Sunday 22 July 2012

Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, Kent

One of the most idyllic of the National Trust properties in the south east of England, Scotney Castle's 770 acres of woodland and parkland contain both a substantial Victorian country house and the remains of a fourteenth century moated castle. The stone solidity of the stately home contrasts with the  crumbling curves of the castle nestling in the valley below. Although the terrace of the austere and angular house is bare and forlorn, it does afford tantalizing glimpses of the intricately tiled turret and pitched rooftop of the fairytale castle. You can follow a meandering path down through the verdant gardens to the wide, peaceful moat, which can be covered in waterlilies. One side of the castle is a ruined shell, which forms a picturesque stone scaffold for the mature trees, shrubs and flowers growing in amidst the old stone walls. The other side of the castle is still intact and you can explore the charming Elizabethan brick house built next to the medieval conical tower. Although it oozes atmosphere, the interior is barely furnished, with just the odd remnant of centuries past, such as the antique wooden toilets, buzzing with flies, and an ancient pram.

Photogenic views everywhere
In Scotney Castle's undulating grounds, which are riddled with brooks and streams, there is an extraordinary collection of trees ranging from gnarled old hulks to towering redwoods, plus impressive rhododendrons and azaleas. You will also find ramshackle outbuildings, stone pathways, eye-catching sculptures and enticing waterside benches. In the rugged quarry garden, you can clearly see where the stones for the Victorian house were chiseled out. There are three well-marked walks through the fields and woods of the estate offering glimpses of the Victorian house high on the hill and the ruined castle. Visitors will be reaching for their camera constantly - at Scotney Castle there are photogenic views just about everywhere you turn. 9/10