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An ancient fortress dating from the 12th century and home to Lords, Ladies, Dukes, Earls, and even Royalty

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Castle Views
Castle Interior
Extensive Gardens
Don't be confused; Leeds Castle isn't anywhere near Leeds, in Yorkshire. It's in the south, near a small village of the same name, seven kilometres away from Maidstone in Kent.

Aerial View of Leeds Castle
Photo Visit Kent

Leeds Castle
This ancient fortress dates from the year 1119 AD. Before that, there was a manor house on the same site, which makes this place's history over a millennium long. For almost all of that time, it has been home to lords, ladies, dukes, earls, and even royalty.
The first king to use the building as his royal palace was Edward I. In the following years though, it was inhabited by no less than six queens, resulting in it becoming known as the "Lady's Castle". One of these was Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. King Henry was a particular fan of the building, and it was he who added the pretty Tudor windows.
In fact, there have been additions and improvements made to the castle all throughout its life, resulting in an interesting building full of varied architectural details, from a medieval gatehouse, to new oak stairways.

The Medieval Gatehouse
Today, Leeds Castle is one of the most attractive and striking castles in Britain. It is set over two islands in a sparkling lake. The castle joins the gap by spreading out over the water, supported by its own pillars on the riverbed.

The moat around the castle
The lake acts as a moat, which would have been a strong defensive feature. To get inside, you have to walk across a stone bridge. The interior is open to the public and was extensively restored in the 20th century by the castle's last private owner, a very rich woman called Lady Baillie. She employed French architects and designers to transform the place completely. The entire building was filled with her extravagant purchases, turning the castle into an Aladdin's cave of furniture, art, tapestries, and other artefacts.

One of the many furnished rooms in the castle
Outside, surrounding the moat is vast, beautiful parkland, full of gardens, woods, and even a golf course. The gardens in particular are worth visiting, as they're fantastically well designed. One of the most popular parts of the castle grounds is the maze, which is made using 2,400 yew trees. It's quite tricky to solve, but if you manage it, you're led back to civilisation through a creepy underground grotto.

Beautiful waterside gardens

The maze

Did You Know?

If you need help solving the maze, then here is a clue "If in doubt, TURN LEFT!"
Another of Leeds Castle's attractions is its aviary. This was created in 1988, in memory of Lady Baillie. During her life, she was known to keep many different species of exotic bird. This tradition is kept up by the current aviary, which hosts all sorts of weird and wonderful winged creatures. Elsewhere, you can also find black swans on the moat, peacocks wandering the grounds, and displays of live falconry.

Colourful birds in the aviary
These hunting bird demonstrations are just one of many live events which take place in the grounds throughout the year. On other occasions, there's been everything from firework displays, to live music concerts by artists like Elton John.
The oddest thing you can find at Leeds Castle, though, is surely the Dog Collar Museum. The display here is no more or less than you'd expect - an exhibition of antique dog collars, collected over the years.
Visitor Information
Leeds Castle is open daily from 10:30am to 4pm (extended hours in summer). Entry costs around £18 for adults, £10 for children. Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL. Tel: 01622 765 400

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