The Herstmonceux Castle Folly – a Victorian facade that served no purpose other than to decorate the landscape.
Romance is when your partner plans surprise get-aways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This is what Robbie did for me over the weekend. I knew we were going to the seaside, but had to guess the town before he’d reveal the exact location.
On Saturday morning we caught a train from Victoria Station to East Sussex where he had a whole day planned out. One thing I love most about living in England is the focus on preserving national heritage. It’s just not something we see as much of back home in the States. Stately homes and castles are at the top of my list of places to go and practice photography (two of my favorite destinations are Castle Howard in Yorkshire, and Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire) because of the opulent architecture, beautiful gardens, and history seeping out of every stone and crevice.
Our first stop was Polegate station where we hailed a cab and drive to Herstmonceux Castle. Constructed in the 15th century, Herstmonceux was one time the largest private home in England. In the 1520s, the castle was seized from the Dacre family by King Henry VIII, only to be given back under the rule of Elizabeth I. The Restoration period in the 17th century saw renovation and rejuvenation, but also the bankruptcy of Lord Dacre who was forced to sell the castle in 1777. By the 19th century, the castle was in ruins and became a popular tourist attraction for Victorian holiday-makers visiting Brighton and Eastbourne. Herstmonceux took on new life in the early 20th century and is now a part-time wedding venue and hosts international students studying at Queens University.
The grounds at Herstmonceux are stunning and include ancient chestnut trees, an Elizabethan garden, a folly (a house that serves only as decoration), lakes, and sprawling fields.
After Herstmonceux we took the train down the coast to Eastbourne, a Victorian seaside town separated from Brighton and Seaford by the magnificent chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters, and Beachy Head. Robbie booked us into a room at the famous Grand Hotel, which boasts a historical guest list that includes Charles Chaplin, Winston Churchill, and Claude Debussy. They provide Twinings tea and Molton Brown bath products and require guests to dress for dinner at their in-house restaurant! We opted for Torreros, the delicious tapas restaurant on the High Street, instead.
On Sunday we decided to stop by the picturesque town of Lewes to take in the remnants of their Norman castle with its imposing Barbican gate before heading back to London.
All photos © Kendra Bean. All rights reserved.