I went here with the family today. It's situated in the Kent Countryside, about 15 miles from Chartwell House. Never Castle was previously owned by the Howard family in 16th century England and Anne Boleyn stayed here for some time during her Courtship with Henry VIII. Anne Of Cleeves also received this as a sort of divorce present from Henry after he described her as his Flanders Mare and could not bring himself to remain married to her.
There is ample parking outside and there were lots of families here for the annual Easter Egg hunt when we arrived. It's not cheap to enter, but because our daughter is a student at college she got in for a lower rate which saved us a couple of rounds. At the entrance thee is no pressure put on you to joint the National Trust or whoever owns this place now. You are given a guide of the castle and visitors can either just pay to see the gardens or see the castle too. Parts of the castle are not for public use as there are private quarters there and these are used for special occasions and wedding guests when the occasion calls for it. There's even an outdoor swimming pool for the private guests.
After paying at the entrance visitors walk down to the lake and then turn left and walk through the Italian themed gardens. Once you have walked through these the castle comes into view. To me, it looks just like a large house, rather than a castle, although it has spiral staircases and a portcullis at the entrance.
When we were there the views of the castle were somewhat spoilt by a few large Easter Bunnies due to the egg hunt, but if you find the right spot there are some beautiful views of the castle and gardens. Before entering the castle we went round the maze. The entrance is at the side by the moat and with a bit of luck you can find the centre within 10 minutes. The exit is a short walk of about 10 yards from the centre of the maze to the front of the castle.
We found lunch exceedingly expensive and I would advice visitors to take a packed lunch if they are not prepared to open their wallets a little. A bowl of soup, a sandwich (which was no more than a large ham roll costing about £6), a small chocolate tart, a piece of Rocky Road, a pot of tea and a large sausage roll cost well over £20.
However, after lunch we went into the castle. As Castle's go it is quite small and a gentleman dressed like Cardinal Wolsey was checking the tickets as we arrived. There are audio guides if you want them but again you have to pay for them. As we didn't get them we don't know the cost of hiring them.
When you walk through the castle you go one way and there are guides there to assist you. Throughout the castle you can see the significant renovations carried out by the Astor family after their purchase of the castle in the early 20th century. Without their significant investment the castle would have ended up as just a ruin. They built a substantial annexe at the rear of the castle in a tudor theme which only adds to the scenery. It looks magnificent but is only available to guests using the castle for a private function or a wedding.
Walking through the castle there is evidence of the tudor history from early 16th century use through to Elizabeth I. There are plenty of antiques including Henry and Anne's Coat of Arms, examples of Anne Of Cleeves Crest, historic bed frames and copies of books of hours and letters from Anne to Henry. The rest of the castle is dedicated to later owners, including the Astors, and even mentions Churchill using the place for his paintings.
After completing the tour visitors exit into the Courtyard inside the castle itself, before departing through the portcullis and over the small bridge to the main area. There is a gift shop off to the right as well as a small military museum dedicated to the Gentlemen and Yeomanry of the Kent Sharpshooters. The original gentlemen were the officers and the yeoman were the farm workers, as everybody knew their place in those days. Within the gift shop is a small museum dedicated to miniature houses and these are beautiful.
Visitors walking round the gardens have some lovely views of the castle as some parts are elevated to give budding photographers some lovely opportunities. There is a small area to the right of the castle dedicated to archery practice. However, paying £4 for 5 arrows or £18 for 40, if a few of you want to chance your arm, is again a little pricey.
Overall, the place is very impressive and the inside of the castle is small but picturesque. However, it is expensive to visit and in our opinion the food is costly and not worth the extra outlay. If I was to visit again I would take a packed lunch as there are plenty of places here to eat as long as you take away the rubbish afterwards.
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