Last weekend, after three days of being a hermit, gorging myself on delicious food from my mum’s fridge and luxuriating in bed until 10am, I was ready to get out and about. Emma, my dear best friend from university, has recently moved to Kent, so we decided to have a Kent tourist day as opposed to our usual London tourist day. We did some research and picked out a beautiful nearby National Trust property, Scotney Castle, and off we went on what turned out to be a fairly sunny Saturday to explore.
The drive over to Lamberhurst, the small village where the castle is situated, was absolutely lovely; we drove down meandering lanes that opened up into tiny, gorgeous little villages with ponds and pubs and ancient churches, and when the hedges disappeared from the sides of the country roads, we were treated to spectacular views across the fields, already starting to blaze with autumnal glory. My heart just sang with joy the whole way; I had missed the unassuming beauty of the English countryside.
We arrived at Scotney Castle just in time for lunch. After a sandwich from the very nice cafe, we flashed our membership cards and wandered down to the main house. The house was built in 1837, in the fake Jacobean style popular at the time. It was designed very much as a family home, and it feels like it; the rooms are not overly large, and feel warm, comfortable and happy. It was actually lived in until 2006, when the Trust took it over, which I think is why it feels so homely. Every room was filled with books, which delighted me; unusually for the National Trust, which normally stocks its homes with books from a central bank, all of the books actually came with the house, and seeing the choices on the shelves gave me a small window into the tastes and habits of its former owners. The last owner, Christopher Hussey, was a well known architect who gave his home to the Trust, and wrote a regular column for Country Life. As such the shelves were heaving with related books on design and heritage and local history, but there were also plenty of middlebrow favourites, presumably his wife’s; I spotted some E F Bensons, as well as Vita Sackville-West’s The Edwardians, and an Elizabeth Von Arnim or two.
The house, however, was not the main attraction. Down in the valley, amidst breathtakingly beautiful gardens, sits a 14th century half ruined castle on an island in the middle of a moat. Picturesquely dismantled by Edward Hussey when he had the new house built in 1837, it became a folly rather than a home, and you can’t go inside, but my goodness, it is stunning. It’s truly the stuff fairytales are made of. The gardens are wonderful too, and there is a magnificent quarry garden, built in the pit made by the extraction of sandstone used for the building of the new house. Apparently it contains a dinosaur footprint, but I didn’t spot that!
After a leisurely stroll through the gardens, which offer wide ranging views across the surrounding countryside, we stopped off for tea and scones and chatting before a brief stop in the shop. I find all National Trust shops totally irresistible and always find myself buying things I don’t need and can’t afford. This time however I snapped up a copy of this for just £10 and am now busily browsing it, looking for our next location in which to have an adventure. Sissinghurst is probably top of the list at the moment, though I am also desperate to see Monk’s House. And Smallhythe Place. This part of England has so much history and it’s a pleasure to be back amongst it!