I hadn’t even heard of Sudeley Castle until we started researching places to go for our first day out in Bodhi Bongo. We wanted somewhere not too far. A place that my Mother in Law would also enjoy. Somewhere we could have a wander round before making tea and cooking bacon sandwiches in the campervan.
Remembering my Gardeners World 2-4-1 card which I hadn’t yet used this year (last year we visited Wollerton Hall gardens using the card) I came across Sudeley; just over an hour drive away in the Cotswold village of Winchcombe, with lots of associated Tudor history. It looked perfect for our inaugural voyage!
What a place!
Entry to the castle is down a long winding driveway to the main car park. From here the castle isn’t visible; enter through the gift shop then take the wild winding path down to the ruins of the old 15th century banqueting hall. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered off the beaten path; it’s very informal – almost like you’re trespassing!
A cross between a museum and a stately home
Sudeley charts some of it’s 1000 year history through exhibitions, short films and original artefacts, while also opening a handful of rooms lived in by the owners when they’re in residence.
Elizabeth I’s christening gown hangs in one of the exhibition rooms, as does a waistcoat belonging to Charles I (he took refuge in the castle during the civil war).
In another room is an ornately carved wooden bed, adorned with bed covers made for and slept in by Marie Antoinette.
The artefacts and storyline of the history of the castle, like everything, is wonderfully done but largely informal; making it a pleasure to just wander and soak in everything this gem has to offer.
Sudeley is also famed for being the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds. The tomb of Katherine Parr – final and surviving wife of Henry VIII – is situated in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. This was not her original burial place; her body was discovered some 200 years after her death and reinterred within the church in the late 1700s.
The whole of the castle is surrounded by beautifully tended gardens, including the Elizabethan Knot garden. The Secret Garden is accessed through an archway in a hedge to the side of St Mary’s Church. Being October the gardens obviously weren’t in full flower, but still very lovely to wander around.
Wander at will
One of the things we found very surprising, and refreshing, about Sudeley Castle and the grounds was the feeling of openness. There were no designated paths to follow. No arrows telling you in which direction to walk around the building or, signs telling you to keep off the grass. It felt like everywhere was accessible and welcoming; like the owners really want visitors to be there, to immerse themselves, and to enjoy Sudeley in their own way.
Sudeley Castle is a truly wonderful place; beautiful, well looked after, true to its history, educational, informative and a joy to visit. Do go there if you can!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x