Leeds Castle, an immense moated pile just east of Maidstone, is often considered the world’s most romantic castle. It's certainly one of the most visited in Britain.
The formidable, hefty structure balancing on two islands is known as something of a "ladies castle". This stems from the fact that in its more than 900 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 John F Kennedy.
Things to do
The castle’s vast estate offers enough attractions of its own to justify a day trip. As part of your ticket you can explore the castle, take peaceful walks around the immaculate gardens and enjoy falconry demonstrations. You’ll also find possibly the world’s sole dog-collar museum, a huge fortress-style kids’ playground and a hedge maze, overseen by a grassy bank from where fellow travelers can shout encouragement or misdirections. The more adventurous may want to pay more to take a segway tour, play miniature golf, or even complete a Treetop Challenge on the high ropes at Go Ape. Leeds Castle also hosts many events in its grounds, from classical concerts and open-air cinema screenings to huge fireworks displays.
Tickets and other practicalities
Tickets for a set entry time must be pre-booked online, and can be used for repeat visits for 12 months. There's free parking at the castle. Trains run from London Victoria to Bearsted, where you can take a special shuttle coach to the castle.
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.