Reviewed by Hannah Wigglesworth
Arrival to Hampton Court Palace is very easy via car and rail, the train station is a 1 minute walk from the palace entrance. The access via car is very regal with you driving through the main entrance gate. We went mid-week via car, the car park is small but there was more than enough parking mid-week. The car park charges are £1.50 per hour and you are required to enter your registration plate number upon payment after your stay, so no tickets required. The palace offers two types of tickets, one for the gardens and one for the palace, if you are only able to visit for a short time then a visit around the gardens is a must. This time of year the gardens are starting to come through in bloom with a beautiful field of daffodils just starting to grow now. There is a small maze in the gardens, this is great for all ages, we were lost in the maze for a good 10-15 minutes, there were groups of teenagers laughing their way around which is a good sign this appeals to all ages. The main gardens to the rear of the house are beautiful, the gardens look to be accurate for the history of the property, the main feature for us was a large fountain with the backdrop to a long rectangular lake running away from the house that is home to swans.
The palace is sectioned off into different exhibitions, you start in the kitchens set up for Henry VIII and work your way round the palace through the private royal chambers to the newly opened Cumberland art gallery that currently display several works of art from the Royal collection, the highlight being a Rembrandt self-portrait. There is also a modern exhibition chronicling the life of the young King Henry VIII, this exhibition is very different to any other in the house, however, we found this to be very interesting and a lovely way to display his rise in power and how his relationship with Katherine of Aragon and Thomas Wolsey featured in his life and role of King.
We thoroughly enjoyed the private Royal apartments, the views over the gardens were clearly well planned by the original architects, you get a real feel for the life in the Palace at the time. Young children will also enjoy finding the Royal toilet! There were a few school trips going on during our visit, the tour guides with these groups seemed to be really entertaining for the children, the guides were in full Tudor Royal dress and really played the part well. Adults and children can also join in walking the grounds dressed as a courtier as the room you collect the audio guides also has a long wall full of different coloured coats and capes covering all sizes, over half the other Palace visitors were walking the Palace in the courtier clothes. We loved seeing the tour guides taking a stroll round the gardens in their full Tudor dress, also, the Palace staff are really striking in their royal red coats.
Access can be quite difficult with a pushchair due to the cobbled courtyard, gravelled garden paths and stairs inside the building. We bought our 5 month old son with us, he did well being pushed around the cobbled courtyards as this sent him to sleep. On arrival to the main Palace entrance, we were sent through to collect the free audio guides, here, the staff were a great help, without even asking about accessibility, we were shown on the Palace map the best route round the palace to take with the pushchair as the lifts aren’t accessible to the general public, however, they are for the public’s use, but you need one of the Palace guides to assist you as the lifts are down closed corridors.
The Palace guides are very knowledgeable, if you have children with you who are interested in the old ghosts who are rumoured to haunt the Palace corridors, then they are the ones to speak too. The guide we spoke to told us about his experiences of the ghosts from hearing Catheryn Howards scream in surround sound and went rushing around the corridors thinking someone had possibly fallen down the stairs but no one was there. He did tell us that after three weeks working at the palace, he became accustomed to the ghosts tapping his shoulder, interfering with the radios and walking through walls. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have any spooky encounters on this visit, maybe next time.
Tickets for maze, gardens and the Palace cost from £9.70 to £19.30 (book online to save money).
For more information or to book tickets visit www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace.
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, KT8 9AU | 0844 482 7777