Leeds Castle is not in Leeds.
It’s not even in Yorkshire – but, confusingly for many – is much further south, in the county of Kent.
Geography aside, this is a magnificent piece of architecture, a Norman fortress which throughout history has undergone major reformations to make it the stunning example of a royal palace it is today.
This is a stately home with so much to offer, from zip wiring through the castle grounds to hot air ballooning above them.
It’s also a spectacular wedding venue, with the library, dining room, gatehouse and Maiden’s Tower all licensed for marriages.
Known – deservedly – as ‘the loveliness castle in the world,’ Leeds Castle is just southeast of Maidstone.
A Favourite of Kings
A favourite residence of kings Edward I and III, it reverberates with royal history, as a home to Richard II’s future bride, a haven for Henry VIII’s Catherine of Aragon, and a refuge for Henry IV and his wife during the Great Plague in London.
Built on a series of islands in a lake formed by the damming of the River Len, Leeds Castle sits amid the beautiful Kent countryside to the east of England’s other Leeds.
It has had a remarkable history, escaping destruction during the Civil War, when it was used as an arsenal and prison, serving as a hospital for Commonwealth airmen during World War II, and hosting the Northern Ireland peace talks in 2004 led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Bequeathed to Royal Queens
It has been bequeathed to many royal queens throughout history, including Margaret of France – second wife of Edward I – Richard II’s wife Anne of Bohemia, Henry IV’s queen Joan of Navarre and Henry V’s Catherine of Valois.
Now one of Kent’s major attractions, Leeds Castle plays host to over half-a-million tourists every year.
In addition to the castle itself with its fascinating background and royal connections, visitors can enjoy a maze, a grotto, a golf course – and what is probably the only museum of dog collars in the world!
- Special events for 2012 include:
What the Butler Saw, a look at life above and below stairs through the years, until October 21
Medieval Games – featuring archery, quoits and tug-of-war – until August 12
Hallowe’en Half Term from October 27 to November 2, including special Ghost Tours, October 29, 30 and 31
Fireworks Spooktacular, November 3 and 4
Christmas Past, a celebration of a Victorian Christmas, December 12 – 23
New Year’s Eve at the Castle, with dinner in the Banqueting Hall or in the 17th century Fairfax Hall, both with a fireworks display over the moat at midnight
Nicki Williams is a sports and travel writer for Gear-Zone, where you’ll find everything for a day out in England, including walking shoes, daysacs and wet-weather clothing – one of this summer’s major considerations!
Picture source: Compfight