I do love castles and this is one of my favourites in Kent. There’s nothing better on a sunny day than a trip out to explore Walmer Castle and their fabulous gardens.
We packed up a picnic and our cameras and headed out to spend the day at the castle. It’s steeped in history with many famous people who have stayed there including Queen Victoria, The Queen Mother, Pitt the Younger, Winston Churchill and The Duke of Wellington.
The Castle is situated in the seaside town of Walmer in Deal, East Kent. It was built between 1539 and 1540 as one of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery forts that were built to protect Britain from invasion.
It then became a stately-home for the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Cinque Ports being Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. These ports are headed by a Lord Warden who is appointed by the Crown, who is responsible for the south coast defences. Now the castle is primarily run as a tourist attraction by English Heritage.
The design of the castle is concentric with one circular keep in the middle surrounded by 4 half moon bastions. It is surrounded by a large, deep, dry moat with a wooden drawbridge.
The keep was transformed into a living space after the threat of invasion had disappeared. In 1732 Lionel Sackville, the Duke of Dorset started the remodelling of the keep, then in the late 18th Century William Pitt the younger, the then Prime Minister, made more changes to the castle and the gardens.
The last alterations were made in 1815 by the 2nd Earl of Granville.
We started off with a tour around the castle. Inside you can wander around the various historical rooms including the Pitt Print Room where you can see political prints of William Pitt the younger whilst he was Prime Minister and Pitt’s bedroom and Library.
There are also rooms dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, including a room about the legacy of the Duke in which you can see his famous boots and his death mask. Winston Churchill was made Lord Warden in 1941 during the second world war but he never actually lived in the castle as it was deemed unsafe in war time.
You can walk out onto the terrace of the castle where there are canons facing out to the shoreline, which are great fun for both children and adults.
There are stunning views of the beach from the terrace too. In the gatehouse you can see rows of sponges, wadhooks and rammers used to load the guns.
After going around the castle we went down to the basement which runs all the way around the bottom of the castle. It was used originally as store rooms for food, fuel and weapons.
A fireplace was built in the basement when it was used as a kitchen during the Napoleonic Wars when thousands of troops were stationed in Kent.
The Duke of Wellington was Lord Warden from 1829 and this is also the place where he died in 1852. In the castle you can see where Wellington lived and on display are one of his famous pairs of boots.
The Duke of Wellington asked his boot maker George Hoby to make him a longer pair of boots that fitted over his knee length breeches and this new design was born. This new “Wellington” boot became the new fashionable boot to wear.
There’s even been royalty staying at the castle. Queen Victoria stayed at Walmer Castle in 1842 when Scarlet Fever prevented her from using her usual residence in Brighton.
In 1978 the Queen Mother was made the first female Lord Warden and she used to stay there every July. To celebrate her 95th Birthday a new “Queen Mother’s Garden” was designed by Penelope Hobhouse as a gift for her in 1997.
It’s an absolutely stunning garden with a pond in the centre covered in Waterlilies and teeming with beautiful dragonflies.
The grounds and gardens
After our tour of the castle we came outside to explore the grounds. The Castle has over 8 acres of garden to wander around.
As you come through the side gate of the castle you will walk through the oldest part of the garden, the Kitchen Garden. This garden has been growing fruit and vegetables for the castle for nearly 300 years now.
They use the fresh produce today for food for their two tea rooms on the grounds. It really is a glorious vegetable garden and is so neat and tidy.
There’s a lovely walk around the woodland in the grounds where there are plenty of places to sit and lots of play areas for children of all ages including hollow tree trunks, giant nests, wobbly bridges and climbing nets.
There are also carved sculptures of birds dotted around the walk too with information posts so you can learn all about nature. There are plenty of staff on hand too who can tell you all about the birds and the history of the grounds.
There is a new sensory garden sunken down in the Glen which can be accessed by stairs. It’s a lovely peaceful place to gather your thoughts and there are leaf-shaped sky seats that you can lie on and look up, through the trees, at the sky.
The Moat is a fabulous place to wander around too. It’s original purpose was for the defence of the castle but now it’s been turned into a beautiful, circular garden walk around the castle.
There are plenty of benches to sit and look at the gardens and the castle around the moat.
There’s so much to see and do at Walmer Castle. It’s got everything for every member of your family and is suitable for all ages. There are newly built play areas for children and plenty of places to sit and have a picnic or just take in the fabulous views.
There are two tea rooms which sell delicious home cooked food, cakes and cream teas and a fully stocked gift shop. It’s a long way around the garden and through the house so take sensible shoes.
The castle is just across the road from the beach, so after you have been around the castle pop over the road and have a stroll along the pebbled beach. You can even walk along the seafront to Deal Castle which is another of Henry VIII’s Castles. It really is a fantastic day out and if you love history and beautiful gardens then this is the place for you.