Like something right out of a fairytale with its medieval turrets, ivy-clad stone staircases, enchanting Celtic doors and reflective moat, Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst is one of my favourite spots in Kent. Built in the 14th century, the moated old castle is impossibly romantic and picture perfect, surrounded by acres of tumbling countryside with a newer, Victorian manor house standing tall on the hill above.
Now owned by the National Trust, it's a gorgeous place for a day out in any season. Here are some of the reasons why I love it...
1. It oozes with almost a thousand years of history
As soon as you step foot into the grounds of Scotney, it's clear that you're surrounded by years and years of history, and entering the old castle itself is like stepping back in time.
The earliest records for Scotney date back to 1137 but it's believed that construction on the medieval castle didn't take place until the late 1300s, and wasn't completed even then. After years of falling into decline, the castle started to resemble what we see today in 1580 when it was restored in the Elizabethan style by the Darrell family.
Between 1591 and 1598, whilst Catholicism was illegal in England, the castle secretly housed Catholic priest Father Richard Blount, who used the premises to covertly minister Roman Catholics during this period. It is believed that the priest fled over the wall into the moat and escaped during a raid by authorities to arrest him.
In 1778, after Scotney had been in the Darrell family for 350 years, Edward Hussey bought the estate and later commissioned architect Anthony Salvin to design and build the 'new' house at the top of the hill using quarried sandstone from the grounds.
2. It's 2-in-1 when it comes to beautiful buildings
Why settle for just one castle when you can visit two! As mentioned, entry into Scotney not only offers a visit the romantic moated old castle, but also the grand Victorian manor house with views across the rolling Kent countryside.
Though the buildings are markedly different in style and stature, both are equally picturesque and are surrounded by magnificent landscaped gardens. A lot of focus is often pressed upon the old ruins, but the manor - and it's magnificent interiors - are also well worth a visit, especially at Christmas when the rooms really come alive with festive decorations!
3. It's incredibly accessible
Though I love a rugged country walk as much as the next person, there's also a lot to be said for a site which is both pram and wheelchair friendly. Though parts of the estate are slightly rougher and there are some fairly steep hills, the majority of the main route through Scotney Castle is paved and looked after well making it the ideal spot for a maternity leave mooch - something I did numerous times over the past year!
It also feels like it caters for everyone - from older couples looking to take a quiet stroll through the pretty gardens, to family-friendly trails for youngsters to enjoy. For history nerds like myself, we can marvel in all the stories those ruins could tell, whilst there's plenty of space and spots to explore for little imaginations!
4. It's hard to take a bad photo, all year round
Unlike a lot of my own attempts at selfies, I genuinely don't think Scotney has a bad angle! Wherever you view it from, in whatever season, it always looks beautiful, with it's effortlessly romantic stonework and tranquil, reflective moat.
It also appears to thrive in all seasons - in Winter, the castle looks frosty and atmospheric, with a slight glitter in its step; in Spring, it exudes a radiant glow of rebirth with daffodils and blossom; Summer sees the pink lily pads on the placid moat come alive; and in Autumn (my personal favourite), the gardens appear to set alight in a golden and red frame of leaves. I've loved visiting across the seasons this year and seeing it so markedly changed each time I went.
5. It's surrounded by stunning parkland - and has it's own hop farm!
Entry to the site also includes access to the sprawling estate, offering the opportunity to explore some of the 780 acres of ancient parklands surrounding the castles. This even includes Little Scotney Farm, where hops are grown and dried to produce Scotney Ale and Scotney Bitter.
There are four main trails around the estate - the Parkland Trail, Woodland Trail and Hop Trail - all of which are 2 miles or shorter and clearly marked, so ideal for gentle strolls, especially with little ones. With varying landscapes, all take in magnificent views of the Wealden countryside, veteran trees, grazing local animals and oast buildings, as well as a spectacular panorama from the top of the hill taking in both the castle and manor house.
The hop farm itself is part of one of suggested Hop Trail (yellow route) and hosts visitor tours (pre-Covid) at certain times of year. I haven't yet visited due to the current restrictions, but it's one on the list!
Scotney Castle is owned by National Trust and details can be found here. Entry is free to members or £8 for non-members.