William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in America moved to England in 1891, and later purchased Hever Castle and Gardens. Between 1904 and 1908 he set about the restoration of the castle, and the creation of the lake and the 125 acres of magnificent gardens that we see today.
Over 1,000 men worked for 4 years on the grand design turning marshland into the spectacular gardens you see today, with around 800 men taking two years to dig out the 38-acre (14.2 ha) lake at the far end of the Italian Garden. Today visitors can enjoy wonderful walks around the lake or hire a row boat, canoe or pedalo to further explore the lake.
One of the most magnificent areas of the gardens is the Italian Garden, which was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s outstanding collection of Italian sculptures.
The garden is only now reaching its full maturity and includes the colourful walled Rose Garden which contains over 4,000 bushes. I visited Hever a few years ago in November and was amazed to see so many roses still in bloom. The head gardener told me it was largely because of the long south-facing brick wall which captured the warmth of the sun and radiated it back to the roses.
Hever Castle & Gardens, has its own Hever Rose which was launched by Dame Judi Dench, the award-winning British actress in 2011.
Bred by the highly regarded rose hybridiser, the late Colin Horner, the floribunda ‘Hever Castle Rose’ (Horquinsey) produces masses of velvety deep-red blooms which fade to cerise, offset by golden-yellow stamens. Growing to a height of 4-5ft, the Hever Castle Rose has a long flowering period from May to the first frosts in October, and has proved itself resistant to disease in rose trials.
There are many water features around the gardens, including Half Moon Pond, the Cascade, the cool and shady grottoes, the formal Loggia fountain inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome, and the less formal Two Sisters’ Pond.
Other areas that you can stroll through include the Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk, with its collection of trees planted more than 100 years ago.
In recent years, the present owners have made several changes to the gardens, including the installation of the Millennium Fountain that can be found on Sixteen Acre Island forming an interesting feature at the far end of this more informal area of the gardens. The 100-metre herbaceous border has been reinstated and Sunday Walk and Church Gill Walk created, providing a peaceful woodland garden following the course of a stream. In addition to the existing Yew Maze, a splashing Water Maze has been built on Sixteen Acre Island – a unique feature which is especially popular with children.
Hever Castle and Gardens with its beauty and fascinating history are definitely a “must” for visitors to Britain.
Why not make your visit a truly memorable occasion by staying at Hever Castle in one of its lovely rooms situated within the castle grounds.
For details and bookings of this unique and truly exceptional accommodation click here.