Henry VIII was so enamoured with Kent’s stately Knole House he pinched it from the then-Archbishop of Canterbury in 1538 to use as a hunting lodge. The makers of The Other Boleyn Girl, the 2008 Hollywood adaptation of Henry’s turbulent love life, were similarly impressed, using the house’s courtyards as a stand-in for Whitehall Palace, and its turrets as London’s Tudor skyscape.
Much of the house today is 17th century in style, but it’s easy to imagine a macho Henry, played by Eric Bana, riding around the surrounding 1,000-acre estate, little-changed since the monarch’s days.
Nearby lies another Tudor treasure – Ightham Mote. Both houses close out of season, but the grounds are open all year.
From Borough Green station, walk right over the railway bridge down High Street. Continue straight down Quarry Hill Road. Go straight over the roundabout, down a leafy lane; walk under an old railway bridge and follow the road left along a stream into pretty Basted village.
1. ONE AND A HALF MILES
Walk past the stately 18th-century houses and up Plough Hill. Immediately after The Plough pub, turn right down a track and follow it across the fields. At the bottom veer right, down steps, to a lane; walk right, past orchards. The lane ends at a T-junction; turn left and head down Bewley Lane. Turn right at the main road, then immediately left down Back Lane. Turn left down Ismays Road to walk through Ivy Hatch.
2. FOUR MILES
At the junction, by another Plough pub, turn left on to the main road, then right – signed Ightham Mote. The house is a little further on the left. This superb National Trust property, a 14th-century moated manor house, recently enjoyed a £10m restoration. A detour into its medieval courtyard, great hall and billiard room will prove it money well spent. It may not have been used in the movie, but with its half-timbered walls and labyrinthine rooms, it is certainly fit for a king.
To continue, walk from the car park around the back of the manor to emerge on a road. Turn right, then quickly left at Mote Farm; the track veers right at some oast houses. At the second fork, veer left, following signs for the Greensand Way, past a pretty cottage and through beech woods. Turn right at the road, taking the narrow path on the left, opposite Rooks Hill Cottage. Cross the One Tree Hill stile; at the next meeting of paths veer left to walk along the hill edge to a clearing with sweeping Weald views.
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Carry on, keeping left; at the road turn left, then right to walk along a field. Turn left into a field, and at the far side pick up Greensand Way signs on the left, walking through trees to a road. Go through the metal gate opposite into the Knole Estate.
3. FIVE MILES
Knole Park lost 70 percent of its trees in the great storm of 1987; otherwise it has changed little for centuries. Follow the path through the park, walking to the left of Knole House’s stone walls to reach the grand entrance. This ‘calendar’ house has 365 rooms, 52 staircases and seven courtyards. Knole House also boasts precious tapestries, paintings by Van Dyck and Gainsborough, as well as a window from which Scarlett Johansson (Mary Boleyn) and Natalie Portman (Anne Boleyn) gazed out, in the film.
To finish, take the path sweeping left from the house up to the gatehouses. Walk straight on, up to the main road, turn right, then veer left at the traffic island to walk through Sevenoaks to reach the station.
Minor roads and woodland paths, a few steep ascents.
HOW TO GET THERE
Borough Green is on the A25 between Maidstone and Sevenoaks.
By public transport:
Trains connect Victoria-Borough Green (a 45-minute journey) and Sevenoaks-London Victoria/London Bridge (a 30-minute journey).
High Cross Road, Ivy Hatch TN15 0NL
% 01732 810100
Sevenoaks TN15 0RP
% 01732 450608
Park open daily. House open noon-4pm Mar-Nov (exact times/days vary by season). Adults £10, children £5.
Ivy Hatch, Kent TN15 0NT
% 01732 811145
Estate open all year. House open Thurs-Sun 11am-5pm from Mar-Oct; Thurs-Sun 11am-3pm Nov-Dec. Adults £10.40, children £5.20.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 147
Grid ref: TQ 605 575
Sevenoaks Visitor Information Centre, Buckhurst Lane, Sevenoaks TN13 1LQ