A ripple nudges at stonework beside your feet, the wake from a duck that has hurriedly left just seconds before, a gentle rustling brings blossom scent on the breeze and as you look out across the lake you could be in the midst of a Tennyson poem. Is the Lady of Shallott somewhere near?
Children’s laughter catches your ear, a face by the stone doorway brings you from your reverie, a smile crosses your face and the moment where this was your own private castle has passed leaving a wondrous memory that would comfort the heart of he who built this place in a different time and for a very different purpose.
When I was asked which was my favourite house in Kent it really wasn’t too hard to pick this one. Kent is blessed with glorious buildings, the product of a rich history and money from wool, farming and trade. I could easily pick any one of those other homes for a point of historical importance or architectural interest. I do find one place always leaves a lasting image in my heart, it has a romance that endows a lingering pleasure long after I have left and that place is Scotney Castle.
In the 1830’s the Hussey family began a project to build a new home at Scotney. The striking manor house is a lovely building and well worth visiting. It sits overlooking gardens that can be enjoyed through the seasons. For me the joy comes from glimpses of the fourteenth century castle that sits on the lake below.
I wish I could step back in time and meet that family who chose to build new Scotney and get a sense of how they felt about the landscape they were shaping. The old castle has seen many changes through the centuries and was, I believe, still partly used until the first few years of the twentieth century as a bailiff’s residence. What romance did the last occupier attach to this place?
It was a masterful stroke this re working of the old castle. Much has gone, carefully taken down to retain this memorable ‘ruin’.
If you get the chance, take yourself along to visit with your current favourite book or even a copy of Tennyson or Longfellow and find somewhere to sit with this wondrous image in the corner of your eye. Sit perhaps for a moment within the stone walls and gaze out through a green clad arch, spend a little time to soak up the feel of somewhere that has been a home for many centuries and now is a place of joy and inspiration for so many. Wander the grounds and enjoy the gardens and see if your heart is stolen by this place.
Scotney holds a magic unlike anywhere else I know in Kent, visit when mist glides across the lake top and it will feel wholly different to when the evening light glances from the stonework. It somehow manages to encapsulate all that Kent means to me, beautiful scenery, history and romance. I could easily imagine Lord Tennyson strolling the grounds gaining inspiration as he went and I’ll borrow a few of his words to finish.
Love thou thy land, with love far-brought
From out the storied Past, and used
Within the present, but transfused
Thro’ future time by power of thought
There is a taste of ‘my Scotney’ I hope you find yours as wonderful when you visit.
This article first appeared on ‘The History Magpie’, Rachael Hale’s excellent blog and it was a real pleasure to be given the opportunity to write something for her.