Original article from Kent Live
Our county is home to some beautiful and pretty underrated castles.
From Leeds Castle to Dover Castle, each is a reminder of our rich history and links to royalty.
Not to mention they make for fantastic days out with the family or the perfect spot for a romantic walk.
And it seems some visitors are sufficiently moved by them to post reviews on Tripadvisor.
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The review website allows visitors of cafes, attractions and places all over the world to give feedback on their trip.
KentLive has ranked them for your ease of reference.
At the top of our list is Dover Castle which has received a four and a half star rating.
After being reviewed by more than 6,000 visitors it seems that the county can't get enough of this iconic castle.
One review read: "If you love and appreciate strategic architectural structures then you’ll love this castle. Very impressive on the way it is laid out and from such a vantage point too!
"Lovely scenery from top view of the surrounding towns and harbour.
"Steeped in historical transition right from the first foundation in 1st century AD through WW2 and present times where some office blocks are still in use by the military.
"A must visit if you love history and architecture. COVID regulations applied with social distancing while on tour.
"Need to book your time slot in advance online."
Walmer Castle and Gardens
In second place came the charming Tudor castle right by the coast in Deal.
Walmer Castle boasts eight acres of stunning gardens, woodland and sea views.
Writing a four and a half star review, one of the 1,188 TripAdvisor reviewers wrote: "We came over the bank holiday and the gardens were amazing!
"Helpful staff and it was all very relaxed and tranquil. They give you a free map and you can both wander as well as simply sit in the sun and take it all in.
"Coffee shop was very slow and we gave up on that in the end.
"Someone also tried to get in without booking and they said no despite her protests, which was great. Book ahead!"
Hever Castle and Gardens
The childhood home of Anne Boleyn came in third place on this list with another four and a half stars to its name.
One reviewer says it's perfect for family, friends and couples.
They wrote: "A very serene and lovely setting. Great landscaping with extensive grounds that carries different themes.
"A castle where it’s hard to be bored if you love nature and painting.
"So well maintained with walking paths. A huge variety of fauna and flora which is delightful to see.
"We were lucky to get our castle and gardens tickets online as they sell it separately and it’s the start of the season where covid protocols are in place so each booking is timed! So make sure you book early!
"There’s also a gift shop and cafe with loo facility outdoor. A second cafe or bistro is right inside where the grounds meets the River Eden but it was not open when we were there.
"Castle itself is rich with history between the Boleyn family and King Henry VIII via his marriage to Anne Boleyn.
"The castle has narrow passages within and staircase so may be challenging for those with knee problems.
"Prepare for a day of lots of walking! We spent a good 4 hours there and was very tired at the end of it.
"A perfect place though for wedding photography as it’s very lovely in the gardens.
"Recommended for family, friends and couple visit."
Rochester Castle was built in 1087 and is said to be one of England's finest and best preserved examples of Norman architecture.
It is listed as one of the top four things to do in the Medway town and has attracted reviews from 1,230 people.
With an average score of four and a half stars, visitors loved it's picturesque grounds.
One woman thought it was worth the visit, she said: "Beautiful afternoon walking around Rochester castle.
"The grounds are beautiful and very picturesque because of the quarantine restrictions I could not enter inside but the views are stunning from outside, ideal place for a picnic, workout-motivation, yoga, etc
"Inside is not much to see but I understand there are magnificent concerts.
"Worth to visit best part is free to walk the grounds to enter there is a fee, you can find parking easy around the castle small walking distance."
Considered one of the most romantic castles in the country, its gardens, activities and architecture attract half a million visitors every year.
One couple who had visited in April this year said: "We went on a Tuesday afternoon, weather had a few showers now and again so was fairly quiet.
"Lovely grounds and nice to explore. The Maze was a bit disappointing as all the wrong turns were barriered off (guessing because of covid) but was a nice day afternoon out.
"Very good covid measures in place, especially inside the castle; could see them cleaning touchpoints regularly"
One of the best examples of a Motte and Bailey Castle makes it to sixth place on the list.
The Tonbridge Castle Gatehouse Tour includes an interactive recreation of Medieval life, featuring an audio-visual presentation, a chance to explore the basement and armoury and views from the battlements.
Despite the great reviews left on TripAdvisor, only 249 people were bothered to comment on their visit.
A reviewer who visited in September 2020, loved the audio tour.
They said: "Whilst on holiday in Kent we had based ourselves in Tonbridge and felt we couldn’t stay and not visit the castle.
"Obviously things are very different at the moment with Covid 19 and we had to pre book. However we had no problem booking on the day and it was all very well organised.
"As it happened we had the whole place to ourselves so was great for taking photos. We opted to use the audio tour as I’m never very good at following written instructions and also my husband is a bit of a history buff and loves to obtain as much information as possible.
"Anyway we both found it interesting and for me it was just about the right amount of information I found it very interesting and didn’t switch off which I tend to do if there is too much info.
"Afterwards we did the tour outside which in fairness you can do for free but if you hang onto the audio sets it gives you a bit more information.
"It took us about 1 hour 30mins with the outside.
"Personally I would recommend the audio tour as I think you will miss out if you didn’t do it as there isn’t much info around the castle.
"Thoroughly enjoyed our time and it’s a cheap visit."
This four star rated English country house wasn't received well by all of its 257 reviewers.
In May this year one person was outraged by the lack of disabled facilities at Chiddingstone Castle.
They wrote: "I took my nan to have a look around this morning as she was very excited to go, I was disgusted at the non disabled facilities, the whole place is large gravel and I struggled to push her wheelchair through it.
"We couldn't even look around inside as we couldn't get up the main stairs"
However another reviewer painted an entirely different picture during their visit in August 2020.
They said: "Had my 60th Birthday gathering in Castle grounds. Had lovely covid friendly cream tea served as takeaway but eaten in courtyard area.
"Very fresh, served by happy friendly staff, lovely little antiques shop. Interesting and different displays in castle.
"Walked along path through wooded area to the village. Everyone felt very safe and enjoyed my day. Will be going back again."
Upnor Castle is set in the tranquil grounds of the riverside village Upnor and was dates back to 1559.
It was built with the intention of defending Queen Elizabeth I and the nearby Chatham Dockyard.
Upnor Castle provides open air theatre and battle re-enactments during the summer months and it's ancient halls are very popular for weddings.
But sadly the castle has been titled "weak compared with other castles".
The TripAdvisor reviewer wrote: "Not recommended for three reasons:
1) The staff are over-zealous on social distancing. I am very much in favour of distancing and mask wearing personally, but to be told where and in which order I can walk through the grounds outdoors is excessive when my family was the only visitor for the 40 minutes we were there.
"2) The staff are not knowledgeable or enthusiastic about the history of the place at all, they know very little, and view their job as to make sure you stick to the one way system not to ensure you enjoy yourself or learn anything.
"3) The buildings are almost empty, almost no displays, a few half-hearted notice boards scattered around.
"I would suggest going to one of the two good pubs in Upnor instead, they actually want you to be there. Very attractive little hamlet."
Deal Castle was built on the orders of Henry VIII and so has become one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England.
With many naming the castle as a "lovely place" and an "interesting" couple of hours, one reviewer just didn't have the time of their life on their trip to Deal Castle.
They said: "Not the greatest.
"I appreciate that things need to be closed and changed due to Covid, but the castle was rather uninspiring.
"I'm a history buff and I love a good factoid – so I went to Deal castle hoping to read some: spoiler, there's very few.
"I spent an hour wandering around, which was pleasant enough, but then I left only to find I'd been issued a parking ticket.
"Placed on my windscreen. Next to my membership sticker, everywhere the signage says 'Members don't pay for parking'.
"I went back into the castle only to be told 'Oh, you've got the wrong sticker, here's one with dates on.
"You can appeal it, but you probably won't be able to.' It has never been an issue elsewhere.
Located in the valley of River Bewl, Scotney Castle gardens are a site of special scientific interest.
Although it is not the most favoured castle in the county of Kent, it still has a charm about it that sees visitors coming back.
However it could be the catering services that has put this castle in 10th place.
One reviewer explained: "We went to Scotney Castle as we were recommended it for the the lovely gardens and we weren't disappointed.
"The walks, especially with the autumnal colours are beautiful.
"The walks are very well organised with a one way system in place, this also helps you to see the whole area.
"One issue we had though was the cafe which was operating a take away only service of course but we were stood in a queue for coffees for 20 minutes which didn't move so we gave up in the end.
"Overall, a good place to visit for a couple of hours but the catering organisation needs to be improved."
Lullingstone Castle and The World Garden
Next on our list is an exquisite build in Dartford called Lullingstone Castle.
This site is home to a stunning garden of worldly plants, a beautiful lake and one of England's oldest family estates.
Although it's not close to being the best rated castle in Kent with only four stars to it's name, it has received some rave reviews.
One person commented: "Perfect way to spend an afternoon with my friend I hadn’t seen for almost 10 months.
"Plenty of free parking outside on grassy area with views all around of fields.
"When we arrived we had just a few minutes wait to pay then were directed where toilets, food & gardens are.
"We walked past food marquee (temp for covid) then couldn’t resist a cuppa and some homemade cake.
"They do a offer for a baguette, snacks, hot drink, cake & blanket for £7.50 such a lovely idea! So much grass and trees and benches around the gardens and woods to sit.
"The world gardens were lovely and so many plants and nice areas to walk around.
"We nearly missed the cactus house but went back after we realised how to get there, don’t miss it!
"Amazing with massive cacti. We had a wander through the woodland after then sat on edge of lake, so tranquil.
"Definitely worth a visit to a well loved castle (we need to revisit once house opens up after covid restrictions).
"Just a little hard to find once you reach the Roman house, don’t pull into the car park like we did (need a token to get out or helpful staff) and don’t go over the little bridge (private) you need to bear right instead and drive between Roman house and car park then drive a few minutes further up that lane with a few houses until you reach the castle."
A ruined medieval fortification in the town of Dartford has received an average rating of four stars from 94 visitors.
Eynsford Castle was constructed between 1085 and 1087 by William de Eynsford.
These strong stone walls sort to protect the lands of Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, from Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux.
Several images from the TripAdvisor website depict what is left of this historic build. Which doesn't seem to be much.
This could be the downfall of Eynsford Castle as one reviewer stated: "We stopped off here as it’s about 1 mile away from Lullingford Roman Villa.
"It’s free and an early example of a Norman castle ruin. Has a car park but you can park ok on the high street just outside.
"15 minutes and you will see everything you need to."
Hidden away in the heart of rural Kent is the picturesque Chilham Castle.
With only 60 reviews listed, this particular castle has managed to achieve four and a half stars for its well maintained 25 acre gardens and grand architecture.
In May 2021 a reviewer titled their visit as "beautiful and tranquil".
They added: "This is a beautiful place to come, we bought a picnic with us and then enjoyed walking the gardens and grounds with the dogs, so quiet, definitely recommend and I would come back to enjoy this beautiful castle and gardens again."
The 11th century castle is situated one mile north of Hythe and has reached number 14 on this list.
According to the website 17 people reviewed the castle that has been awarded four stars.
TripAdvisor reviewers can select which rating they would give each attraction that they have visited, they can either be excellent, very good, average, poor or terrible.
In this case, nine people elected Saltwood Castle as "excellent", four have said it is "very good", three said "average" and only one gave it a "poor" rating.
It's most recent reviewer is from May 2019 and they said: "A rare treat to be able to visit Saltwood Castle grounds.
"Privately owned so need to look out for open days held for charity with plant sales, food and cake, activities like archery.
"Usually held on a bank holiday around May, a repeat visit always a must."
One of Kent's most glorious looking castles is the worst rated on Tripadvisor.
Allington Castle is a Medieval 12th century build that lies three miles north-west of Maidstone.
In 1530 this extraordinary palace welcomed the likes of Henry VIII and his wife Anne Boleyn to dine with Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the Great Hall.
Decorated with tapestries and antique furniture, this marvellous Kent attraction is said to be a difficult castle to visit.
A reviewer explained: "The castle is privately owned, so access is limited to certain pre arranged trips.
"I went on a trip arranged through the Kentish Lady River Tours.
"You go on the boat from their mooring in Maidstone, and travel to Allington Castles private mooring.
"From there we had a private tour of the castle and grounds by two of the staff lasting about 1.5 hours.
"The tour was informative and interesting. The castle itself is absolutely beautiful, and has in part been renovated by the current owner.
"If you get the chance, this castle is definitely worthwhile visiting.
"Top marks to Kentish Lady River Tours as well, a professional service."