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What it's like to visit Hever Castle since it reopened

Tourist attractions across the country have been reopening their doors after lockdown - but for many, things are not quite the same as they were before.

We're visiting some of the county’s most popular venues to see how they are operating in the new normal. The latest is Hever Castle near Tonbridge.

Hever Castle(39242029)
Hever Castle(39242029)

Hever Castle was one of the first of the county's historic venues to reopen with safety measures in place, starting with its gardens and grounds, and more recently with the castle itself.

Like most venues now, you need to book online and get a timed slot to arrive within. Ours was the surprisingly specific 11.30-11.44am which made for a tiny extra pressure - all I'll say is, check if there are any major diversions on your route before you set off.

Wherever you look at Hever there's an instagrammable image waiting. And, though there are many, many signs directing visitors, from the arrows on the floor, to the one-way system over bridges, I'm pleased to report they do not detract from your view of the sumptuous grounds and historic castle itself, reflected in the moat.

Signage in the toilets, which was as clear as day, however, was still not able to prevent confusion. Only four people inside at a time - however, once in, no-one was sure how or where to queue for the sinks, and it was easy to miss people behind a cubicle door. It wasn't long before six of us were queuing to wash our hands.

Hever Castle
Hever Castle

Visitor numbers may have been reduced but there still seemed to be a healthy number, though there's plenty of room for all.

With glorious weather on the day we visited, and high temperatures forecast this weekend, visitors still have lots to see and do in the grounds, including the water maze, which is roped off to allow for a one-way system and, although it was very popular, the queue never seemed to be more than a few children deep. All the little ones who wanted to take their chances in the maze in the sunshine got their turn.

The queue ends with the drawbridge
The queue ends with the drawbridge

Many people had brought picnics, but there are so many spots to choose from, you'll be sure to find your group a spot.

Due to social distancing and keeping visitor numbers down, the biggest change is to seeing inside the castle.

Hever Castle during the social distancing era
Hever Castle during the social distancing era

Currently you are not able to book online beforehand, but can upgrade your ticket when you arrive. The queue to go inside had a definite end to it, and so if the queue had reached its limit, visitors had to come back later. But of course, no-one wanted to do that, and instead people gathered around, just waiting to race to the space in the queue when one appeared.

I couldn't help feeling for the member of staff manning the queue, who was continually having to ask people politely not to queue beyond the sign saying 'do not queue beyond this point'. So my advice would be, if you are planning a visit, enjoy the beautiful grounds and fun outside but be patient - your turn will come.

What it's like to visit Wildwood under the 'new normal'

For more days out ideas across Kent click here

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