Hampton Court Palace is another one of those places on my to visit list that I’ve wanted to see for a while, but I’ve never had an entire day available to do so without needing to rush off to catch a train. Finally I had the chance on a very sunny day in May and I was not disappointed.
The admission price of £16.50 (adult rate, booking online) is definitely worth it since not only does it include the brilliant Palace itself but the extensive gardens as well, including the famous maze (more of which later).
Photography is allowed pretty much throughout, with the exception of the Chapel Royal and the State Bedchambers which held the Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber exhibition while I was visiting. That was a very interesting series of rooms displaying royal beds and their stories, including that of Mary of Modena, James II’s queen, who had to give birth in the bed on display in front of hundreds of witnesses. Despite this it was claimed that the baby was replaced by a changeling, smuggled into the room via a warming pan (an example of which is also on display – judging by its size, how anyone thought that was a viable explanation I have no idea!).
The rooms themselves are beautiful, with intricate designs everywhere; I was particularly taken by Henry VIII’s Great Hall which definitely has that breathtaking factor as soon as you walk into it. The below photo goes nowhere near to doing it justice. It was used extensively during Henry’s time as a place for the servants to eat, but was also used on special occasions for more formal entertainments.
Of course, the exteriors of the Palace are just as impressive,
and beautifully decorated ceilings abound. (I make it a point to look up in every stately home/palace I visit, you never know what you might find).
I also visited the gardens, and the Real Tennis Courts (where a game was being played), though I didn’t take as many pictures out there as I did inside – it was gloriously hot and sunny and I’d already done quite a lot of walking.
I also decided to go into Hampton Court’s famous maze, commissioned by William III in around 1700. It actually seemed smaller from the outside than I’ve always imagined it to be though given I was on my own, my time in the maze could have proved disastrous! As it was I easily made it to the heart of the maze…
…it was just the getting back out again that proved trickier!
There are various tours/talks available throughout the day, most lead by actors in costume who will stay in character throughout – Henry VIII himself gave me a gallant bow as we passed in a corridor! – and everything is laid out so well that I only ever needed a cursory glance at my map (provided when I collected my tickets) to make sure I’d covered everything I wanted. There is also an audio guide available, though I chose not to partake this time around. A definite must see attraction.