Le chateau at Sissinghurst, as it was once nicknamed, is not a castle at all it is a network of marvellous squat Tudor buildings. The Sissinghurst manor house is at least 300 years old nestled in the Weald of Kent and built on a former pig farm dating from Saxon times.
The tower in the midst of the garden is built in a style reminiscent of a castle’s fortifications.
French prisoners were kept in desperate conditions in the ‘castle’ during the Seven Years War which is how it earned the name ‘le chateau’, and it stuck as a translation into the English.
The last private owners passed the estate to the National Trust in 1967.
Sissinghurst Castle is most famous for its garden. In fact it is world famous. Thousands of visitors a year come to Sissinghurst to admire the White Garden in particular.
The garden laid out by novelist Vita (christened Victoria) Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson is just as beautiful today as it was in the late 1930s after the devoted couple replanted the derelict Elizabethan farm.
Visit the site to experience their vision and the rooms in which Vita used to write her poetry.
In particular search out the mini-tower or white gazebo, on the corner of the moat. Imagine Vita writing overlooking the inspirational view of the gentle farmland and meadows to the north- northwest.
Climb the Castle Tower to see the aerial view of the gardens and further afield across the countryside.
Stay for a local lunch either in a nearby country pub or within the grounds of the estate in The Granary Restaurant. As is the wont of the National Trust, many of the ingredients like the herbs and vegetables are grown metres away from the kitchen.
The surrounding estate is vast and includes lakes, woods and farmland all dog friendly and welcoming for well-behaved pooches on leads. There is even a special dog ramp so your pet can enter the lake for a dip without damaging the delicate banks and plant life.
The best time to visit depends on what you like. Around the estate you can see bluebells in spring, snowdrops in winter and hunt out the little fairy doors too! In June, the roses are usually at their best.
From London, you can get the train to Staplehurst and then the bus – only an hour and a half if you check the timings first. If you’re driving it would only take 2 and a quarter hours – just right for a long weekend break.
Arriva bus 5 Maidstone–Hawkhurst (passing Staplehurst station), alight Sissinghurst 1¼ miles away (20 min walk).