Herstmonceux Castle gardens and grounds

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex history architecture England

About a month ago James and I finally got around to visiting Herstmonceux Castle, which is not far from Eastbourne in East Sussex. We'd been meaning to go for a long time, but there are so many lovely things to do around here it joined a long list. You can see the outfit photos I took at Herstmonceux here.

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture castle close up

We went on a May bank holiday weekend on a gorgeously hot and sunny day but it was almost entirely devoid of people. It may have been because on this particular day there were no castle tours. It's not a castle you can turn up to and visit at your leisure - there are castle tours on select days. The castle is owned by Queen's University Canada and is used as an international study centre. We only wanted to see the gardens and woodland, so it suited us perfectly to visit on a quiet day.

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture castle close up

Construction of the castle began in 1441 and it's an unusual building as brick wasn't a common building material then. As well as the castle, gardens, woodland and folly there's also a science centre and observatories there from the days when it was owned by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. We will go back at some point to see the science centre as James is a massive geek, and we both love star-gazing.

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture moat reflections

There are several themed gardens to visit but the woodland and folly were our favourite parts of our visit. This lovely pergola marks the start of the walk into the forest, and as soon as we were over a brief muddy bit I walked barefoot in the lush grass, which was like a damp, springy carpet. The mild and wet winter has made for such gorgeous greenery this year. I've never seen anything like it.

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture castle woodland

Follies are funny things. Often built during the 18th century they were decorative buildings which usually had no purpose at the time, although many have been converted to housing in modern times. As you can see, the folly appears to be two storeys tall, but from the inside there's just one big wood-clad room painted white. You walk through to a garden behind, and from there you see that the upper storey at the back is an open sun terrace with steps up from the garden.

Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture folly building
The folly
Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture folly wild garden
The folly garden, which is left wild
Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture castle lake
The lake near the folly
Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex England history architecture castle English rhododendrons
Gorgeous rhododendrons with me for scale
Herstmonceux-Castle-gardens-and-grounds-East-Sussex-English-rhododendrons history architecture

Here's a really brief video just to set the ambience of the day. (If you're reading via email click through to my blog to see the video).

There's ample space in the woodland for picnics, and most of the grounds are flat, so at times when it hasn't rained recently it should be reasonably accessible for wheelchairs and prams/push chairs. There's a cafe there, and there was a peacock hanging around a family waiting for table scraps when we walked past. There are lots of statues to see and the flower gardens are lovely. Being there on such a quiet day was a real tonic, with little to hear but birdsong and the wind. I'd thoroughly recommend a visit if you're nearby.

Have you ever visited Herstmonceux?

Gardens and Grounds of Herstmonceux Castle
Herstmonceux Castle
Wartling Road Entrance
East Sussex
BN27 1RN

Thanks for reading,
Leah xoxo


  1. I'm so happy I came across this post and the fact that you live in East Sussex is awesome! I don't know anyone else who blogs who is from my neck of the woods haha! Your pictures are gorgeous and I am in love with visiting castles! This one is next on my list. Have you had an afternoon tea at the cafe there? If you haven't been to Bodiam castle, if recommend going there as well! Lovely post!


    1. Hiya! The nearest bloggers I know are from Brighton, I don't know any near me at all apart from you. Coincidentally we went there again on Saturday and I had a cream tea. It was lovely! We've been to Bodiam too but not inside the castle. We used to go there a lot when you could just pay to park and go in the grounds for free, but now you have to pay full price to even go around the grounds so we go a lot less. I want to go to Arundel Castle - it looks amazing! I love history.