If you’ve been to Kent, odds-on you’ve been to Penshurst Place.
We are lucky to have a brace of fabulous historic houses that offer a great day out and Penshurst has definitely expanded its offer over the last few years. You can spend the day there or pop in for coffee after a long walk around the estate, dash in for a present you need pronto or spend a morning letting the children run around the adventure playground.
Penshurst Place boasts some serious history. Once the property of King Henry VIII , he left it to his son, King Edward VI. It was then granted to Sir William Sidney in 1552, remaining in the Sidney family for the last 460 years, some record. For the last twenty years Viscount de L’Isle and his wife Isobel have welcomed visitors to Penshurst to share in the history of the State Rooms, Gardens and Parkland. There is a small team of staff that help to make all this happen.
Admittedly Penshurst Place are now coming to end of the open season which runs from March through to the beginning of November but you can still walk and cycle year round as well as visit the Porcupine Pantry and the gift shop (check website for details www.penshurstplace.com). Plus, as I write there are some spooky Halloween half term activities planned.
I hadn’t been into the house for many years but had a look around a few weeks ago. The Baron’s Hall, completed in 1341 sits right at the heart of the house and is an incredible piece of history. It has a beautiful chestnut roof, has been used in many films and is now an amazing venue for weddings and other events. The Queen Elizabeth I room (where she often held an audience when visiting Penshurst Place), the West Solar (a medieval withdrawing room)and the Long Gallery are all worth a visit. It’s worth mentioning again that Penshurst is privately run and therefore does not have the might of the National Trust behind it. This is reflected in the admission prices and it is incredibly impressive that the family manage to run such a magnificent house. Some people have moaned about poor service in the cafe or restaurant in season but I’ve never had a problem and the Porcupine Cafe is a good ‘drop in’ venue for coffee in Penshurst even if you aren’t heading into the grounds themselves or at the end of a long walk.
The gardens at Penshurst Place have gradually been going through a transformation and a notice on one of the gates detailed how they were going about the project and it was clear that it is a real labour of love, not squads of garden designers re-mastering them, just a few gardeners updating and renewing different sections at a time. Over a mile of yew hedging divides the gardens into rooms, a real contrast to the acres of parkland that Penshurst Place offers.
The adventure playground is a child magnet through the season, a good place to meet up, have a coffee and watch them run off steam. For the school holidays they offer a Maize Maze and Woodland walk and you can set off on a hike across the parkland on some wonderful walks on the estate. There is a toy museum tucked away for the less boisterous. Keep an eye on the website for holiday and half term activities.
Penshurst Place hosts a Farmer’s market on the first Saturday of every month from 9.30 to noon (The Times named Penshurst Farmer’s Market in it’s Top Ten markets in the UK recently). There’s lots of free parking, good wheelchair access and some delicious locally-sourced food . Keep in touch with their news on @PenhurstFmMrkt for different tastings or seasonal products.
This is one of the fabulous walks near Penshurst Place with a little history thrown in…
All in, a fabulous place to have on our doorstep.