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Leeds Castle - 'The World's Loveliest Castle'; A Photographic Essay

Updated on October 20, 2016
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The author has travelled extensively in the world, and writes illustrated articles about his experiences, with advice on must-see sights

Leeds Castle in Kent
Leeds Castle in Kent | Source

For Nomsa

Dedicated to Nomsa Gumunyu, my good friend who made what would have been one pleasant visit to the castle in August 2014, even nicer.

Introduction

There is a castle in the county of Kent, in England, which has been described as 'the loveliest in the world'. The castle, which is rather strangely called 'Leeds' (the county of Kent is in southeastern England, whilst the City of Leeds is far away in the northeast), has a long history first as a royal residence and then as a private mansion before opening to the public in the year 1976.

Since then Leeds Castle and its extensive grounds have become a popular tourist attraction in this part of England with visitors young and old, attracted from every corner of the world. They come for the history, the beauty of the landscape and the entertainments which have grown up in the grounds in recent years.

This is a short photographic essay about the historic and aesthetic appeals of Leeds Castle. All photos were taken by the author during three visits in 2013 and 2014

N.B: Please note, all my articles are best read on desktops and laptops

Leeds Castle photographed from the western side of the surrounding lake. On the left is the 13th century 'Gloriette'. On the right is the more recent 'New Castle'
Leeds Castle photographed from the western side of the surrounding lake. On the left is the 13th century 'Gloriette'. On the right is the more recent 'New Castle' | Source
The Gatehouse - the most ancient buildings have long since gone, but parts of the gatehouse are among the oldest constructions still existing
The Gatehouse - the most ancient buildings have long since gone, but parts of the gatehouse are among the oldest constructions still existing | Source

The History Of Leeds Castle: 1) The Early Years

Leeds Castle has a history going back nearly 1000 years, though throughout this very long expanse of time, the buildings on the island have shown many constructions and demolitions, reconstructions and refurbishments, and each phase has reflected radical changes in the ownership and function of the castle. The buildings today represent the architecture of all centuries, but all have been designed to complement each other as a seamless whole.

There is a record in the Doomsday Book of 1086 AD, of what is thought to have been a Saxon manor on the site here. The record relates that there was a vineyard and a church, and it describes meadows and woodlands, and details the number of villagers and peasants The area is listed as being about 600 acres and it was valued at £20! This is the first account of significant habitation, but original construction here is believed to date to 857 AD, and the reign of the Anglo Saxon King Ethelbert IV. During that time the settlement would have consisted of basic earthworks and timber buildings, perhaps constructed here because of the confluence of tributaries of the River Len. These fed into local ponds or lakes which would have provided not only defensive possibilities, but also a source of energy to drive a local water mill. Sadly, nothing of significance remains today of these very early structures.

And why is Leeds Castle named after a city which lies 234 miles to the north? It isn't. It is believed to have been derived from a corruption of the name Ledian; Ledian was chief minister to King Ethelbert IV.

The Gatehouse. Although there has been a Barbican and Gatehouse here since early medieval times, the building has been much renovated since then
The Gatehouse. Although there has been a Barbican and Gatehouse here since early medieval times, the building has been much renovated since then | Source
The 13th century Gloriette is one of the very oldest parts of the castle
The 13th century Gloriette is one of the very oldest parts of the castle | Source
The Maiden's Tower is a 16th century building from the reign of Henry VIII
The Maiden's Tower is a 16th century building from the reign of Henry VIII | Source

The History Of Leeds Castle: 2) The Royal Queen Years

Construction of the first stone castle building on the site was initiated on two islands in the River Len by the Norman baron Robert Crevecoeur around the year 1119. His new castle probably consisted of a fortified tower or 'keep' on the smaller island, with domestic buildings on the larger island. The two islands would have been connected by a drawbridge over water, though its not entirely clear exactly how much of the castle was surrounded by water at this time, and sadly most of the 12th century structure has now long since gone.

However it was during this period that the castle saw its first known hostile action. Following the death of King Henry I, there was a struggle over accession to the throne between his nephew Stephen and his daughter Matilda. In 1139 the newly crowned King Stephen captured the castle from supporters of Matilda.

It was more than a century later under the reign of King Edward I, whose wife Eleanor of Castile owned the castle from 1278, that truly extensive castle construction took place. This included the outer wall which surrounds the large island, a Barbican (a fortified outpost or gateway with drawbridge and portcullis), another drawbridge connecting the large island to the rebuilt keep, (now called the Gloriette with rooms for the king and queen), and an aquaduct which enabled flooding of the Len Valley to create a permanent defensive moat or lake around the castle. Eleanor died in 1290, but soon afterwards Edward married the French princess Margaret. And the new Queen Margaret, like Eleanor before her, took Leeds Castle as her own property - it seems a tradition was now developing for Leeds Castle as a 'Queens Castle' - owned or lived in by a succession of Medieval queens either as a 'second home' during the life of their husband, or as a widow after the king's death.

As befits a royal castle, the next few centuries saw some action, both violent and romantic. In 1321, at a time when many of the nobility were in serious dispute with the monarch, Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II, was refused entry by Margaret de Clare, the wife of the steward of the castle. The party were fired upon and six of Isabella's followers were killed. Edward II laid siege and captured Leeds Castle on 31st October. He then beheaded the steward (also known as the Constable), and imprisioned Margaret de Clare. After Edward's death, Isabella became the third queen to reside at Leeds in less than 50 years.

By no means were royalty the only people to own Leeds Castle during medieval times. Various nobles occupied the castle during this era, including at one time the Archbishop of Canterbury. But it is undoubtedly monarchy, and specifically Queens of England, who are the most renouned residents. In the winter of 1381, the castle received yet another royal visitor when Anne of Bohemia stayed here. She had arrived in England on her way to marry King Richard II, and the castle was granted to her. She became the fourth queen to reside here, and following their marriage, Richard and Anne made many further visits to the castle.

Then in the early 15th century, Henry IV gave Leeds to his second wife, Joan of Navarre. She was later accused of witchcraft and briefly imprisoned at Leeds by her stepson Henry V, with whom she'd quite obviously fallen out! Catherine de Valois, the widow of Henry V, became the sixth queen to inherit the castle, and she owned it until her death in 1437. And speaking of witchcraft, a later occupant, Eleanor Cobham was convicted of using witchcraft in 1441 to do harm to the next English king, Henry VI. Like Joan, she wasn't actually executed - instead she had to walk barefoot through a London street carrying a lighted taper in her hand!

In addition to the exploits of various tenants of Leeds Castle, the Medieval period had seen gradual and periodic development and refurbishment of the site and grounds into a substantial and sumptuous home for not only the owners, but also for their many attendants. However, the most famous period in its history came after the end of the Medieval era, during the reign of the extravagant Tudor King Henry VIII. He oversaw the castle's redevelopment into a palace, specifically for the first of his six wives, Catherine of Aragon. In 1520, King Henry himself stayed at Leeds Castle en route to Dover, from where he sailed to France for a meeting with French King Francis I. The meeting was a diplomatic bridge-building exercise which involved several days of feasting and tournaments on the so-called 'Field of the Cloth of Gold'.

The 19th century 'New Castle' through which visitors exit after touring the rooms
The 19th century 'New Castle' through which visitors exit after touring the rooms | Source
Much of the main castle was rebuilt in the 1820s including this impressive facade, creating the 'New Castle'
Much of the main castle was rebuilt in the 1820s including this impressive facade, creating the 'New Castle' | Source
The southern aspect of Leeds showing the New Castle, the Maiden's Tower, and the wall and moat
The southern aspect of Leeds showing the New Castle, the Maiden's Tower, and the wall and moat | Source

The History Of Leeds Castle: 3) Years Of Private Residence

The estate finally passed from royal ownership into private hands for the last time in 1552. Edward VI gave it to Sir Anthony St Ledger, Lord Deputy of Ireland, whose grandfather had once been Constable of the castle. Soon after this and during the reign of Mary Tudor ('Bloody Mary'), her sister the celebrated future Queen Elizabeth I, is widely reported to have briefly been imprisoned here, although details appear sketchy.

In the 17th century, Leeds Castle was caught up in the English Civil War, but escaped destruction when its then owner, Sir Cheney Culpeper, chose to side with the ultimately victorious parliamentary forces in opposition to the king, Charles I. But although Sir Cheney's siding with Parliament was fortunate for the castle, so too was the fact that other members of his family remained as staunch royalists. Because following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, a royalist cousin, Thomas Culpeper, inherited Leeds Castle and the family grew wealthy with the granting of five million acres of land in Virginia in the Americas, bestowed upon them for services to the Crown.

For much of the next century Leeds Castle was owned by descendents of the Culpepers, including Robert Fairfax, under whose governership the castle was developed further into a grand country house with a Georgian facade to the main Hall, and the park and gardens - today almost as big an attraction as the castle itself - were extensively landscaped. In the 1820s the Wyckeham-Martins inherited the castle as well as the proceeds of the Virginia estates which they used to commence the last radical phase of construction. This included the repair of many crumbling buildings. Most importantly, the Hall which had been built on the main island was demolished and replaced with the building which stands today - a well crafted mock Tudor structure in pefect harmony with the older buildings on the site, and commonly known today as the 'New Castle'.

Then in 1926, Leeds was sold to the Honourable Mrs Olive Wilson Filmer - Lady Baillie - who was an Anglo-American heiress and society hostess. Lady Baillie was actually to become the longest serving owner of Leeds Castle in its history, and she would spend many years restoring her new home as a country retreat. Over the next 50 years Leeds Castle was the venue for many social events, which attracted a long and impressive guest list including the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), Jacqueline Kennedy, and many statesmen and popular celebrities. But in 1974 Lady Baillie established the Leeds Castle Foundation to manage the estate, and after her death, the castle and grounds were handed over to the Foundation and finally opened to the public in 1976.

In addition to its roles as royal palace, private country retreat and tourist attraction, Leeds Castle has served many other functions over the centuries, including acting as an arsenal for the parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. It has also served as a prison at various times (Dutch prisoners in 1666 revolted and burned part of the Gloriette in that year - extensive damage which went unrepaired for over 150 years until the arrival of the Wyckeham-Martins. French prisoners of war were also detained here at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Then during World War Two, Leeds Castle briefly served as a hospital for injured servicemen. And politically, the castle has hosted important conferences, including in 1978 early discussions between Israel and Egypt leading to the later Camp David Accord, and in 2004, Northern Ireland peace talks hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Leeds Castle from the south, featuring the New Castle. Note the pathway between the lake and the outer wall - the route for the visitor to follow into the castle rooms.
Leeds Castle from the south, featuring the New Castle. Note the pathway between the lake and the outer wall - the route for the visitor to follow into the castle rooms. | Source
The 12th century Cellar is the oldest room in the castle and it is also the entry point for a tour of all the castle rooms
The 12th century Cellar is the oldest room in the castle and it is also the entry point for a tour of all the castle rooms | Source
One can view the castle from the tranquility of a punt - a guide navigates the punt on a 20 minute tour around the moat
One can view the castle from the tranquility of a punt - a guide navigates the punt on a 20 minute tour around the moat | Source

Visiting The Castle Today

Today, tourists can enter the castle and see most of the living quarters, many of which have been restored to their former glory and furnished as authentically as possible.

As one enters the castle across the moat, the first stonework structures encountered are the remains of the early medieval Barbican and mill. Then one passes through the big Gatehouse on the larger of the two castle islands. This Gatehouse once housed kitchens and a pantry and other functional rooms, but today there is a gift shop on the left, and a visitor centre on the right. However, most peoples' attention will be drawn forward to the oval lawn which is on the large island - directly in front across the lawn is a wonderful view of the New Castle, and on the right is the Maiden Tower. The Maiden Tower is a large square building, once used by Ladies in Waiting in the employ of Henry VIII. Today, that building is not usually open to the public, but serves as a venue to be hired for ceremonies such as weddings. As for the New Castle, many will want to take advantage of the photographic oportunities offered by this position, but now is not the time to enter the main castle buildings. Instead, we must turn back to the Gatehouse and the small visitor centre, which includes displays and an excellent video presentation about the history of the castle.

From the visitor centre, one has to follow a planned route, though at your own pace. First, the visitor walks along a lakeside path to the south of the castle before entering the Gloriette at lake level through an ancient 12th century cellar. The route then leads up through the Gloriette and back via the chapel to the New Castle. From here, the visitor exits back on to the lawn and returns via the Gatehouse to the castle grounds.

This room in the old part of the castle was once the bed chamber of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It remained as a bedroom for most of the following centuries, before becoming a sitting room during the time of Lady Bailie
This room in the old part of the castle was once the bed chamber of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It remained as a bedroom for most of the following centuries, before becoming a sitting room during the time of Lady Bailie | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The 13th century 'Henry VIII Banqueting Hall'. The castle's largest room features this Tudor fireplace and a painting of the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold'This important lifesize oak and metal statue of King Edward III was sculpted in the late 16th century and is believed to be the first horse statue carved in EnglandThere's always been a chapel here, but this late 13th century room was formerly occupied by the house keeper.  It was established as a chapel  c1869 This is the armour of a 'cuirassier' or cavalry officer. It was made around 1640 and so could have been worn by a soldier during the battles of the English Civil WarOnce the Wykeham-Martin's library, this room was redesigned for Lady Baillie, first as a luncheon room and then as the Yellow Drawing Room
The 13th century 'Henry VIII Banqueting Hall'. The castle's largest room features this Tudor fireplace and a painting of the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold'
The 13th century 'Henry VIII Banqueting Hall'. The castle's largest room features this Tudor fireplace and a painting of the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold' | Source
This important lifesize oak and metal statue of King Edward III was sculpted in the late 16th century and is believed to be the first horse statue carved in England
This important lifesize oak and metal statue of King Edward III was sculpted in the late 16th century and is believed to be the first horse statue carved in England | Source
There's always been a chapel here, but this late 13th century room was formerly occupied by the house keeper.  It was established as a chapel  c1869
There's always been a chapel here, but this late 13th century room was formerly occupied by the house keeper. It was established as a chapel c1869 | Source
This is the armour of a 'cuirassier' or cavalry officer. It was made around 1640 and so could have been worn by a soldier during the battles of the English Civil War
This is the armour of a 'cuirassier' or cavalry officer. It was made around 1640 and so could have been worn by a soldier during the battles of the English Civil War | Source
Once the Wykeham-Martin's library, this room was redesigned for Lady Baillie, first as a luncheon room and then as the Yellow Drawing Room
Once the Wykeham-Martin's library, this room was redesigned for Lady Baillie, first as a luncheon room and then as the Yellow Drawing Room | Source
This is the Thorpe Hall Drawing Room, the principal drawing room since 1822
This is the Thorpe Hall Drawing Room, the principal drawing room since 1822 | Source

The Rooms And Internal Furnishings Of Leeds Castle

The route which is followed through Leeds Castle takes one through each of the castle rooms in turn. Two broad themes are reflected in these rooms, relating to the two distinct eras in the castle's history - the royal years of the Medieval queens and the Tudor dynasty, and the private mansion era, notably when Lady Baillie lived here.

Most of the rooms in the earlier part of the tour are in the oldest part of the modern castle - the Gloriette - and these include the cellar, the queens' bed chambers, and the banqueting hall and chapel, and many of these rooms are furnished to reflect the castle as it was in its royal days. Then after passing through the chapel, visitors enter the New Castle and rooms authentically decorated to show the living quarters as Lady Baillie would have known them, including bedrooms, drawing rooms, a dining room and a library.

Of particular interest to visitors may be the suits of armour displayed in various parts of the castle, a historic painting of the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold' in the banqueting hall, the small and peaceful chapel, the impressive (in some cases massive) volumes of antique books in the library and the paraphernalia of every day living to be found in the domestic living rooms.

Once part of the royal quarters in the Gloriette, this room became a bedroom in 1822, and later served as Lady Baillie's bedroom. The crocodile skin travelling case and many other objects are authentic possessions of Lady Baillie
Once part of the royal quarters in the Gloriette, this room became a bedroom in 1822, and later served as Lady Baillie's bedroom. The crocodile skin travelling case and many other objects are authentic possessions of Lady Baillie | Source
Beyond the moat is a golf course
Beyond the moat is a golf course | Source
The Pavilion Garden. This old pavilion - believe it or not - once featured in an episode of 'Doctor Who'. Though in 'The Androids of Tara', the Pavilion isn't at Leeds Castle - it is on an alien planet!
The Pavilion Garden. This old pavilion - believe it or not - once featured in an episode of 'Doctor Who'. Though in 'The Androids of Tara', the Pavilion isn't at Leeds Castle - it is on an alien planet! | Source
An ancient cedar - the grounds  feature some impressive specimen trees
An ancient cedar - the grounds feature some impressive specimen trees | Source

Gardens, Grounds And Lakes

If the castle is the focal point of the Leeds Castle experience, then almost as many may visit for the extensive parklands surrounding the castle which were landscaped nearly 300 years ago. Some of the trees planted then, still grow here today.

There are formal laid out gardens, most notably the Culpeper Cottage Garden and the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden Terrace. There's also the attractive lawn with flower beds and an old pavilion illustrated on this page. But perhaps more important are the extensive grassland and wooded areas which are populated by a wide range of trees and shrubs, probably seen at their best when the spring bulbs are blooming, though there is interest to be found here at all times of the year.

And of course, if Leeds lives up to its epithet of 'World's Loveliest Castle', then it is not only the gardens, but also the moat surrounding the castle walls, and all the other lakes and ponds, which are an integral part of that aesthetic appeal. A punt can be hired on the moat for a 20 minute trip round the castle, whilst on a lake called Great Water which lies to the south, a ferry plies a short route between one pick up point by the Gatehouse, and another close to some of the attractions listed below.

Today the gardens and the lakes they include comprise as much as 500 acres of English countryside.

Woodland scene at Leeds Castle
Woodland scene at Leeds Castle | Source
Four barnacle geese
Four barnacle geese | Source
The Black Swan - today, an official symbol of Leeds Castle
The Black Swan - today, an official symbol of Leeds Castle | Source

The Water Birds at the Castle

With lakes and ponds come water birds, and undoubtedly one of the appeals of Leeds Castle are the flocks of water birds - notably ducks, geese and swans. White mute swans are a familiar natural sight in Britain, but here at Leeds Castle there are also black swans, a species which is native to Australia. These black swans were originally a post-war gift to Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Government of Australia, and were introduced to the grounds of Leeds Castle in the 1980s. Today they are a treasured symbol of the castle and even appear on a Coat of Arms granted to the Leeds Castle Foundation in 1999.

Of course it's not just water fowl. The gardens provide a haven for all kinds of birds, and organised and guided walks are available to discover these birds and other wild life.

Canada geese by one of the lakes - a tranquil Leeds Castle scene
Canada geese by one of the lakes - a tranquil Leeds Castle scene | Source
The resident peacock
The resident peacock | Source
The cafe and restaurant area
The cafe and restaurant area | Source

Leeds Castle Attractions And Tourist Amenities

Of course the main appeal of Leeds Castle both now and in the past has always been the historic castle set in picturesque gardens. However in the grounds today there are several other attractions for both young and old, including a pay and play golf course. And there are also those amenities essential to any popular modern tourist venue - the Fairfax Restaurant, the Maze Cafe, and other refreshment facilities, as well as souvenir shops selling both the serious (historical guides) and the frivolous (toys and novelties).

Naturally the theme of ancient history is well maintained with daily falconry displays and a curious small museum which exhibits dog collars through the ages (including really impressive, big spiked collars worn by hunting dogs in past centuries).

These are some of the permanent exhibits, displays and facilities, but there is also a healthy seasonal calendar of events at Leeds Castle, including hot air balloon festivals, vintage car rallies, and concerts, as well as organised nature walks, educational history walks, and craft shows and workshops. And of course Medieval themed fairs including jousting and displays. It is also possible to hire accommodation at the castle, and rooms for special private events, such as Christmas parties. And for those who want a special place for their wedding ceremony, Leeds Castle is a venue which can be hired.

The grounds are not huge, and most will be able to visit the different parts on foot. But in addition to the ferry and punts mentioned above, there is also a novelty land train 'Elsie' for children and for those who cannot walk too far. And there is also 'Segways' which is described briefly in a later section. Finally, there is wheelchair accessibility to most of the attractions, including the castle itself, though it must be appreciated that because of the nature of a 1000 year old castle, some areas are not fully wheelchair accessible, or can only be visited with special arrangements.

The novelty ferry on Great Water
The novelty ferry on Great Water | Source
The Grotto
The Grotto | Source

The Maze And The Grotto

Of all the peripheral attractions at the castle, possibly the most distinctive is the castle maze. This was opened in 1988, planted with 2,400 yew trees. The maze avenues are circular and when they are seen from above, the central area has been designed to represent a queen's crown. Today the Leeds Castle maze is popular with tourists, and there is an added attraction - a 'prize' if you like - for when one finally gets to the stone mound and viewing platform which marks the exit point.

The prize is the route out. One descends into a grotto - an artificial underground cave, decorated with mythical demon-like images created out of shells and pebbles, and illuminated by concealed lights.

Lost in the maze - 'Can you see the exit?'
Lost in the maze - 'Can you see the exit?' | Source
The Squires Courtyard Playground
The Squires Courtyard Playground | Source

For Children and for Those Who are Just Young at Heart; Fun Activities for All Ages

A historic castle may not be the most obvious place in which to keep young children entertained, but Leeds does its best to cater for all ages. So in addition to the maze, grotto and boat and train rides described above, there are two children's playgrounds beyond the maze and close to the cafe. These are the Knight's Realm Playground for older children, and the Squires Courtyard for children under the age of six. And a large area of lawn here gives plenty of space for children to play, perhaps with the numerous 'ye olde knight' themed toys available in the souvenir shops. Even in this computer age, little children still like fighting with plastic swords!

And for those of us who are a bit older but feeling adventurous, or at least a bit more active, there is 'Go Ape' a high zip wire course set amongst the tall trees near the entrance to the Leeds Castle grounds. And for those who can't be doing with just a sedate walk around the grounds, there is also Segways - the curious two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle with simple handling controls and a maximum speed of about 12 mph - a bit like a monocycle to ride, but much easier!

The Location of Leeds Castle in South East England

show route and directions
A markerLeeds Castle -
Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent ME17 1PL, UK
get directions

B markerCanterbury -
Canterbury, Kent, UK
get directions

C markerLondon -
London, UK
get directions

D markerDover -
Dover, Kent, UK
get directions

Leeds Castle Location And How To Get There

The map above shows the location of Leeds Castle south of the River Thames and south east of London. Leeds Castle is also en route from London to the famous cathedral city of Canterbury, and for many tourists, a visit to Canterbury and Leeds Castle makes for a memorable day out in southeast England.

Most visitors will travel by road from London taking the M20 motorway east past Maidstone. There are also trains to nearby stations and coach tours which can be organised from London or elsewhere. Full details can be obtained from tourist sites and from the official Leeds Castle Website.

Tranquil scene in the Leeds Castle grounds
Tranquil scene in the Leeds Castle grounds | Source

Annual Ticket Prices

 
 
Adults
£24.50
Senior Citizens/ Students
£21.50
Children (age 4-15)
£16.50
Infants
Free

Public Access To Leeds Castle And Its Grounds

Current Opening Times:

  • April - September:
  • 10.00am - 6.00pm
  • (the last admission is 4.30pm).
  • October - March:
  • 10.00am - 5.00pm
  • (the last admission is 3.00pm).

All tickets for visiting Leeds Castle are now annual passes. This makes a single visit quite expensive, but the annual tickets allow as many repeat visits as you like with access to all areas except for certain special ticketed events. (updated 2016)

Some activities at Leeds Castle such as 'Go Ape' and Segways and of course the golf course do cost extra. The official website linked to on this page gives details of current prices.

A couple strolling in the park. Many who live in the vicinity will buy an annual pass just to visit the grounds for a day out in attractive scenery
A couple strolling in the park. Many who live in the vicinity will buy an annual pass just to visit the grounds for a day out in attractive scenery | Source
Much of this suit of armour including the breast plate is German made, but it dates from the era of Henry VIII. Other parts  are 19th century reproductions
Much of this suit of armour including the breast plate is German made, but it dates from the era of Henry VIII. Other parts are 19th century reproductions | Source

Summary

A Norman stronghold, home to six Medieval queens, a royal palace of Henry VIII, a private mansion and a national treasure - Leeds Castle has certainly seen a lot of history.

Today the grounds and the buildings are open to the public to visit and to experience that history, but also to just enjoy the parkland surrounds and the other attractions which the modern castle has to offer.

Currently, Leeds Castle receives more than half a million visitors each year, including locals on a day out, tourists from all over Britain, and overseas visitors on a day trip from the capital city of London. Whatever their reason for coming here, it will hopefully prove to be a memorable and enjoyable day out in the Englsih countryside for all.

And finally, what of that famous epithet? It was the historian Lord Conway who several hundred years ago described Leeds Castle as:

'The loveliest castle as thus beheld in the whole world'

The Gloriette, the New Castle, and the perimeter wall - surrounded by the moat
The Gloriette, the New Castle, and the perimeter wall - surrounded by the moat | Source

Copyright

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    • napetv profile image

      james napier 16 months ago from Somewhere in Sarasota

      Incredible photos!

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image
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      Greensleeves Hubs 19 months ago from Essex, UK

      hussain ali; Thank you Hussain. Appreciate your comment. Hope you do go to Leeds Castle, and hope when you go, you enjoy the experience. Alun

    • hussain ali 20 months ago

      Fascinating hub on Leeds Castle. Thanks for all the great information and beautiful photos. It is on my list of places to go and is not that far away, so hopefully reading this hub will spur me into action!

      http://abcdramabox.com

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      bdegiulio; Thanks Bill. I think for anyone spending more than two or three days in the London area, a visit to rural North Kent including Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral, makes for a very welcome change in pace and scenery. The castle is only about 40 miles from the centre of London, so is very accessible to most tourists. Hope you get there eventually! Very much appreciate your comments and congrats Bill. Cheers.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Alun, what a thorough and interesting hub. I have yet to make it to England in my travels but will certainly add the Leeds Castle to my list of must see places when we get there. Great history, beautiful grounds, wonderful photos, just an all round great job here, which is very deserving of the HOTD. Congrats.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Phyllis Doyle; Thanks Phyllis for contributing that message and nice words. It was really nice to hear that I'd got 'Hub of the Day'. Although we write for reasons other than accolades, it really helps to make the effort feel worthwhile when one receives that recognition. So it's been a good day :)

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      annart; I know how it is! There's truly famous places in Britain that I've driven close to but I've never bothered calling in because I feel there'll always be another opportunity in the future. Whereas if I was visiting a foreign country I'd be willing to drive for hours just to see all the sights! It's always a pleasure to hear from you Ann. Cheers for the message.

      Thelma Alberts; Cheers for the message and the congratulations Thelma. Appreciated. Alun

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      It is a lovely castle and grounds. Your details of the history and beautiful photos are impressive and very well presented. I really enjoyed reading this hub. Congratulations on HOTD - well deserved.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Great information and beautiful photos. I've often admired Leeds Castle as one gets a tantalising glimpse from the motorway. Each time I say I must visit it but I haven't got round to it yet; we're always on our way to or from the tunnel and there's never time. I often go to Sussex but hardly ever to Kent.

      Lovely hub about a wonderful building.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      Congratulations on the HOTD! Very well done. A very informative useful hub with a lot of beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Bakerosity; Thanks. It's the history and the photographic potential which really interested me, but I guess one must recognise that not everyone will find enough in a castle and gardens to keep them happy. So the modern day entertainments and attractions are also important for many visitors. The whole package turns the castle from a site of historic interest, to a site in which hopefully everyone in the family will find something to enjoy.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      SusanDeppner; Very much appreciate your visit Susan and your congrats on 'HotD'. Cheers, Alun

      RTalloni; My Thanks. I like your phraseology - 'all those people entering life in their circumstances, then going'. When walking around a place like Leeds Castle it's easy to visualise people from all different eras of history - almost ghost-like - walking those same footsteps in their own times.

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      Bakerosity 2 years ago

      Very interesting. I like that you included, not only bits of historical information, but what you would experience today if you visited. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and information with us.

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      Susan Deppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

      How beautiful and what an interesting history lesson. Congratulations on Hub of the Day honors today!

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      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this look at the very interesting Leeds castle. Its long history is remarkable and thought provoking--all those people entering life in their circumstances, then going, and now being represented in words on pages like this--loads to think about!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Justholidays; I empathise with all you say about historic places. When I was at school, history was the first major subject I gave up, because I found it to be dreary and detached from my modern world. Yet now through television documentaries and through visits to places like this, it has become possibly my favourite subject of all. It's great to be able to take the two dimensional characters who lived long ago and place them into a real setting, and then experience at least a little of the sights or lifestyles that they experienced. It turns them back into real three dimensional people. Cheers very much, Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      CMHypno; Thanks very much. Hope you get there soon, whilst we still have some decent weather. (Though I'm sure the castle looks great with snow around the fields!) Otherwise, springtime is reputed to be the best time to enjoy the scenery.

      heidithorne; Thanks Heidi. Appreciate your congrats. Alun :-)

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      justholidays 2 years ago

      Alun :) For my little 4 years old, in the time we were in Kent, admiring the big waves produced by the storm was a big deal. Then he enjoyed the Chauncer stories in Canterbury and the visit in the Dickens house. In reality, don't think there's an age to follow me on a visit in a historical place. I love and feel history so much that I forget everything and everybody around me that isn't history when I'm on such a journey. I love castles with a passion, whether on your superb Island or on the Continent. Both offer real gems. That is surely why I enjoyed your short virtual travel so much. Makes me wanna book a trip to Leeds, you see ;) I hope that you'll keep entertaining the world with fantastic accounts of such memorable and outstanding areas.

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      CMHypno 2 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Fascinating hub on Leeds Castle. Thanks for all the great information and beautiful photos. It is on my list of places to go and is not that far away, so hopefully reading this hub will spur me into action!

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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Well deserved Hub of the Day Award! Such amazing photos!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      chef-de-jour; Thanks Andrew for all you say. Although it's possible to spend a whole day at Leeds Castle, a quick walk through the grounds and a look around the castle rooms whilst passing through Kent, could be done in less than 3 hours. For such a brief visit as that, the entrance fee may be quite high, but an annual ticket is good value for several short visits. Cheers, Alun

      eilval; Thank you very much Eileen for that. Appreciated. Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      justholidays; Perhaps for children the best ages are young enough to play in the playgrounds and on the lawn, or old enough to have a go on the 'Go Ape' zip wire. Though for any older child developing an interest in history, places like this are great for bringing that history to life in a much more tangible way than can be found through just reading a list of dates and events in a book.

      Thanks very much for all you say in your comment. Cheers, Alun

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      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      I've passed this castle many a time coming up from Dover but never thought to visit it. Your hub gives great detail both historical and factual and the photos are excellent, they really back up the text. Well done. Leeds Castle is much older than I thought but it's in great condition, worth a visit next time I'm in that neck of the woods!

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      Eileen 2 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Interesting history , informative hub and beautiful photos and architecture

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      dwelburn; I can understand what you mean about Neuschwanstein. And of course elsewhere in Germany there are numerous 'fairy-tale' castles along the Rhine which could also lay claim to the title of 'loveliest in the world'.

      I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the epithet was given to Leeds Castle a few hundred years ago by a Lord Conway, at a time when Neuschwanstein hadn't yet been built. It's a phrase though, which I'm sure the owners or administrators of any such castle would be more than happy to use as an advertising slogan :-) Cheers, Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      SAQIB6608; Thank you Saqib. I hope you can get here one day! And best wishes; I see you have just recently joined HubPages, so I hope you find writing on this site an enjoyable experience in the days ahead.

      mySuccess8; Thanks very much. And cheers for the congrats on 'HotD'. It's certainly true that visiting castles is a great, interactive way for people to learn something about the history of the country. So much more interesting if one can actually see the real places and the artifacts which are associated with famous people or events from the past. It makes them come alive.

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      justholidays 2 years ago

      Ah one of those many beauties to see in Kent. I wanted to pay it a visit when I went on my last long holidays in Kent but my son was too young to appreciate the visit. Haven't been in England long enough since then to spend some time in Leeds but it's on my bucket list: I fell in love with Kent long ago. I'm impressed with all the pictures you're sharing on this page. What a job! Thanks for the journey :)

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Chauncey St Clair; Thanks very much. And welcome! I see you've only just joined HubPages, so I hope you find it a rewarding experience writing here.

      stuff4kids; Thanks for that! Appreciated. It was a really nice surprise when I heard it had been selected for 'Hub of the Day'. :-) Alun

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      David 2 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Leeds castle is indeed a lovely castle; and the grounds are beautiful. Not sure about the loveliest castle in the world though - it would be hard to beat Neuschwanstein.

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      SAQIB 2 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      I have been a fan of England. Leeds castle seems to have a heritage site. Would love to visit it. Very serene and charming pictures presenting the beautiful castle.

      Cheers !

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      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      This well-documented concise photographic essay has convinced me why Leeds Castle is 'the loveliest castle in the world', providing fun activities and learning experience for everyone, from kids to adults. The wonderful photographs capture its beauty well. Congrats on HotD!

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      Chauncey St Clair 2 years ago from New York City

      Fascinating Article! I love the insight and photos that you provided. It's hard finding this kind of information about English castles. Thanks!

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      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hey Alun - I just called back in to say a heartfelt congratulations on the HoTD accolade for this first class hub. Well-deserved! x

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      stuff4kids; Thanks very much for that lovely comment. It's always a pleasure to hear from you. Cheers.

      Certainly the location is beautiful. That whole area of Kent is very green and rural, so Leeds Castle and its gardens blends in well into the countryside. And it's heartwarming to hear that the article brought back fond memories for you, my friend. Take care. Alun

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      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Glorious article about Leeds Castle, Alun!

      Stunning photographs, too, and packed with fascinating historical detail. It is a long, long time since I visited there with my late husband (we visited a lot of historical sites in England whenever we could) but it stands out in my memory as a stunning location. I think it was the first time that I had seen a real castle surrounded by a proper moat.

      Judging by your photos, you had better weather on your visit. I seem to remember that it was a very rainy, blustery afternoon when we went. Let's say it was atmospheric!

      Thanks so much for bringing back such fond memories - I must go again.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Writer Fox; Thanks so much for the compliments, especially about the photos. Much appreciated as ever.

      I guess it's a sign of the times; today even most of the aristocracy cannot employ much in the way of staff. But 100 years ago it was still possible for the wealthy to afford a retinue of maids, gardeners and a butler. I guess Lady Baillie and her predecessors would have had plenty of people to help maintain a home even as large and old as Leeds Castle! Cheers Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Jodah; Thanks, my friend. I appreciate your visit and generous comment (and votes!) Cheers, Alun

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      Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What an amazing place! Your photographs are superb and I'm pinning two of them.

      It must cost a fortune to maintain this castle and the grounds. I can't believe it was actually privately owned! How wonderful that it is now opened to the public. It really is part of the heritage of England. Enjoyed and voted up and awesome!

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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What an amazingly thorough, well researched and illustrated article. Leeds Castle is a stunningly beautiful and well preserved structure. enjoyed reading your commentary and your wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing this hub. Voted up.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Hi Mark, regarding the historic news today that Scotland has voted to stay within the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I think I might write an article about this in the near future - it's certainly been fascinating! I'm half English and half Welsh so I'm not directly involved, but most people south of the border naturally wanted the Union to stay intact. We do, after all, have an awful lot of history together (some to be ashamed of, but much to be proud of).

      The UK, including Scotland, has been a bastion of democracy in the last 100 years, and I think it would have been a real crying shame and a big mistake to break it up. I'm glad it was a 'No' vote against independence, but it's also a credit to the Kingdom that such an open vote could take place here on such a seismic change - there are as we know, far too many nations today where such a potentially radical change could only occur through bloody civil war.

      One minor downside for me - I'd love to see clear Welsh representation, such as the Welsh Dragon, in our national Union Jack flag (which currently is a composite of the emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland). If Scotland had gone, then I'm sure there would have been pressure for a change, removing the Scottish blue. It would have been an ideal opportunity to put a little red Welsh dragon on the Union Jack! Oh well. :-)

      https://soapboxie.com/world-politics/UnionJack...

      Finally is there a relevance to this article about Leeds castle? Not really, except that whilst Leeds is an 'English' castle, it’s also a part of that very long ‘British’ history I’ve talked about.

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      Mark Jay Harris 2 years ago from Smithfield, Utah

      Greensleeves, just another topical question, not exactly related to your Hub, but what do you think about Scotland's decision to stay part of the United Kingdom?

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      markjayharris; Cheers Mark. I hope one day you can get to the Old World to see places like this. So many castles in England, Wales and Scotland - some lived in and some fought over, but all interesting in their own way.

      AliciaC; Thanks Linda. I always look forward to your visits and comments, and your message here is greatly appreciated. Cheers again. Alun

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      Mark Jay Harris 2 years ago from Smithfield, Utah

      Excellent, informative hub. Love the pictures! I definitely will go there if I ever get overseas again. In the meantime you hub is the next best thing to being there.

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      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an excellent hub, Alun. Thank you for sharing the interesting history of Leeds Castle and the beautiful photos. The castle looks like a wonderful place to visit.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      stereomike83; Thanks for that. Very much appreciate the comment. I know what you mean - living in southern England, I've never been to the City of Leeds! And I've written loads of pages here about Thailand, the Canary Islands, Paris etc, but this is the very first page I've written about a tourist attraction in my own country.

      It's easy to take one's own country for granted, and I think I will have to travel more and write more about England and the United Kingdom in future!

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      stereomike83 2 years ago from UK

      What a well thought out, in depth and beautifully photographed hub. Leeds Castle is up there on places I keep meaning to go but with the in laws close by I do end up in Leeds itself quite a bit!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      MsDora; Thanks Dora; it's very good to hear from you as ever. I think one of the appeals of Leeds Castle is that there is something there for most tastes - Medieval and Tudor, right up to 19th century history and architecture, early 20th century furnishings and décor, lovely scenic countryside, and much else. Cheers Dora. Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Heidithorne; Appreciate very much the nice comment, votes, accolades and shares Heidi! Hope very much that one day you can get here to see it - not too many castles in the Chicago area I guess :-) Alun

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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the tour of the Leeds Castle. Interesting history with great photographs of the architecture and surroundings. I like the furnishings. Voted Up and Interesting!

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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      What an amazing place and amazing photos! Voted up, awesome, beautiful and sharing! Will have to put this on my list of things to see if I ever get the UK.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      klidstone1970: My thanks for a really nice comment Kim. I guess the best endorsement one can have for an article such as this, is if it makes readers want to visit the castle which is the subject of the article, so I really do appreciate what you say! Cheers, Alun

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      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 2 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      What an outstanding and well put together hub! The pictures are fantastic. I have a longing to leave Canada this instant and visit England and everything it has to offer - Leeds Castle being at the top of the list. Thank you for sharing!

      Kim

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