Subject: Re: Southern England
Hi Janet

You asked about the castles and stately homes in and around

Kent - What places have you visited that you especially liked?

You also mentioned trying to stick to a budget.

We visited England in 1989, like you we drove and stayed at B& Bs. We were also facing an adverse currency (Australian)as our Treasurer had just made an infamous remark about banana republics and our currency fell from around 90 cents to 70 cents per US$.

The biggest issue was food. I found that we ate the best in B& Bs that gave us dinner as well. They were generally people who were keen on food, cooked well, and it was good value. Meals in pubs we found relatively expensive and often poor quality - I ate an awful lot of vegetarian lasagne as the only menu option somewhat palatable and generally hard to spoil. Takeaway outlets were much worse than Australia - I recall microwaved pizzas that even the ducks wouldn't touch and the extraordinary (to us) notion of frying times in fish and chips shops - they didn't cook on the spot but cooked in a batch and kept the fish and chips warm - often for several hours. It was not good value.

We joined the National Trust in Australia before we went and that gave us free entry into the many National Trust properties. The joining fee was only a few dollars then.

The UK National Trust website is very helpful about what you will see at each property and helps you to identify what other properties are nearby. My husband enthusiastically saved many many pounds by indulging my enthusiasm for visiting gardens and houses as entry was free and other wise each place would have cost (then) several pounds each - now it seems to be 4 - 8 pounds each per property. The saving was enormous - we visted 3 to 5 places every day. The heritage pass might well give the same benefit and there were some places that were not National Trust and I believe covered by that pass. You will want to check as part of your planning.

My enthusiasm is for gardens and garden history.

We visited Sissinghurst twice - once in the rain (between showers really)and we had the place to ourselves, the colours of the flowers were superb. It was very special and I wrote in my diary how it exceeded my expectations. We visited again in the sunshine and it was very pleasant but the crowds were somewhat overwhelming. It is a superb garden even with crowds.

We found Canterbury Cathedral magnificent. At Knole the deer ate oat biscuits out of our hands. Found the house more like a museum than many other properties - some superb paintings. The park ahd been destroyed by a recent hurricane.

Scotney Castle garden had also been damaged by the hurricane but less so. It is a very beautiful garden around a ruined castle which made a lovely focus and the garden was very integrated and beautifully planted. Other gardens/ houses we visted in the area were Sheffield Park, Nymans Garden, Great Dixter, Polesdon Lacey, Hatchlands, Ightham Mote, Petworth Park, Clandon Park.

We stayed near the town of Rye which is very pretty with cobbled streets.

We visited Bodian castle which is a very complete castle looking much like the ones in story books with moat, towers ...

The Brighton Pavilion was magnificent - in a way almost unEnglish in its opulence and quite comparable to anything Ludwig II of Bavaria produced.

Let me know if you want any more info - happy planning.

Regards Anne Canberra, Australia