Champion Darren Jenkins reviews and offers tips on The Bastion at Hever Castle

bastion darren jenkins

Australian professional triathlete Darren Jenkins, reflects on his 2015 win at The Bastion iron-distance triathlon at Hever Castle, part of the Castle Triathlon Series, and looks forward to defending his title later this year.

You can follow Darren’s training and racing this year at or on Twitter @_nevagivin. Here is his review of the 2015 edition of The Bastion, including some top tips for those who are taking on The Bastion in 2016.


In a little under 3 months’ time, the historic grounds of Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle, will come to life for the 3rd running of the annual Bastion full distance triathlon. The UK is the home of tough Iron distance races and the Bastion is right up there among the toughest, with only 1 finisher ever to have cracked the 10 hour mark.

The day begins with a 2 lap swim in the Hever Castle lake. The 38 acre lake was constructed by 800 men working continuously day and night, excepting Sundays, for 2 years straight from 1904-1906. Beginnings like this make the lake the perfect setting for a gruelling endurance swim over 3.8km, even if it is a Sunday.

With a mass start in front of the Italian Loggia each lap passes the Japanese Tea House before turning into the magical tree lined river section, circumnavigating a lap of Sixteen Acre Island. While navigation is simple, it is important to stay in the middle of the river section to avoid the lily pads, overhanging branches and any obstacles closer to the bank. Take the opportunity to swim train in the lake on the Friday if you can make it so that you get a feel for this unique swim course. Once you exit the water and head out onto the bike the tough aspects of the course really begin.

This ride is an honest individual effort with 3 laps of 60km making up 180km through the Ashdown Forrest and a total over 2500m of climbing according to my Garmin. Recommendation here is for at least a 28t rear gear and a 36t on the front for all except the most confident of riders. The first of many hills is within 2km of the start of the bike and goes on for a little over 3km. It is imperative to preserve the legs on this course by staying on top of a manageable gear on the hills. Settle into a seated rhythm as there are plenty more hills to come!

The steepest hill is out of Groombridge coming in at a little over 7% on my Garmin. The beauty of a 3 lap course like this is you can build your way into the race. Take the opportunity to settle into your own pace on the first lap, learn the climbs and the descents and save a little energy early. This way you can push a little harder each lap and come through strong to T2. This is not the bike course that you want to blow at the 140k mark, which would make for a very unforgiving marathon indeed!

For me it is always heading out onto the marathon that the fun really begins. The run at The Bastion is 4 laps of quintessentially British cross country running through the grounds of Hever and Chiddingston Castles. The best tip of all for this run is to not blow all of your bickies on the bike!

You are going to need your hill climbing strength along with the extra grip and agility afforded from off road running shoes to tackle this one with success. With the current run record set at 3.15, from an ironman who breaks the 3 hour barrier at will, come prepared to take a little punishment in beautiful surroundings. The aid stations and support along the way is exceptional and the finish line is a very welcome relief made all the more special by the toughness of its acquisition. If you can make it to this finish line on July 10 then you can be confident of a finish at all of those other tough British iron distance races.

The Bastion Festival of Endurance Open for Entry

Whilst The Bastion challenge remains the ultimate long-distance experience in the UK, it will be joined on the triathlon calendar by the now bi-annual Gauntlet Half-Iron Triathlon (already one of the most popular long distance events in its September edition), the Hever Long Swims and the Hever Long Aquabike. The aquabike and open water swim events providing the definitive long course supported training experience, as well as being competitive races in their own right, with all the atmosphere of a major triathlon running at the same time.

All the events, including The Bastion iron-distance triathlon, are now open for entry with an early bird 10% discount, with race places limited for 2016.  Enter here.

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