A captivating jewel in National Trust’s crown
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is in the heart of the rolling Kent countryside and just a stone throw from the picturesque High Weald and North Downs (AONB) regions.
It’s a gorgeous area of Kent and has so many exceptional places of interest and historical sites to visit.
Gary and I have recently become members of the National Trust. We have discovered some stunning places in the southeast.
Although, I must say Sissinghurst Castle Garden has become a particular favourite of mine already. I’m now trying to think of an excuse to revisit the gardens, especially the ‘Delos’ Garden inspired by the Greek island of Delos.
I was immediately blown away at how captivating Sissinghurst Castle was. It is so lovingly maintained by the National Trust, and even though the gardens are meticulously kept, they had this enchanting tousled and wind-swept feel about them.
Where is Sissinghurst Castle Garden
How to get to Sissinghurst Castle Garden
- By Train
You can catch a direct train from London Bridge to Staplehurst Station, which is 5 miles from Sissinghurst Castle.
The journey time is around 50 minutes. A taxi rank serves this station.
- By Car
Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent is just 2 miles northeast of Cranbrook and 1 mile east of Sissinghurst village just off the A262.
There’s a free car park for National Trust members, or parking charges apply to non-members.
A brief history on Sissinghurst Castle GardenOr is it château de Sissinghurst
Centuries ago, the ancient site of Sissinghurst Castle stood on what was once a Saxon pig farm, and the area was called ‘Saxenhurst’, ‘hurst’ meaning woodland.
During the Tudor era, Sissinghurst manor grew into a beautiful, moated home. It was in the 1560s when the wealthy owners of the ‘Baker’ family had The Tower built and formed the lavish entrance to a large courtyard for the house.
The Tower, the South Cottage and few walls are all that remain from that period. Having survived the English Civil War in mid-17th-century, Sissinghurst Manor was to become a casualty in the Seven Years’ War but not to the fate of the battle; it was at the hands of French prisoners-of-war.
The 3,000 French sailors were imprisoned in horrendous conditions with very minimal supplies. They proceeded to burn and demolish the Tudor buildings. Very little of the newly named Château de Sissingherst remained. This nickname was given by the French seamen caught-on and roughly translated into the new name of Sissinghurst Castle.
Fast forward to the 1930s, and Sissinghurst Castle was purchased by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. They completely transformed the beautiful walled gardens, which were in disarray when they arrived and renovated the few existing buildings into their family home.
In 1967 Harold decided to hand over Vita’s beloved Sissinghurst into the loving hands of the National Trust.
Arriving at Sissinghurst Castle GardenVisiting the Oast House Exhibition
Ambling towards the gardens, there’s no mistaking you are in Kent as Sissinghurst Castle has eight eye-catching oast houses which are so synonymous across Kent’s skyline. Housed within the square roofed oast houses is a little exhibition on the history of Sissinghurst Castle Garden, hop picking and how the oast houses were used to dry the hops.
Just by the Oast House Exhibition is the visitor reception and information.
Visiting Sissinghurst Castle GardenWhere do you visit first?
Yes, it’s decision time already. Would you like to head straight into Sissinghurst Castle’s beautiful English country gardens or take a stroll around the ancient moat and lakes?
It’s so easy to while away the hours at Sissinghurst gardens it isn’t surprising that the old brick farmhouse has been converted into a B&B. So, what I suggest is to make the most of your visit to Sissinghurst Castle and stay overnight at the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse B&B. That way, you can take your time and wake up to the captivating surroundings.
Hiking the Kent Countryside
Sissinghurst is located in Kent nearby Cranbrook and Tunbridge Wells. This region of Kent is ideal for hikes as it is close to the High Weald and North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To explore the trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey maps that will help you along the route is no. 136, ‘High Weald’.
Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.
When is a castle not a castle?That is the question...
Stepping beyond the archway, the captivating tower reveals itself in elegant glory. The striking tower could almost be mistaken for a folly as it stands curiously alone in the middle of the garden.
However, this striking tower was erected in the 1560s and would have once been the imposing gateway to the courtyard of Sissinghurst manor and the Tudor buildings encompassing it.
The brick tower must have appeared like a castle during the 18th-century. So, while the French prisoners-of-war were ensconced within the walls, they referred to it as a château hence the translation to castle.
Therefore, it was never castle, but I honestly think Sissinghurst Castle wears the name well.
Part of the West Range, known as the ‘Big Room’, is open to the public. This section of Sissinghurst Castle is one of the few remaining buildings from the 1530s. It was converted from farm stables into a library by Sackville-West and Nicolson.
Within the library is a picture bought in recent years from an auction that depicts life during the time when the French prisoners were incarcerated within the castle.
It is believed that the image was drawn by one of the French prisoners.
Where to stay near Sissinghurst Castle Garden
- Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse – Yes, amazingly, you can stay within the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle Garden.
This beautiful farmhouse has been lovingly decorated throughout and offers a delicious variety of breakfasts.
- The Woolstore – This delightful holiday cottage is within a short distance of Sissinghurst.
The Woolstore makes a perfect place to stay while discovering the Garden of England. Wake up every morning amongst cherry orchards and sheep meadows.
Climbing Sissinghurst Castle towerView across The Weald countryside
Yes, it must be done, if only for the magnificent views over the Kent landscape.
We head up the 78 narrow winding tower steps in anticipation of what we’ll find at the top. The climb isn’t too bad as it’s only three floors. The only point to note is that it’s the same route up as it is down, so you may sometimes have to squeeze in.
The turreted tower was Vita Sackville-West’s sanctum. The author would hide away in her study and write within the tower until her heart was content. The Tower is now Grade I Listed.
We reached the top, and it didn’t disappoint. You get a spectacular perspective of the incredible gardens surrounding the tower and the design and layout of each area in and around the walled garden.
I especially loved the view towards the oast houses, Elizabethan barn, and the enchanting ‘Delos’ Greek-inspired garden.
Exploring the gardens at Sissinghurst CastleFrom the English to the Greeks
You could so easily get lost in your thoughts and while away hours exploring the individual gardens that effortlessly unfurl from one enchanting, secluded hideaway to another.
There’s such an exquisite mixture of planting throughout Sissinghurst Castle. From the walled English cottage garden with its rambling heritage roses interwoven with scented honeysuckle to the vibrant green ferns tickling the surface of the pond.
I especially love a walled garden; the gnarly, crumbling backdrop brings a true feel of time to the meticulous and thoughtful planting.
The newest redeveloped garden, which was completed in spring 2021 by the National Trust, is the Delos inspired garden. Delos is an island in Greece that Vita and Harold visited in 1935.
The couple tried to emulate the Mediterranean planting; however, the Kent climate made it a bit of a challenge decades ago. The gardening team's patience and perseverance have transformed this stunning garden in Kent into a little slice of Greece, and the Delos Garden looks incredible.
You instantly see and feel the similarities. With olive trees giving a little dappled shade, wispy planting peering between rocks, white gravel pathways and toppled Greek columns adding to the Mediterranean landscape.
If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".
You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.
There’s more to explore at Sissinghurst GardensFrom The Nuttery to Lime Walk
Oh yes, there’s also the Vegetable Garden adjacent to the family picnic spot. That’s another reason why I love National Trust sites is that they always encourage you to take your time while visiting and allow you the space to roll out your picnic blanket.
Now, back to that Vegetable Garden, you can’t miss this, you wouldn’t believe how many varieties of vegetables they grow. And if you fancy a little nourishment, visit the Granary Restaurant. Here you can sample the delicious produce harvested from Sissinghurst Castle’s own vegetable garden.
Escape for a few days
Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?
After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.
Spend a day at Sissinghurst CastleDiscover the lakeside walk
Our video of Sissinghurst Castle GardenCaptured on a perfect English summer's day
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