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Fun, Fashion and Fairytales at Forty

Princess Obsession.

As a child, I was never in a rush to grow up. I was content to live in my world of make believe and dressing like a princess. In my forties, I still prefer to dress like a princess but it's not always appropriate, however I've come to realise that life is too short to worry about what people may think. Life is too short to not do what I want to do and dress like I want to dress, so if I want to be a princess, then I will be a princess. And what better place to embrace this fantasy than at one of England's many beautiful castles/manor houses. 

So in this blog I'm going to share with you some of my favourites in the south of England that I've got to explore in the past year. There are many others, some I have visited previously and others that I hope to visit soon, such as but not limited to Leeds Castle, Kew Palace, Windsor Castle, Broughton Castle, Herstmonceux Castle, Blenheim Palace and Waddesdon Manor. 

I'd love to hear of any others you recommend. Let me know in the comments section.

Most of those I have listed will require pre-booking in advance of your visit.

Hever Castle

Let's start with one of my favourites. Welcome to the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. 

You will find Hever Castle in Edenbridge, Kent. Built in the 13th century, it is a beautiful double moated castle and whilst it might not be very big, it is beautiful mantained and intact and set in the most beautiful grounds. Here you will find a yew maze, a boating lake, a rose garden, and an Italianate garden as well as some childrens play areas and restaurants.

Though out the year you will find many floral displays such as daffodils, tulips and of course all the stunning roses in the walled rose garden. Plus if you book to visit the gardens only you can take your dog (they must be kept on a lead at all times, and please pick up their mess).

It's an absolutely beautiful place to live out your princess fantasy, I certainly did, despite the pouring rain.

Highclere Castle

Recognised worldwide as the infamous Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle in Berkshire is an imposing site. Built in the late 1600s with extensive renovation in the mid 1800s, it's set in beautiful grounds, consisting of a wild meadow, an orchard, secret walled garden and much more.

Inside the castle boasts a series of grand rooms and impressive library. There is also a secondary exhibition in the basement that showcases the 5th Earl of Carnarvons part in the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.

Scotney Castle

This beautiful castle in Kent gives you two castles for the price of one, a beautiful fairytale moated castle and a grand Victorian mansion set in a stunning woodland estate. Again, the grounds are dog friendly if you want your furry friend to explore too. There is a restaurant on site and a picnic area too, and in my opinion it's the best place to live your cottage/princess core fantasy.

 

Sissinghurst Castle

Not so much a castle as a tower but beautiful regardless. Sissinghurst in Kent has some of the most beautiful gardens you'll ever seen, including the white garden, an orchard, a herb garden, a rose garden and many others. 

It is the former home of writer Vita Sackville-West but prior to that it was a prison in the 1700s and home to the women's land army.

Arundel Castle

This impressive castle in West Sussex dates back to 1067 with it's imposing Norman keep. Newer wings were added through the 1700-1800s and it is absolutely huge with a great hall to rival that of Hogwarts. it also houses the most incredible library that would make Belle proud. 

You'll also discover beautiful gardens with the most magical follies that are overlooked by Arundel Cathedral. if you don't feel like royalty here, you never will.

Hampton Court Palace

Does it get much grander than the former residence of King Henry 8th.

There is so much to see at Hampton Court Palace, including the great kitchens, the banquet hall and the stunning chapel. There is plenty to explore in the grounds too.

The palace was home to many royals, including King George 1st and King George 2nd. You may also recognise it as the royal residence of King George 3rd and Queen Charlotte in the Netflix series Bridgerton. I could be wrong, but I believe King Gorge 3rd actually resided at Kew Palace. 

Kentwell Hall

This was one of my favourite places to visit and I would absolutely go again. Kentwell Hall in Suffolk has so much to see in the grounds including some farm animals, a beautiful walled vegtable garden, a moat and some amazing topiary.

there is also an incredible carved tree. the tree was damaged in the storm of 1986, but instead of cutting it down, the owners invited an artist to come and carve it into something magical. I won't spoil the surprise, go and see it for yourself.

There are plenty of events on throughout the year here with demonstrations on clay and ironwork in seemingly hidden areas within the grounds. It's very easy to spend an entire day here. You'll also find a tea room on site.

You may recognise Kentwell Hall as Toad Hall from the 1996 film Wind in the Willows.

Nymans House and Gardens.

Another beauty in West Sussex is Nymans, a beautiful country estate that was sadly lost to a fire in 1947. Only the facade of the grand house still stands and it looks incredibly romantic covered with trailing ivy. There are magnificent grounds to explore here with both traditional and modern planting themes.

Chiddingstone Castle

I'm going to finish with this stunning Victorian castle in Kent, not far from Hever Castle. 

The grounds are free to visit but donations are accepted at the honesty boxes in the car park and via the gate in the village. 

During the 2nd world war the castle hosted members of the Canadian Forces before becoming a school in the 50's.  The castle is now open to the public on select days and has a tea room too.