Last week I made a visit to Hampton Court, taking a friend from the USA on her first trip to a royal palace. I have been before on a couple of occasions but had the time to really appreciate the beauty and history of the building with a fellow Museum Studies student accompanying me.
There is no doubting that the palace is beautiful and steeped in history (including a rich amount of information on my favourite royal family, the Tudors) but it does come as a surprise just how many royals have used Hampton Court Palace over the centuries as a place of residence and relaxation alike. The palace is divided into sections relating to the era or monarch that lived there and all rooms are decorated to reflect their historical eras.
Stories are told throughout your journey around the sprawling building, telling tales of the hundreds of occupants that once called the palace their home, from the Kings and Queens to the cooks and serving maids in the kitchens. During our visit this also included a number of mini plays that took place in the various rooms of the palace throughout the day. We were lucky enough to catch a production showing Shakespeare’s theatre troupe rehearsing ‘Hamlet’ in Henry VIII’s Great Hall, a show which drew a large and appreciative audience. There were also various members of staff, in full costume, around the building and gardens interacting with visitors and providing a thoroughly authentic visit to the various areas of the palace. This included the very amusing man roasting meat on a spit in the palace kitchens!
The gardens, of course, are magnificent and visiting in August allowed us to explore them on a lovely sunny day. As well as the grand formal gardens there are many smaller gardens that are just as beautiful, tucked away waiting to be discovered, such as the Rose garden and the Hampton Court Maze. We took a short rest on two of the many deckchairs placed around the gardens for visitor use and enjoyed reading the information displayed on the chairs themselves about the various occupants of the palace and their different escapades. While exploring the external beauties of Hampton Court, we stopped by the Tiltyard Cafe and had a light lunch outside on the terrace as well as later making a stop at the Privy Kitchen cafe inside the palace for coffee and cake. Both of the cafes that we visited had friendly and welcoming staff and a large variety of seating, something which you dont usually find in large tourist attractions during the height of season. Although the food was a tad overpriced (which is to be expected at a visitor attraction such as this) the food was very nice and we didn’t begrudge paying the price.
We found Hampton Court Palace to be a lovely day out, especially on a lovely sunny day (all the better to visit the gardens) and full of educational information that can be enjoyed by any ages. There was a large variety of visitors from OAPS to families with young children and all seemed to be enjoying the range of activities that Hampton Court is offering during its 500 year anniversary! As a big fan of the Tudors, of course I am going to tell everyone to visit Hampton Court but, in a completely unbiased opinion, it would be a great day out even if you are not all that interested in the rich history lesson that it provides. I look forward to my next visit!