The eagle-eyed Instagramers among you will have seen one place in particular pop up in my feed and Instastories over the past month. It’s somewhere I discovered by chance and loved so much that when my mum visited recently I knew I had to take her there.
I am, of course, referring to the National Trust’s Scotney Castle. (Regular readers will know I’ve been making the most of my membership over the past month but I promise this is the last National Trust post for a little while!) We travelled to Tunbridge Wells by car and I have to say this is one site that’s not so easily accessible via public transport with the nearest train station – Wadhurst – some 5.5 miles away. Once you are there there is plenty of parking, free for members and a flat rate of £3 for non-members.
As with all National Trust properties, standard admission is free for members and starts at £13 for adults. If you are someone who likes exploring heritage sites and stately homes and gardens I can’t recommend membership enough. Individual membership is £64.80 but if that’s too much to spend at once you can pay by monthly direct debit of a little over £5. You’ll be sent 3 magazines a year and a welcome pack with details on every site in the UK as well as a car sticker so staff know not to charge you for parking. If you do decide to join it’s always best to do it in person if you can. Like most charitable organisations the National Trust needs to raise money to be able to carry out its conservation work around the UK. Each site has to play its part so if you can support them by joining in person it will really aid the fundraising efforts of the special place you are visiting.
There’s a lot to see at this Estate but don’t be misled by the name because it’s the Hussey’s old house that is the main attraction. The Castle itself is rather bare and undergoing some structural repair work though it is worth a visit – take the quarry path down to the lake to take full advantage of the flora in bloom.
I digress. While you’re still in the car park head for the Walled Garden where you’ll find a lovely tulip collection and a fantastic array of herbs famed for their medicinal, dyeing and tea-making properties. (There’s an event dedicated to exploring these properties scheduled for 12th July 2017 – click here for more information.)
The house was built using stone quarried from the old castle and overlooks its ruins. It was home to several generations of the Hussey family with the late Christopher and Betty its final residents. Christopher was an authority on architecture, writing and later editing the architecture pages of Country Life magazine. He married Elizabeth Maud Kerr-Smiley – Betty – in 1936. The pair even celebrated their reception at Scotney.
The house is a hybrid of old and new-ish styles; a fusion of the Hussey’s decision to honour the history of the house and their predecessors and their need to make practical adjustments to the property so that it be liveable for them. For example, they installed guest bathrooms where dressing rooms previously stood yet they retained the art works Mary Ann Hussey painted before she married Major William Clive Hussey, many of which line the ground floor corridor.
Most of all I enjoyed seeing little sparks of Betty’s personality dotted throughout the house. A devoted cat lady, her pink bathroom is a wonderful homage to her feline companions: a pair of pink china cups emblazoned with hand-painted cats, whose gaze follows guests as they walk through the room. Above the sink in that same bathroom are a number of framed letter paintings thanking Betty for her wonderful hospitality and parties! If only those walls could talk!
If the weather’s on your side the gardens are a lovely place to explore and lay out your picnic. (The best spot is somewhat hidden behind the castle ruins. Look for the bench beneath the enormous bare tree.) And if you haven’t brought a picnic fear not! The café is sure to have a scone and a cuppa with your name on it.
Until next time,