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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.

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[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]

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

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#BEDM – Five Fascinating Facts About Folkestone

By 8 May 2014 Life, Lifestyle
Five fascinating facts about Folkestone

To celebrate Local History Month, which is today’s topic for Blog Every Day in May, here are 5 fascinating facts about Folkestone!

1 – Folkestone is home to the world’s highest brick arched viaduct

It was built in 1843 by Sir William Cubitt so the South Eastern Railway could continue their passenger train services to Folkestone Harbour Station where the passengers would jump on a ferry to France before travelling onwards to Paris. Unfortunately, there are no more ferries out of Folkestone and the Harbour station stands derelict. The cool thing is, I can see the viaduct from my house!

Foord viaduct Folkestone from my lounge window

2 – The first nunnery in England was founded in Folkestone

The King of Kent had the nunnery built in around 630 for his daughter St Eanswythe, who is one of the patron saints of our parish church. In the Victorian times, builders were doing work in the church, which originally dates to the twelth century, when they found the remains of a young woman in a lead container within the walls. It’s believed these are St Eanswythe’s relics! This is the church where hubby and I said our vows a year ago.

Hubby and I outside St Mary and St Eanswythe's Church Folkestone. Just hitched!

3 – Millions of troops passed through Folkestone on their way to the front line in WWI

Between 1914 and 1918, the soldiers travelled to Folkestone ready to be transported over to the Western Front. To get down to the harbour, many of the regiments marched down the hill from the town on what is now called the Road of Remembrance. To commemorate the centenary of the first world war this year a memorial arch is being built at the top of the Road of Remembrance, which is going to be officially opened by Prince Harry on 4th August.

4 – The physician who ‘discovered’ circulation was born in Folkestone

Dr William Harvey was born in Folkestone in 1578. He worked out that the heart pumps blood around our bodies while appointed royal physician. There’s a statue of Harvey in Folkestone, looking out towards the sea and he gave his name to the Harvey Grammar School.

William Harvey statue Folkestone

5 – The first person of Afro-Caribbean/mixed heritage to be commissioned as an Infantry into the British Army is from Folkestone

Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888. His father was from Barbados and his mother was born in Kent. Before becoming an Army officer, Walter was a professional footballer and played for Tottenham Hotspur. He was killed in action in France in 1918. He was recommended for a Military Cross for his bravery. What’s strange is that at the time of his parents’ marriage, Walter’s father lived in the road where I live now, practically opposite actually. And what’s even more strange is that apparently we are related somehow but I only found out a couple of years ago!

Walter Tull

Image from The Guardian

Do you have any interesting stories to tell about your local area?

Rachel x

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