Leeds Castle is perhaps the loveliest, most romantic castle in England. This fairy-tail structure is situated on two islands in the middle of the River Len near Maidstone, Kent, not far from London. The nearby village of Leeds should not be confused with the large city of Leeds, located hundreds of miles away in West Yorkshire.
The history of Leeds Castle England can be traced to the ninth century, when a Saxon lord built a manor on one of the islands on the River Len. A Norman nobleman, Robert de Crevecoeur, began constructing the stone structure in 1119. The castle came into the hands of the English monarchy in 1278. King Edward I and his wife, Eleanor of Castille, made many additions to Leeds Castle, giving it much of its present-day appearance. For the next three centuries in the history of Leeds Castle, this romantic fortress was a home to many medieval queens of England.
The most famous resident in the history of Leeds Castle was King Henry VIII, who made further additions to the structure, converting it from a fortress to a royal palace for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. In the more recent history of Leeds Castle, the grounds were used to host a meeting between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in 1978.
Leeds Castle England has been open to the public since 1976 and is maintained by the Leeds Castle Foundation. A Leeds Castle tour includes visits to the old keep, the Gloriette, named after Eleanor of Castille. Dog lovers will enjoy the unique dog collar museum, also part of the Leeds Castle tour. Outside, the Leeds Castle tour features the Culpepper Gardens, a classic English country garden; several aviaries of native and exotic birds, including a duckery with rare black swans; woodland gardens; a grotto; and a yew-tree maze. There is even a 9-hole public golf course.
Leeds Castle provides a venue for many country events in Kent. The castle can be booked for conferences, weddings, and other private gatherings. On the first Saturday of every month, the castle hosts Kentish Evenings, featuring a cocktail reception, a private Leeds Castle tour, and a five-course meal. In June and July, Leeds Castle hosts large open-air concerts, featuring music and performances.
Leeds Castle is just 40 miles from London, so it is easily accessible from London hotels. Trains run from London Victoria train station to Maidstone, four miles from the castle. There are also several good hotels in Maidstone, including the Grangemoor, a large, well-furbished hotel near the center of the town.
Leeds Castle is open daily, year-round from 10 am until 5 pm (3 pm in the winter). Admission for adults to the grounds and castle is about $25 per person. Admission to just the grounds is slightly cheaper. Family passes are also available.
Leeds Castle England may not be as famous as Windsor Castle, or as historically important as Scotland’s Stirling Castle, but its romance and beauty is unrivaled in British castles.