by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:7th June 2022

A stunning display of rhododendrons and azaleas

We visited the enchanting Scotney Castle in Kent for the first-time last autumn. The foliage was turning into many shades of gold, and the russet brown leaves were shimmering in the autumnal sun.

We decided there and then that we would return to Scotney Castle in the spring. Looking forward to experiencing the transformation of the seasons and admiring the rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.

We certainly weren’t disappointed.

The meticulous care and commitment that the National Trust team dedicates are astonishing and the gardens are magnificent.

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Where is Scotney Castle

How to get to Scotney Castle

- By Train
Scotney Castle is reasonably remote; therefore, the nearest train station is Wadhurst, which is 5.5 miles from Scotney Castle. A prearranged taxi may be advised.

- By Car
Scotney Castle can be accessed from the A21. There’s a free car park for National Trust members, or parking charges apply to non-members visiting the castle.

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A brief history of Scotney Castle

The idyllic moated manor house

As soon as you catch a glimpse of Scotney Old Castle, it’s how you would imagine a secluded romantic castle should be. Nestled upon its own island with reflections of the captivating circular tower rippling across the moat.

The 14th-century Scotney Castle is located within the Wealden Kent countryside. It was built in 1377 when the threat of a French invasion was impending.

High on the hillside above the picturesque gardens, Scotney House is reflected in a lily pond in the foreground.
Scotney House

It is believed that when Scotney Castle was completed, there were originally four round corner towers; however, only one remains today. Over the subsequent 400 years, the ancient medieval castle slowly began to decay, and Scotney fell into decline.

In 1778 the Hussey family resided at Scotney and began to erect a beautiful sandstone family home upon the hill overlooking Scotney Castle. The new home is known as Scotney ‘New’ Castle or Scotney House.

The sandstone for the house was quarried from the estate, and whilst doing so, they unearthed fossilised remains from the Wealden seabed. A footprint impression of a 100-million-year-old Iguanodon dinosaur was discovered.

The ruins of old Scotney castle, set in the lush green Kentish landscape, framed by Rhododendrons
Scotney Castle framed by Rhododendrons
The medieval castle continued to deteriorate during the nineteenth century and became uninhabitable. Edward Hussey III then sought to deliberately ruin Scotney Old Castle further to create the delightful setting of the picturesque moat.

Where to stay nearby Scotney Castle

- Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse – Yes, amazingly, you can stay within the grounds of the National Trust 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.

Blooming rhododendrons and azaleas

Fragrance in the air
We arrived at Scotney Castle bright and early. We headed straight for the beautiful tranquil gardens to stroll amongst the fragrant rhododendrons and azaleas.
A close-up of an abundance of purple flowers on a rhododendron at Scotney Castle in Kent
Purple rhododendrons
As soon as we weave our way around the paths, a globe of purple blossom catches our vision; the rhododendrons undoubtedly are playing the ace card. Passing by beautiful Scotney House, we stroll through the dappled shaded woodland path, and Old Scotney Castle appears in our view
A bench next to a path leading down through the gardens to old Scotney Castle in the distance
Old Scotney Castle from a distance
Wandering around Scotney Estate when it is so peaceful is wonderful. We turn a corner, and a magnificent Giant Redwood unveils itself, piercing the skyline of Kent. Giant Redwoods are stunning trees; they have this commanding majestic feel about them that just stops you in your tracks.
A lone towering Giant Redwood tree stands proud in front of the lush gardens of the Scotney Estate in Kent
The Giant Redwood at Scotney Estate

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.

Arriving at Scotney

The early bird catches the worm
The pleasure of arriving just when Scotney Castle opens is that you feel that you have the whole 780-acre estate to yourself. Meandering along the empty footpaths with the rolling Kent landscape beyond, the only company you have are the busy buzzing honeybees collecting their nectar.
A pathway leading down to old Scotney Castle past the giant flowering rhododendrons
Tranquill surroundings
A close-up of the bright red blooms of azaleas at Scotney Castle in Kent
Bright cerise azaleas
It’s incredible how different Scotney Castle looks from one season to another. From the auburn leaves of autumn to the sunshine colours of spring, I do love the changing of the seasons in the UK.
A bench in front of orange & yellow shrubs in the gardens at Scotney Castle in Kent
Vibrant colours of mother nature

It’s so pleasurable brushing past the stunning shrubs; your sense of smell kicks into overdrive. You immediately turn back to relish the sweet fragrance once more.

Planted amongst the structural rhododendrons and striking azaleas is one of my favourite ornamental trees. With their feathery dissected leaves, the Japanese Acer’s deep red garnet foliage blends effortlessly with the surroundings.

A view over the picturesque gardens full of mixed colours of deep red, vibrant oranges and lush greens at Scotney Castle in Kent
Magnificent colours across Scotney landscape

If, like us, you enjoy visiting the National Trust gardens around the United Kingdom, then grab yourself a copy of the latest ‘Gardens of the National Trust’.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip.

Discovering Scotney boathouse

Full of rustic charm

My advice is to just keep ambling around the footpaths, not worrying about which way you’ll be guided; you never know what you will discover. To our surprise, we spotted the rather dilapidated old boathouse at the end of a moated island.

I imagine it’s been a while since the characterful boathouse last saw any action.

The derelict red-tilled boathouse reflected in the moat at Scotney Castle in Kent
Scotney Castle Boathouse
Just past the boathouse, turn left along the path by the moat; this walkway runs parallel with Scotney Old Castle. You’ll capture one of the iconic views of Scotney, the ‘old castle’ and the ‘new castle’ in one scene.
Scotney ‘old castle’ with the ‘new castle’ visible on the hill top
Scotney ‘old castle’ and ‘new castle’
The reflections of the medieval castle bathed across the moat are magnificent from this angle; it’s just lily pads and the snaking fish that ripple the view.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

Scotney Castle is located near Royal Tunbridge Wells. This region of Kent is ideal for hikes as it is in the High Weald (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.

The natural planting at Scotney

Mother natures palette
The fairy-tale castle at Scotney has such an enchanting feel about it. Take a seat within the peaceful gardens, enjoy the spring sunshine, and listen to the relaxing birdsong.
Up close to the ruins of Scotney ‘old castle’ on a beautiful spring day
Scotney ‘Old Castle’
The delicate planting within the old castle ruins is beautifully springing into bloom. The creeping white wisteria is clambering up the derelict staircase and peering through the ramshackle window frames.
Wisteria creeping over an ancient ruined doorway of Scotney Castle
Wisteria creeping over the ancient ruins
Like all of Scotney Estate, these serene ancient ruins are not to be rushed. It’s such a pleasant and thought-provoking place to stroll around.
A ruined archway almost engulfed by the planting in the picturesque gardens of Scotney Castle in Kent on a beautiful spring day
Herbaceous beds
The herbaceous beds give the impression that the natural planting comes with ease. However, I can imagine that a tremendous amount of thought and consideration is taken to ensure that the borders look impressive throughout the year.

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.

Exploring Scotney quarry

Visiting the Walled Garden

Ensure you don’t miss visiting the quarry; the planting here is beautiful, and the colours are so vibrant.

The quarry was excavated in 1835 to provide additional stone to build Scotney House. As I mentioned previously, they unearthed fossilised remains and a 100-million-year-old footprint impression of an Iguanodon during the dig. How impressive.

A pathway meandering through the quarry gardens in Scotney Castle
Scotney Quarry
Stepping down into the quarry, the borders are full of gorgeous azaleas, wispy ferns and stunning ornamental acers; the fragrance is hypnotising. You feel like you wandered off the beaten track, twisting and turning along the paths with towering crimson foliage fluttering high above, creating a shade canopy.
Yellow and red Azaleas line the quarry in Scotney Castle
Azaleas in the quarry
A pathway through the ornate planting of the quarry in Scotney Castle
Weaving through the quarry

Just before you leave Scotney Castle, head to Scotney’s one-acre walled garden located by the car park. The walled garden was built in 1840 to provide the Hussey family with delicious fresh fruit and vegetables.

The historic garden had been neglected over the years, and in 2007 the National Trust team restored it back to its former glory.

Two benches on either side a smaller herb garden within the more extensive walled Garden at Scotney Castle in Kent
Walled Garden
Spring is a beautiful time of the year to visit Scotney Castle; the rhododendrons and azaleas really do pack a punch.

Discovering more of Kent

If you love exploring intriguing historic castles and charming stately homes, then take a peek at our posts on Hever Castle, Ightham Mote, Knole and Sissinghurst Castle. These ancient homes are reasonably close by and would make an excellent weekend mini-break.

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