Lavender is having a bit of a moment. Gone are the days where the floral scent is associated with your Granny's perfume and handmade soaps, and trendy images of purple-hued fields and soothing aromatherapy are in. It's the scent of luxury hand creams, infused teas and room scents that evokes natural calm, peace and relaxation in our hectic day-to-day lives.
With this in mind, we decided to spend our Sunday visiting the wonderful Hop Shop at Castle Farm in the pretty village of Shoreham, Kent at the peak of the lavender season to see these gorgeous plants in bloom. Having passed by the beautifully-coloured fields on my train journey to and from work for the last couple of summers, dreaming of the photos I could take if I was not peering through high-speed glass, this day out has been a long time coming and it didn't disappoint!
The 1,100 family-run farm is the largest producer of lavender in the UK, and not only grows lavender, but also apples, pumpkins, hops and wheat throughout the year. They have a specialised distillery on site to create that all important lavender oil too, even creating their own range of products.
Whilst the Hop Shop itself is open daily throughout the year, the lavender season runs from the end of June to the end of July, with harvest starting in the second half of July. During this time, the farm runs regular hour-long 'Lavender Tours' (at the cost of £7.50 for adults / £3.75 for children) with a local expert, where you're taking into the fields and taught about the lavender and all of it's medicinal and therapeutic uses. These do prove extremely popular on the weekends though, so I recommend getting there early to avoid disappointment.
However, you don't have to do a tour to enjoy the lovely spot. There is a viewing field with a picture-perfect bench taking centre stage (ideal for those Instagram shots) where you can take in the beautiful scenery, as well as locally-made specialities to sample. I tried the 'Lavender Grey' tea on offer (a fragrant, gentle blend of lavender and Early Grey) which was delicious, as well as the lavender ice cream, fresh fruits and numerous oils, balms and creams to purchase.
In addition, there are a selection great pop-up stalls throughout the week and weekend from local companies, including products from The Isle Of Wight Garlic Farm, Cottage Delight (we got some yummy lemon curd which I'm excited to try!), Fawkham Bee Company, Meadow Skin Care and The Wooden Spoon, as well as tons of lavender-based items to buy in the farm shop. I was lost for about an hour in the Aladdin's cave shop of wonderful rustic, home-grown goods!
I'd love to also attend one of their sunset picnics lavender picnics which run throughout June and July each year as this just sound magical! That's on the list for next year...
All in all, it was such a lovely day out which I thoroughly recommend. The whole farm is arranged so well, with such a laid-back and friendly atmosphere. I'm now looking forward to the Autumn season when we can go pick apples and pumpkins!