History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
A former royal palace begun in the 12th century, Leeds Castle has to be one of the most beautifully situated medieval castles in England, projecting into its natural lake, and surrounded by 500 acres of beautiful parkland and gardens. Leeds has been owned by a succession of monarchs, and no less than six queens of England.
There was a Saxon royal manor here as early as 857 AD, After the Norman invasion the manor was held by the Crevecoeur family (literal translation, "breakheart"), who rebuilt the manor as a stone dwelling. That early castle saw action during the turbulent conflict between King Stephen and Queen Maud, and in 1139 Stephen captured it from Maud's supporters.
In the 17th century the castle was sold to Sir Anthony St. Leger, whose descendants built an estate house on the largest of the islands in Leeds lake. This house was later sold to the Culpeper family, who successfully managed to support both sides in the Civil War and the subsequent Restoration. Finally, in the 20th century the house passed to Olive Wilson Filmer, Lady Baillie, who spent considerable time and money refurbishing the interior and turning the living quarters into a sumptuous treasure trove stocked with ceramics, paintings, furniture, and tapestries. Lady Baillie was a famous society hostess in the 1920s and 1930s, and many famous guests stayed at Leeds Castle during her tenure. It was Lady Baillie who established the Leeds Castle Foundation, which has administered the castle since her death.
The extensive parkland surrounding the castle was landscaped in the early 18th century. Many of the trees that were planted then still remain. The park is split by streams and lakes that are home to over 30 species of waterfowl. The Duckery provides habitat for ducks, geese, and swans. There is a lovely woodland garden, at its best in spring when daffodils, narcissi, and anenomies are in bloom, and an English Cottage Garden. Leeds Castle is also home to the National Collection of Bergamot.
In the gardens is the yew Maze, planted and trimmed to resemble a topiary castle. Within the Maze is a secret underground grotto. The Leeds Castle vineyard was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and after a break of 5 centuries the fruits of the vineyard are once again being used to produce fine wine. Younger children especially will enjoy the maze, which exits through an underground grotto with appropriately eerie lighting effects. They will also enjoy the regular falconry exhibitions involving birds of prey from the aviary. There is a pay and play golf course, hot air balloon flights, a vineyard, dog collar museum, craft centre, and 'Go Ape', a high wire forest adventure area. Leeds Castle is a very popular attraction, especially on sunny sumer weekends, but it is well worth a visit at any time; the combination of a beautiful setting and a superlative historic treasure of a castle makes for an unfortgettable day out.
The castle hosts a year-round schedule of special events, including open-air concerts, a vintage car gathering, firework display, and ballooning festival.
About Leeds Castle
Address: Maidstone, Kent, England, ME17 1PL
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: 7 miles east of Maidstone, off the A20. For Sat Nav use ME17 1RG
Website: Leeds Castle
Phone: 01622 765400
Fax: 01622 735616
Historic Houses Association
OS: TQ837 533
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12th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - 18th century (Time Period) - castle (Architecture) - Civil War (Architecture) - Domesday Book (Historical Reference) - Edward I (Person) - Edward II (Person) - Edward VI (Person) - Henry I (Person) - Henry VII (Person) - Henry VIII (Person) - King Stephen (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - moat (Historical Reference) - Norman (Architecture) - Queen Maud (Person) - Restoration (Historical Reference) - Saxon (Time Period) - Tudor (Time Period) - Victorian (Time Period) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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