Castles in Kent are famed for their often quirky historic links, colourful resident owners (often avid collectors) and their multi-functional uses over the centuries. Grade II Listed Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge is no exception. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Weald’, the castle recently reopened as a fully accredited museum, and has a particularly eventful past. Alongside an eclectic mix of permanent exhibitions, Chiddingstone has a packed programme of events through the year including country fairs, new garden launches, a popular Japanese Day in June and a Christmas Fair.
The venue, with its 35 acres of magnificent gardens and grounds featuring a restored Victorian Orangery with unique glazed roof, is a popular choice for weddings. Three separate areas within the grounds are licensed for Civil Ceremonies including the Orangery. A classic tea room, fast gaining a reputation for its delicious cream teas, is on the south side of the castle with gift shop opposite.
Its history stretches back to the early 1500s, and through the centuries Chiddingstone has undergone numerous architectural changes, most dramatically under ownership of Henry Streatfeild, a High Sheriff of Kent who in the early 1800s transformed it into a mock medieval castle.
An exhibition inside tells the story of the castle’s fascinating past which has seen it serve as a school, military base and until 1977, the home of Denys Eyre Bower, an avid rather successful collector. Amongst the 4000 objects held here courtesy of Denys Bower is one of the finest private collections of Japanese Lacquer as well as a treasured collection of Japanese swords.
Ancient Egyptian gems also feature alongside an extensive Royal Stuart and Jacobite collection of portraits, prints and unusual everyday artefacts such as drinking glasses and snuff boxes with hidden Jacobite symbols. Denys, it was rumoured by colleagues, believed himself to be a reincarnation of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was a Buddhist and also collected beautiful Buddhist objects also on show at Chiddingstone.
Chiddingstone's 35 acres of gardens and grounds are a mixed landscape of woodland, formal lawns and lake with wooden bridge crossing. Spring is the perfect time to visit as the daffodil display on the East Meadow is second to none! Explore woodland trails and the central formal Rose Garden within the courtyard. New garden for 2014 is the ‘Fields of Eternity’ Ancient Egyptian Garden (opening Sunday 13th July) - this garden promises to be a fascinating link to the castle's Ancient Egyptian collection. Special llama trekking days are also planned for the summer.
The castle is open from April to the end of October, Sundays to Wednesdays, 11am until 5pm with last entry at 4.15pm. Dogs are welcome in the grounds only. Children under 5 enter free. Find it centrally situated in Chiddingstone Village, one of Kent’s oldest and most beautiful villages cared for by the National Trust, located 4 miles east of Edenbridge and only 1 mile from Penshurst. The M25 motorway is around a 15 minute drive away. The nearest station is Chiddingstone Causeway (3 miles). A regular bus service (232 and 234) runs between Edenbridge and Tunbridge Wells, stopping en-route at Chiddingstone.
The Chiddingstone and Edenbridge area of West Kent is your perfect base from which to explore the Kent Weald and Downs. Chiddingstone Castle is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Weald’ and some of Kent’s most famous stately homes and gardens cluster in the area including Hever, Penshurst and Groombridge. Luxury Bed & Breakfast accommodation and an exceptional choice of fine holiday cottages feature in the area, perfect for short breaks and holidays taking in Chiddingstone with its fascinating collections and magnificent gardens and grounds, along with the many other delights of the Kent Weald and Downs.