Destination Friday: Leeds Castle

February 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm 3 comments

Leeds Castle in Kent is my favorite castle in England.  It’s unbelievably picturesque.  If you have the chance to visit, go for it!


Image from Heart of Kent.

Getting There
It’s about an hour from London by car/bus.  You can take a coach tour with various companies, including my fav, Evan Evans, and combine it with another fun stop or two.  When I went in 2005, our group had a little bus take us for half a day.

You can also get there by train to Bearsted Station.  If you go by train, be sure to pay attention the shuttle times, as you’ll want to catch a bus from the train station to the castle.

History
This castle was built in 1119 and became a royal palace for King Edward I in 1278.  Henry VIII (I am I am) had a lot of work done on it for his wife, Catherine of Aragon.  His daughter, QEI, was imprisoned there for a time before her coronation.  The castle was opened to the public in 1976.  In addition to being open for touring, the castle is also available as a place for weddings and conferences – you can even stay there (24 hour rates from £217.50)!

What to See
Obviously, you’ll want to tour the castle itself.  It’s fairly small, but nicely decorated.  In my opinion, it’s the extras that make Leeds Castle worth a visit.

The castle is home to the world’s only dog collar museum.  This is ridiculously funny.

The aviary is also worth some time.  Although I felt sorry for the tropical birds kept outside even during the winter, it was amazing to see such a varied collection.

What really makes Leeds Castle my favorite is the hedge maze and grotto.  I think it’s better if you don’t really know what it looks like in the grotto, so don’t look for pictures if you’re going!

Be sure to take time to wander the parks and gardens as well – they’re really lovely.   Make sure you get a picture of a black swan in your wanderings; they’re the symbol of the castle.

If Leeds will be your only castle visit while in the UK, I’d recommend visiting on a weekend to catch a falconry display.   Those are such fun!  Just be prepared to duck sometimes. 

Also of note: there’s a golf course, a vineyard, and hot air balloon rides.  If you’d like to do something active, you might check out the Go Ape! zip line experience (opening March 2008).

Images from About Britain and Matt & Sherie.

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Entry filed under: CenturyClub, Destinations, Europe, UK.

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