A right royal trip to re­gal Kingston SUE CARR

Fol­lows in the foot­steps of King Henry VIII

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

“WE’LL just go in here, so that you can say you’ve been, but it’s very sim­ple,” says Har­ris of Hamp­ton Court Maze in au­thor Jerome K Jerome’s ac­count of a boat­ing hol­i­day on the Thames.

I, like scores of vis­i­tors be­fore me I’m sure, as­sumed the claim that it took them hours to get out was added for comedic ef­fect. Forty-five min­utes later, as I broke into a run to fol­low a child who had con­fi­dently yelled “mum, this way” I could only apol­o­gise for doubt­ing the Three Men In A Boat and be­gan to sym­pa­thise with them in­stead.

Thanks to boy won­der – I owe you one – I got to the cen­tre point shortly af­ter­wards. The ‘fast exit’ sign prob­a­bly didn’t ex­ist in 1889 but it was a wel­come sight.

One of the most fa­mous, if not the most fa­mous maze in the world, you can’t visit with­out giv­ing it a whirl.

It sits in 60 acres of spec­tac­u­lar gar­dens which hosted a pop-up cinema while we were there and ev­ery sum­mer is home to the world­fa­mous Hamp­ton Court Palace Flower Show.

But be sure to leave plenty of time to ex­plore the palace as well, an im­pos­ing struc­ture on the banks of the River Thames be­fit­ting the for­mer home and re­port­edly the favourite royal res­i­dence of King Henry VIII.

Henry’s story, the sub­ject of BBC drama The Tu­dors, is one of the sex­ier ones in Bri­tish his­tory. But even if you’re not a his­tory buff, it’s told in an en­gag­ing and in­ter­ac­tive way with char­ac­ter ac­tors and re­gal cloaks to wear (adults too!) as you wan­der around the grounds.

The palace is also home to Eng­land’s old­est sur­viv­ing real ten­nis court where Henry once played as a young man.

Vis­i­tors dur­ing the sum­mer months can watch games from the view­ing gallery.

Fancy a match? It might set you back a fair whack but it still op­er­ates as a pri­vate mem­bers’ club with past pres­i­dents in­clud­ing the rather splen­didly named Sir Spencer Ce­cil Brabazon Pon­sonby-Fane.

By and large, my trips to Lon­don are con­fined to the city, so it’s nice to dis­cover a less hec­tic side.

We stayed at the Hol­i­day Inn in Sur­biton – a pretty, half-hour walk along the river from Kingston which has a bustling cen­tre with an im­pres­sive range of shops and places to eat.

We chose Cote, a French brasserie with good food and friendly ser­vice and on a warm evening a lovely place to sit out­side in the light of Kingston Bridge.

Af­ter a hard day’s sight­see­ing at Hamp­ton Court, the next day we caught the short boat cruise back to Kingston – Turk Launches run them reg­u­larly both ways – and ate at the ho­tel’s ‘curry club’ which takes place ev­ery Fri­day night.

You might be in a ho­tel restau­rant but with aching feet there’s some­thing to be said for know­ing that you’ve only got to stag­ger back as far as your room.

The other sell­ing point, of course, is that it was de­li­cious. Dishes are cooked to tra­di­tional Delhi recipes and served by friendly and knowl­edge­able staff with im­pec­ca­ble at­ten­tion to de­tail – mu­sic and decor as well as the food.

We ended the week­end with an­other meal that Henry VIII him­self would have been proud of – a sump­tu­ous cham­pagne af­ter­noon tea at nearby War­ren House.

Once home to the lo­cal aris­to­crats, it is now hired out for events and is a popular wed­ding venue.

We ate our tiny sand­wiches on the ter­race, look­ing out on to the beau­ti­ful grounds and you can see why so many peo­ple choose to get mar­ried there.

With so many hol­i­day deals about, it’s some­times easy to for­get what’s al­most on your doorstep.

I say al­most be­cause you still have to do battle with the M25.

Drive or get the train but make sure you pay a visit to Hamp­ton Court and this palace of a place.

Kingston mar­ket is one of the many at­trac­tions worth a visit

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●● Hamp­ton Court Palace. Above right, Turks’ cruise and War­ren House

●● Kingston mar­ket­place

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