Friday 21 October 2016

National Trust: Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

A couple of weeks ago when my parents were visiting we decided to take a drive over to Kent and visit a new National Trust site. Regular readers know that I absolutely love a day out at a National Trust site. That combination of history, stunning buildings, well-kept gardens, space for the kids to run, the chance to really use my camera and a decent cream tea certainly do entice me.

I've known quite a few friends come to visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens before but to be honest, I've resisted as it isn't the biggest NT site and it is mostly outdoors but I was just being silly as it is a lovely site and generally the kids enjoy the outdoors part far more than the houses anyway.

We didn't arrive until about 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and then needed to head off about 5pm and this felt the perfect place for a three-hour visit including a cuppa. There were still plenty of parts of the site that we didn't get to see in that time but that really is the beauty of NT membership, you know you can come back again another day so you don't have to rush or worry.

We first headed into the Oast House exhibition and I really enjoyed finding out some of the history of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, they certainly appeared to live a colourful life and what a magnificent estate of gardens they created. They themed each smaller area as a 'room' with a different planting style, colour and aroma.

The girls spotted the tower straight away (well you can't really miss it) and it is a must-visit part of the site. You climb 78 steps to the top past Vita's writing room and an old fashioned print press and then you are treated to great views from the top for the full 360 degrees.

I loved looking through all the very different parts of the gardens but I think the Cottage Garden was probably my favourite as I was able to screw on my macro filter and capture some colourful pictures.

The Sissinghurst estate is 460 acres and you are encouraged to enjoy it by walking, running, cycling or taking the dog. I'm already planning to return and spend some time in the large vegetable garden and if I go on a weekday I can meet some of the volunteers for a tour and some instruction too. I do love it when the produce that you eat in the restaurant has been grown and prepared on-site, it just tastes so much better!

I didn't realise on the day but I now see you can borrow exploring packs from the membership office and of course if you take the kids there are loads of fun things to tick off the 50 Things to do before you are 11 3/4 list. We spotted beehives, bug hotels and I also read there is a bird hide, so perfect for those kids (and adults) who love nature. Sissinghurst is also a working farm and you can often spot cattle and sheep in the field and if you are lucky you might even get to chat with the farmer.

The views really are wonderful and you can see for miles over the lush green fields of Kent. Just a take a look at the view through the Elizabethan Barn.

We ended our visit with a trip to the gift shop, which (as always with the NT) was beautiful and I managed to pick up a couple of gorgeous scarves in the sale for just £7 each. Then we indulged in some goodies in the Granary Restaurant, which was a really light and spacious barn. All the cakes and scones we had, along with the drinks were of high quality and priced as I'd expect from an NT site.

If you don't have a membership and want to visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens is £12.05 per adult (without gift aid), £5.85 for a child and £30.00 for a family. Definitely worth the money if you intend to spend the day there exploring.


Disclosure: We received some free day passes for the National Trust so our family could visit and review the site. I ave not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.