Take a tour of Kent , following in the footsteps of King Henry VIII
Tours of the Realm offer sightseeing tours of rural and historic Britain to small and exclusive groups of 4 to 5 people with a particular focus on Kent and the South-East. Tailored to the interests of the client, personalised itineraries allow the time to uncover the hidden treasures and quirky delights of this fascinating country.
Travel with your own driver/guide, the ideal solution for those who wish to relax and enjoy the sights at a more leisurely pace, in extra comfort and with a greater degree of personal attention
Take the train from London Victoria to Maidstone where you will be personally met by Jane Martin of Tours of the Realm.
You will be driven to the magnificent Leeds Castle where swans glide on the moat, peacocks wander through the grounds and birds of prey soar on the wind during the falconry displays.
Henry inherited this fairytale castle when he became king. He invested heavily in improvements, including exquisite windows, fireplaces and banqueting halls which are still on view today. He spent the night here with Katharine of Aragon en route to the "Field of the Cloth of Gold". He also retreated to the safety of Leeds to escape the plague which was raging in London .
Lunch may be taken at the Fairfax Restaurant, which serves a varied choice of dishes in the courtyard.
Leaving Leeds, relax and enjoy the pretty Kentish villages and glorious countryside and stop for a cream tea or a slice of cake at Claris's in Biddenden, possibly the most photographed tea room in England which stands at the end of an unbelievably picturesque row of 15th century weavers' cottages.
Arrive at your overnight accommodation in Tunbridge Wells. With a wide choice of Alistair Sawday recommended hotels and B&B's, there is something for every budget.
After breakfast we will head straight for Ightam Mote , near Sevenoaks. This National Trust Property is a rare surviving example of a moated medieval manor house dating from the early part of the 14th-century. Sir Richard Clement, the owner from 1521 to 1538, aimed to stay in favour at court by embellishing his home with displays of loyalty to Henry and Katherine. Note the Tudor Rose and pomegranate of Aragon in the stained glass of the Great Hall and the barrel-vaulted roof of the New Chapel.
(Ightam Mote: Adults-£10.40, Children-£5.20, National Trust Members-free)
Depending on your appetite you can perhaps stop for a pub lunch at the Bottle House Inn, Penshurst.
A short distance away is Penshurst Place . This medieval home, amid Tudor gardens and parkland, belonged to the 3 rd Duke of Buckingham, who lavished £2,500 (£1.2 million in today's money) on a feast for Henry VIII when he visited in 1519. Two years later, Buckingham was beheaded for treason, Penshurst became Crown Property and it was used as a hunting Lodge. Anne Boleyn's brother, George looked after the estate and Henry often stayed here while courting Anne at Hever Castle . Penshurst features as Whitehall Palace in several scenes of the film, The Other Boleyn Girl and a number of Penshurst's staff became film extras.
( Penshurst Place , House, Gardens and Grounds: Adults-£8.50, Children-£5.50)
Return to your hotel or B&B in Tunbridge Wells.
After a relaxed breakfast we will make our way to Hever Castle , the beautiful moated family home of the Boleyn family, and perhaps the most romantic reason for Henry's frequent visits to Kent . Henry first fell in love with Anne at Court in 1526 and visits to Hever soon followed. It was an idyllic backdrop: a moated Tudor dwelling within older stone walls and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Many artifacts mark the unfolding of their romance. You can see Anne's childhood bedroom and replicas of the elaborate locks Henry brought with him to fix to his bedchamber door to ensure his personal safety when he stayed to woo Anne, and a replica of the clock he presented to her as a wedding gift. Most poignant of all is the Book of Hours (prayer book), inscribed and signed by Anne, that she probably clasped as she stepped to her execution at the Tower of London after being condemned for adultery. Written in her own hand in the book is the haunting plea, 'remember me when you do pray/that hope doth lead from day to day/Anne Boleyn'
Henry VIII later appropriated Hever Castle following the death of Sir Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father). The king gave the castle to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, when he divorced her in 1540.
After spending the day exploring the castle and its extensive gardens, you will be taken to Maidstone station for your return journey home.
Tours of the Realm will be delighted to plan an itinerary tailored to your interests.
The services of your personal driver/guide start at £350 per day.
To enable a greater degree of choice and flexibility train fares, entrance into attractions visited, accommodation, meals and refreshments are not included in the price quoted.