Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle information

Prices
adult/child £21/13.50
Opening hours
10am-6pm Apr-Sep, to 5pm Oct-Mar
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Lonely Planet review

This immense moated pile is for many the world's most romantic castle , and it's certainly one of the most visited in Britain. While it looks formidable enough from the outside – a hefty structure balancing on two islands amid a large lake and sprawling estate – it's actually known as something of a 'ladies castle'. This stems from the fact that in its more than 1000 years of history, it has been home to a who's who of medieval queens, most famously Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The castle was transformed from fortress to lavish palace over the centuries, and its last owner, the high-society hostess Lady Baillie, used it as a princely family home and party pad to entertain the likes of Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks and JFK.

The castle's vast estate offers enough attractions of its own to justify a day-trip: peaceful walks, a duckery, aviary and falconry demonstrations. You'll also find possibly the world's sole dog collar museum , plenty of kids' attractions and a hedge maze , overseen by a grassy bank from where fellow travellers can shout encouragement or misdirections.

Since Lady Baillie's death in 1974, a private trust has managed the property. This means that some parts of the castle are periodically closed for private events.

Leeds Castle is just east of Maidstone. Trains run from London Victoria to Bearsted, where you catch a special shuttle coach to the castle.