour of the Secret Wartime Tunnels.
13th Century Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Set in magnificent gardens, the castle has a homely atmosphere and houses historic 16th century Tudor portraits, furniture and tapestries. Other artefacts include two Books of Hours (prayer books), both signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn.
Built in 1540 during the reign of King Henry VIII, Walmer Castle was originally designed as part of a chain of coastal artillery defences. Centuries of domestic refinements have transformed the Castle from a fortress to an elegant stately home with beautiful gardens and it is now the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Duke of Wellington held the post for 23 years and enjoyed his time spent at the castle and in recent years Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother made regular visits.
Set in the rural Weald of Kent surrounded by picturesque countryside and ancient parkland, Penshurst Place and Gardens has changed little over the centuries. The mediaeval masterpiece has been the seat of the Sidney family since 1552 and it retains the warmth and character of a much-loved family home. Today, Philip Sidney, Viscount De L'Isle, continues the family guardianship of this wonderful old house and garden with his wife Isobel and their two children, Philip and Sophia.
Knole is set at the heart of a 1,000 acre deer park, the only remaining medieval deer park in Kent, where Sika & Fallow deer roam freely amongst ancient oak, beech and chestnut trees. Knole's fascinating links with kings, queens & the nobility, as well as its literary connections with Vita Sackville-West and her close friend, Virginia Woolf, make this one of the most intriguing houses in England. Thirteen superb state rooms are laid out much as they were in the 18th century to impress visitors by the wealth and standing of the Sackville family, who continue to live at Knole today. The house includes Royal Stuart furniture; paintings by Gainsborough, Van Dyck and Reynolds as well as many 17th century tapestries.
Scotney is not one but two houses. At the top of the hill is the new house, designed by Anthony Salvin in Elizabethan style and built in 1837 for Edward Hussey III, who took the “Picturesque” style as his inspiration. At the bottom of the valley are the romantic ruins of a medieval castle and moat. This is the focal point of the celebrated gardens featuring spectacular displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia in May/June.
Nestling in a sunken valley, Ightham Mote, dating from 1320 with important later additions and alterations, is a rare example of a moated medieval manor house. Ightham Mote has many special features, including a Great Hall, crypt, Tudor chapel with a hand-painted ceiling and the apartments of the American donor Charles Henry Robinson. An enchanting feature is the Grade I-listed dog kennel, situated in the picturesque courtyard. Ightham Mote also offers lovely gardens and water features, with lakeside and woodland walks.
Bought by Sir Winston Churchill for its magnificent views over the Weald of Kent, Chartwell was his home and the place from which he drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life. The rooms remain much as they were when he lived here, with pictures, books and personal mementoes evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of this great statesman.
Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, has a unique place in the history of science. Visitors to Darwin’s home cane see the study where he wrote 'On the Origin of Species', still as it was when he worked here, and stroll through the extensive gardens that so inspired the great scientist. Equally fascinating are the glimpses you get into the life of the Darwin’s in the family rooms and the exciting interactive multimedia tour, narrated by David Attenborough, to tell you more about how Darwin developed his ideas.
In Kent, England’s oldest county, you can discover more castles and historic houses than in any other region so choosing a top ten is no easy decision! Take inspiration from this list and get in touch with thousands of years of heritage.
Leeds Castle, one of the most romantic and historic buildings in England, has been home to royalty, lords and ladies for almost 900 years. Visitors to the castle today can wander through the castle rooms, visit the internationally acclaimed aviary, enjoy the tranquility of the gardens or attend one of the immensely popular summer concerts.