Browsing Tag

day trip

Day out at Hampton Court Palace

By 1 April 2015 Travel

Last Sunday I spent 5 hours at Hampton Court Palace. Even though the weather wasn’t the best (note to self: stop buying £4 umbrellas from Primark!) it was a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit.

Located only half an hour from central London, Hampton Court Palace is probably most famous for being the home of King Henry VIII. As a massive fan of The Tudors and the many Philippa Gregory books set in that period, Hampton Court has been on my list for a long time and there’s no better year to visit as 2015 marks the Palace’s 500th birthday.

Turks Launches

Arriving in style, on Turks Launches, the first glimpse you get is of the baroque East Front facade through the ornate fence. From the pier you can cut straight through into the Palace grounds and head straight to the ticket office. The adult price of £18.20 (when bought online) includes entry to the Palace, gardens, maze and the audio tour. You can even borrow a velvet cloak to wear during your visit so you’re suitably dressed for court. You know, just in case you bump into the king.

Front entrance Hampton Court

The audio guide is really informative and there are multiple options so you can choose in which order you explore Hampton Court Palace and for Henry VIII’s apartments you can have an expert commentary or pretend you’re being shown around by a courtier – that’s the option I chose!

Costumed actors walk the corridors and take part in reenactments. Share a cushion with a stranger (or two small children in my case!) while Henry loses his temper with Cardinal Wolsey who’s failed to find a way to push through his annulment. It’s all very well done.

The huge kitchens were built specifically for roasting meat and are still warmed by roaring fires. Sometimes you’ll find chefs recreating Tudor specialities. Perhaps a pie or two. Did you know that making pies was just another way of cooking meat? The pastry crust was used as the cooking vessel and thrown out once the filling had been eaten.

Once you’ve admired Henry VIII’s fantastic portrait up close, rather than in a textbook, you can see the Royal Pew and cast your eyes on a stunning replica of the King’s jewel-encrusted crown. It really was a thing of beauty, although I can’t imagine how heavy it must have been to wear.

Portrait of King Henry VIII

Did you notice the interpretation ‘board’ next to the portrait? Rather than using paper or wood, the notices next to each painting and artefact are printed on cloth and pinned to the tapestries.

Photos of Henry’s Hampton Court

Henry VIII's Hampton Court

The other side of the Palace is baroque in style and was built by King William III. His lavishly decorated apartments overlook the wonderful privy gardens. There’s also the opportunity to discover the Georgian Story and gain a glimpse into how some of the more ‘recent’ residents of Hampton Court lived.

Hampton Court East Front and Gardens

The gardens are extensive and I was barely able to explore. During the summer, or on a dry day, you could easily spend another couple of hours in the gardens of Hampton Court. There’s the huge deer park, formal gardens, wilderness and the maze. Even if I’d had time, there’s no chance I would have ventured into the maze alone. Last time hubby and I visited Leeds Castle we were lost in the maze for at least half an hour! Going it alone would have likely ended in tears.

Eating at Hampton Court

You can take your own lunch and make use of the outdoor picnic areas or if it’s raining, or you fancy a hot meal, you’ll not be disappointed by the on-site cafes. They’re not cheap mind. I had a tasty venison pie with pea puree (aka mushy peas) and a mug of tea and it cost me nearly a tenner. The Privy Kitchen cafe was rammed at lunchtime on Sunday and it’s not the best laid out but the food was delicious. I’d have taken a photo but I was so starving hungry that it didn’t last long enough!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll end the day with sore feet and aching arms from holding the audio guide up to your ear for hours but you’ll have had an amazing time. It’s a stunning location with so much to see, inside and out. For less than £20 each you really are getting a lot for your money.

I was really lucky and managed to get a complimentary ticket and boat trip thanks to Kingston First as part of the Traverse 15 travel blogger conference held in Kingston Upon Thames. The day out at Hampton Court was one of the Sunday Experiences on offer. Even though I didn’t pay, I believe it’s worth every penny of the entry fee. I would definitely go again and I’ll happily pay full price.

Hampton Court Palace is really accessible for a day out. I would highly recommend a visit.


[gdlr_column size=”1″]

[gdlr_box_icon icon=”fa-car” icon_color=”#4984d5″ icon_position=”left” title=”Getting to Hampton Court Palace” ]
Hampton Court, Surrey, KT8 9AU
Car: Pop the post code above into your sat nav and then when you’re close follow the signs for the car parks. There are two; one on-site and one just over the road on the green. You have to pay hourly for both.
Train: London Waterloo to Hampton Court 35 minutes £13.60 Anytime Return
Bus: 111, 216, 411, 461, 513, 515A, R68
River boat: (April to September) From Westminster, Kingston and Richmond[/gdlr_box_icon]



What do you look for in a day out? Culture, history, or peace and quiet? Tell us in the comments below.

You Might Also Like

#BEDM – Leeds Castle Supercar Siege

By 18 May 2014 Kent, Life, Lifestyle, Travel
Leeds Castle Supercar Siege - Caterhams with the castle in the background

We’ve been meaning to go to Leeds Castle for about a year now. Last year it just never happened. Then, on our drive back from Bristol, we passed the castle. I turned to hubby and said, “We really must go to Leeds Castle at some point.” To which he responded, “How do you know I’m not already planning a day out?”

Well, a week later I was invited to look at the printer, and sitting there were two tickets to Leeds Castle! Hubby chose to coincide our visit with the Supercar Siege, basically a car show. What’s cool is that today also coincides with the ‘museum’ prompt for #BEDM (Blog Every Day in May) so I can tell you about our day out without veering away from the today’s topic.

Of course, the day we booked to go is the hottest day of the year so far! The queue into the car park started about a mile away.

The castle is set in such beautiful grounds; it was lovely to walk around in the sunshine. Leeds Castle has undergone much transformation in it’s 1000 year history. The first stone castle was built in the 12th century on the site of a Saxon manor. Throughout the ages, Leeds Castle has been home to Normans, Tudor kings and queens, and private owners. The most recent resident, Lady Baillie, died in 1974, leaving the castle to be managed by the Leeds Castle Foundation as a tourist attraction.

Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, Kent

After a scrummy picnic on the grass we gawped at all the cars! Hubby’s a big car fan and I can appreciate the good looks.

Supercars at Leeds Castle

We had a brilliant day, even though we got lost in the maze for about half an hour and got sunburnt because we forgot to put sun cream on!

How was your weekend?

Rachel x

You Might Also Like

Review of Bush and Beach’s Half Day Wilderness Experience from Auckland

By 10 July 2012 New Zealand, Travel

Māori carving at the Visitor Centre

While in Auckland I wanted to get out of the city and explore the natural soundings so I chose to take a half day Wilderness Experience tour with Bush and Beach, Auckland’s premier small group eco-tour and sightseeing company.  I was so happy to leave urbanisation as for the previous three weeks I had been travelling from city to city in North America. 

The tour guide, Dawn, was very knowledgeable and informative.  She had gone out to New Zealand on a working holiday from the UK and never left.  I learnt that her parents live just 25 miles from my home in Kent.  It really is a small world.  We had a really comfy mini coach and the group consisted of just 7 people, including me.  I was the youngest by at least 20 years but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. 

The first stop on the tour was the Arataki Visitor Centre, in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park above the lush, green rainforest only 30km from downtown Auckland.  There were fabulous, wide-reaching views from the centre.  A great photo opportunity was created by an empty frame, the view serving as the ever changing picture.  Unfortunately, the day I visited was a little overcast but the views were still stunning.  For more information on the Visitor Centre visit

The real-life photograph
The volcanic coast line was our next destination.  We drove through the Waitakere Ranges via a beautiful waterfall, to Piha Beach.  The black sand is volcanic in origin and apparently magnetic.  The sand was littered with dead sea kelp that looked like aliens washed up on the shore.  Really weird!  I picked up a beautiful shell that I learnt from Dawn was a floatation device for a mini squid.  Lion Rock stands proudly above the beach, it’s as if there is a giant lion guarding the beach and looking out to sea.  We were so lucky with the weather.  It only rained while we were in the coach and was dry when we ventured outside.  I was determined to walk barefoot in the sand and did so, which I slightly regretted once I got back to the coach and remembered that I hadn’t brought a towel so had no way to clean the sand off my feet.  Doh!  The beach was beautiful but the sea ferocious.  Just a few hardy surfer dudes braved the waves under the careful supervision of the lifeguards.   

Lion Rock at Piha Beach
Our penultimate stop was the cool, temperate rainforest.  After a well-needed warming cup of tea, biscuits and a sample of delicious Manuka honey (both included in the price) we followed Dawn in to the forest to discover a multitude of trees and ferns.  Our walk was accompanied by the sound of chirping wetas.  We came across loads of spider’s webs but luckily no spiders!  We were reassured that New Zealand does not have any poisonous spiders or plants and no snakes at all, nor does it have any indigenous mammals.  This was certainly news to me.  Any mammals in New Zealand originated elsewhere and were brought to the islands by its many emigrants.  The rainforest floor was interspersed with streams.  It was such an amazing place and I felt so happy while there.  Before re-boarding the coach I experienced a non-smelly drop toilet.  Proof that they do exist.  There was definitely something up with the one in Death Valley!

Northland Rainforest
Our final destination before heading back to the city was to see an 800 year old Kauri tree.  It was massive.  These tall, gnarly trees are native of the Northland and are now quite rare.  The Māori used them for canoes, houses and carvings.  Later, settlers used them to make ships’ masts. 

I arrived back in to the city grateful of the excursion and the fresh air.  At NZ$140 this tour is not cheap, however the knowledgeable guides and small numbers more than make up for this.  At current exchange rates this works out at about £72 or less than £15 per hour, which I think is very reasonable.  As someone who tends to spend most of my trips pounding pavements this tour certainly made a welcome change and I can recommend it highly.  
The Wilderness Experience tour is just one of the 6 tours currently on offer from Beach and Bush. Next time you’re in Auckland be sure to look them up.


By Rachel Birchley

You Might Also Like