No matter how old you are, there is something magical about visiting a castle, don’t you think? However few, near London allow dogs to visit too or so we thought. That was until we discovered dog-friendly Hever Castle just over an hour from London in Kent and when we decided to visit the former childhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of the six wives of King Henry VIII, we were not disappointed.
Read on to see why a visit to Hever Castle makes for such a great dogs day out and was one of our top things to do with your dog this summer.
8 Reasons To Visit the Stunning Dog-friendly Hever Castle
This isn’t just any old English castle, oh no. There’s a moat – well a double moat in fact, a drawbridge and 125 acres of possibly the most gorgeous gardens we’ve ever seen. From the moment we set eyes upon Hever Castle, we knew we were in for a breathtaking treat. Here’s why we loved our visit with Belinha and Lilliput the Maltese…
1. Dogs are allowed in the Hever Castle Gardens
Although not permitted in the castle itself, dogs are allowed to explore the 125 acres of Hever Castle Gardens in all their splendour. Dogs can also join you on the boats or pedalos on the stunning lake (more on that in a moment). The only areas in the gardens that dogs are not allowed are the mazes and adventure playground, but that didn’t affect our visit one bit.
2. The dog-friendly Hever Castle Gardens are spectacular
There is simply no other word for it. I’m no gardens buff, but the gardens at Hever Castle are something else. We’ve actually been twice now to Hever Castle, and the first time, although we spent about four hours there, we didn’t have time to see all of the gardens; only discovering the Tudor Gardens on the other side of the castle on our second visit. From the topiary animals that line the path up to the castle to the magnificent Italian Gardens that make you feel like you have been transported to another time and country, each and every corner is simply beautiful. And that was before we saw the lake.
3. You can go boating on the Hever Castle Lake with your dog
I’d read on the Hever Castle website that you could go boating on the lake and after calling ahead to ask if dogs could go boating too (the answer is yes), I was really looking forward to trying this out. When I set eyes on the lake, stretching for miles, it surpassed anything I could have possibly imagined.
There are both boats and pedalos to hire, and we initially took to the water in one of the rather large boats thinking this would be easier and we would have more space. How wrong could we be? Turns out you actually have to possess some kind of rowing skills to enjoy the boating experience and as I discovered, I have absolutely none.
After rowing into the trees and reeds at the side of the lake, then being surrounded by a family of ducks who I swear were laughing at us, we finally succumbed to our lack of rowing skills and made it back to the jetty to swap out our boat for a pedalo. What a difference a pedalo can make…we were soon gliding our way around the lake with Belinha and Lilliput enjoying being driven around like the divas they are, while we savoured the view.
4. Dogs are welcome at the Guthrie Pavillion
Tucked away in the Italian Gardens and overlooking the lake is the Guthrie Pavillion (Restaurant and Café) where dogs are welcomed outside. Space is not an issue, and we saw plenty of pups taking a break with their owners here in a lovely setting.
5. The gardens are accessible for (dog) buggies
As it was a hot day with lots of walking on the agenda, I had brought along Belinha’s buggy, which came in very handy as we explored. Fortunately, it was straightforward to get around the gardens too thanks to the thoughtful placements of ramps, meaning we could access all dog-friendly areas. Belinha didn’t seem to mind being driven around like a queen either!
6. There’s a Castle Canines Dog Show
What a name for a dog show! Every year in August, Hever Castle hosts the Castle Canines Dog Show in the grounds of the castle – usually over two days on an early August weekend. We went back for our second visit on the day of Castle Canines, and Belinha took home second prize in the Super Seniors category with Lilliput winning not one but two first prizes. For London dogs used to some of the capital’s dog shows, this is much smaller but if you plan to visit in summer then lookout for this event on our Dog Events Calendar as it makes visiting the castle even more fun.
7. Visit the dog-friendly pub on the doorstep
Just outside the entrance to Hever Castle, there’s a quaint dog-friendly pub with a garden for grabbing something more substantial to eat. Aptly named King Henry VIII, the staff were friendly, the food delicious (possibly the best vegan burger I have ever had) and the dogs made to feel very welcome. All in all, we can definitely recommend.
8. Get there in an hour from London
Our last reason to visit is that surprisingly, Hever Castle is actually not far from London, and it is straightforward to get to. It takes under an hour to get there on the train from London Bridge, and it took us just over an hour to drive. See the full directions for visiting the castle below.
Visiting Dog-friendly Hever Castle With Your Dog – Our Top Tips
- Allow plenty of time for your visit. We hadn’t appreciated the number of things to see, how much we would enjoy it, or how time would fly. If you can get there early and spend the day, you won’t regret it.
- Allow time to get out on the lake. This was probably the highlight of our visit, and our tip here is to definitely hire a pedalo unless you possess some decent rowing skills. Boat/pedalo hire is by the hour; £15 or £18, respectively.
- You get a map when you arrive, and there’s also an interactive map online. Honestly, we couldn’t make much sense of the paper map, so take the time to plan the areas you want to visit before you go.
- If you love it as much as we did, consider becoming a member. We were surprised to see that membership to the gardens is only £41.20 per year (online price). Seeing as a single visit to the gardens is £14.15, and we’ve been twice already, it wouldn’t take long to make membership worthwhile. If you decide during the first visit you actually want to be a member, you can take your receipt to the Information Centre and upgrade to the membership, so you can offset the price of your first visit too.
- If you’re a Historic Houses member, you get one free visit to Hever Castle a year.
How to get to Hever Castle
There is an extensive page on the Hever Castle website with directions and opening times, but here are the highlights:
Opening Times: The gardens open at 10:30 am, with last entry at 4:30 pm in Spring/Summer and at 3:30 pm in Winter, although as mentioned you would want to get there much earlier than that to enjoy it all.
By Car: Use postcode TN8 7NG for the sat nav. There is plenty of free parking available at Hever Castle with multiple car parks within easy walking distance of the castle and gardens. On arrival, you will be directed to the best car park with availability on the day.
By Train: Trains run from London Bridge and London Victoria to Edenbridge, and from there you can take a taxi. However, if you are taking your dog, you might prefer to avoid any issues with taxis and get off at the next stop along, which is Hever. Trains to Hever take just 40 minutes direct from London Bridge (or 55 minutes from London Victoria with one change) and then it’s a one-mile rural walk to Hever Castle – here’s a map of the walk if you decide to do this option.
Let us know if you decide to visit dog-friendly Hever Castle with your dog!