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Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent, DA4 0JA
01322 862114 (pls leave message)
See site for opening times
Set within 120 acres of beautiful Kent countryside, Lullingstone Castle is one of England's oldest family estates.
The present Manor House and Gatehouse, which overlook a stunning 15-acre lake, were built in 1497 and have been home to the same family ever since. Both Henry VIII and Queen Anne are known to have been regular visitors. Hidden in the grounds, alongside the River Darent, visitors will also find "Queen Anne's" Bathhouse and an 18th century Ice House.
Lullingstone also has the UK's first ever 'World Garden of Plants' containing plants from around the globe, planted in their respective countries of origin. It was the vision of modern day plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke.
Open from 30th March until 29th September 2013
Times and prices are subject to change. Contact venue before setting out.
We went to Lullingstone Castle last week end. We were greeted very enthusiastically at the entrance and told all about where to go/what to look out for. We were meeting BIL and his DC there and there are 2 separate entrances to the house and gardens, so of course we went to opposite entrances and took a while to find each other --typical-- . Something to remember if you're meeting people there! Everyone we saw who worked there seemed to be genuinely passionate and proud to work there and it had a real family atmosphere to the place.
We went straight for the world gardens and the children (10, 7 and 2) particularly enjoyed squeezing through the small overgrown paths through the countries and looking at the totem pole. It was fun to try to work out where we were in the world --and that where DH thought were the Canary Islands was actually South America-- [grin] . There were lots of unusual plants to admire and the garden is really starting to look well developed and mature now (DH and visited when it first opened a number of years ago and it's really filled out and looks very well established now).
They also have some polytunnels/greenhouses with more temperate plants. The little plastic bird hiding in the plants of the smoking pond (yes, there is a smoking pond [wink] ) was a particular surprise hit with DD (2 yo) (oh to be 2 again and be overjoyed with such things) and the spiky greenhouse (it truly lives up to it's name - do not touch the plants they are very sharp [bitter experience] ) was interesting. We even had a volcano dance by the 7 yo to try to stir the volcano into erupting. Sadly it didn't work (though not from lack of effort).
All that garden globe trotting required a cup of tea and cake (as these things do). There's a tea shop in a marquee in the grounds between the house and world gardens. The cakes looked scrummy and home-madey and got all eaten up (sadly not by me. I will resist, I ^will^ resist ). FYI when we went the tea and coffe were around £1.50 and the cakes £2.60 (from memory, so don't hold me to that) and they also had some cold drinks and sandwiches/rolls. Not an extensive menu but everything you needed.
Unfortunately we didn't manage to see the house. It's guided tour and on the day when we went there was only one at 2pm. Check this before you go so you don't miss out if you want to look in the house. The house is stunning from the outside and I bet it has so many incredible stories to tell from what it's seen over the years. There's a nice wide open space outside the front of the house which is great for a run around to wear the DC out and a beautiful lake to the side of the house.
A surprise huge hit for the DC was a river walk in the grounds to the ice house and beyond which is hidden to the side of the car park (the one accessed from the main road). We spotted lots of unusual looking snails on the walk which from google we think are ‘Roman Snails'. Who knew a game of spot the snail --and try not to tread on one, opps, too late-- could be so entertaining?!
The main issue we had as a family visiting which you might find useful is it doesn't open until midday, so with toddler afternoon naps we usually prefer to go to places in the morning. It was an enjoyable attraction to spend a Saturday afternoon. The only reason I've given it 3 stars and not more is to make it even better for us (when comparing it to other local attractions we've been to) there would be perhaps some garden games in the grounds for children to play with (a box with some balls and racquets or some such) and a slightly later house tour due to napping toddler. We did have a really lovely time. When we visited it was pretty quiet (weather was quite overcast which may have put people off) and I loved the fact that it felt like a family run attraction with people who really care about the castle, both its history and future.
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