Hampton Court Palace has been on my ‘to-do’ list before the to-do list ever existed in any physical form! It was the first on there, but it is only now that I have nearly done everything on that list that I have finally visited!
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond. Situated in a green area of London in the midst of a various parks and on the river Thames it is very picturesque. It was built by Thomas Wolsey and given as a gift to Henry VIII when he realised his downfall was close. It featured quite prominently in the TV series The Tudors that Michael and I saw in the past year. This made me more eager to visit. However, it wasn’t until things didn’t go too well on Friday at uni that I decided I wanted a break and the choice fell on visiting this palace – at long last.
We arrived at the palace from a side entrance to the surrounding gardens. This meant that we approached the castle from the side. It was a bit confusing at first, so it wasn’t till we actually turned the corner to the front of the palace that we could see how majestic and imposing it is in its location. We were eager to go in and explore, so we bought our tickets (two for one thanks to daysoutguide and national rail!) and hurried inside.
Soon after our arrival there was a ‘meet the court’ event planned as part of the ‘Living Tudor World‘ activities planned to bring the palace alive. So we decided to start with that. The activity involved the participants meeting Henry VIII’s physician, then a lady and an earl, as well as Henry VIII himself, and Queen Catherine. I think it is a nice touch. However, as I knew the story I didn’t feel that they contributed that much to me, so we decided to skip the rest of the performances in preference to walking around the palace on our own.
The tour of the palace is facilitated by audio guides that are given free with the ticket. This is a great idea I always think, as then the length of time you spend learning about the place doesn’t depend on your reading speed. Also, you have time to look around as you listen rather than focus on the written words.
Most of the audio guide commentary was from the point of view of a character working in the palace on one specific day, such as the day that Henry VIII got married to Catherine Parr. However, I appreciated the audio guide for the kitchens the most I think as it presented the place from today’s point of view, while explaining how they learnt about the different aspects of the place. I found this much more interesting.
We didn’t only spend time in the palace though! The palace has quite large gardens that go with it. In the gardens there is the world’s oldest maze – we did find the middle, but I felt quite disoriented by the end of it!
We also took a guided tour of the history of the gardens with an extremely knowledgeable volunteer. There was just four of us on that tour, that made it that much better. That tour was probably one of the highlights of the visit to me, possibly as it was one of the few opportunities to have direct human contact with someone for any length of time in the place and get your questions answered (though the stewards in the rooms also seemed very knowledgeable when I spoke to them, and very eager to impart their knowledge. So maybe it was my issue that I didn’t ask more).
By the end of the day I was absolutely shattered! We spent from around 10:45am to 5:15pm- so around 6.5hrs in total (with a break in the middle for lunch and a rest in the gardens). However, this means that while quite expensive you really do get your money’s worth. There’s something for everyone – we didn’t even see everything there was to see.
Was it worth the visit? Most definitely! So glad we made it there in the end, and on a gorgeous day to boot! A perfect day