LivingTravelLeeds Castle in England

Leeds Castle in England

Home to the queens and kings of England, as well as an American millionaire with movie star friends, Leeds Castle has stood for centuries in Maidstone, Kent. Today Leeds Castle is open to the public, who can visit its restored rooms and its perfect 500 acres.

Nestled in a valley on the River Len, in the heart of the English countryside, Leeds Castle is a thoroughly romantic place. The castle itself, surrounded by the lake, is a treasure trove of art, antiques and history.

The history of Leeds Castle includes romance and intrigue, conflict and majesty. Although Edward I, Edward III, Richard II and Henry V were tried at Leeds Castle, it has long been known as the Ladies’ Castle.

Leeds, also known as the Castle of the Ladies

From 1278 to 1552, it was customary for the castle to be part of a queen’s dowry and to be preserved during widowhood. Queen Elizabeth, Ana de Bohemia and Juana de Navarra lived in Leeds Castle.

The Queen’s Bedroom and Bath at Leeds Castle are chamber reconstructions used by Catherine de Valois [1401 – 1437], wife of Henry V, who stayed at Leeds Castle on many occasions. Brought by him from France when she was a young bride, she was widowed at the age of 22. When a secret affair with commoner Owen Tudor was revealed in later years, a scandal ensued. However, the two had four children, one of whom was the father of King Henry VII.

Henry VIII, perhaps the most famous of all the royal owners, was responsible for much of the splendor of Leeds Castle. He spent generously to transform the castle from a rugged fortress into a royal palace. The Henry VIII Banqueting Hall is a testament to this reconstruction and retains features dating back to 1517.

Lady Baillie buys Leeds Castle

The last owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baillie, was an American heir to the Whitney fortune. She bought the castle in 1926 for $ 873,000, beating Randolph Hearst, the newspaper mogul, for the highest bidder.

Lady Baillie devoted the rest of her life to restoring the Norman castle and the rolling park that surrounds it. And she brought the glamor of Hollywood around. A hostess to the society, Lady Baillie’s guests included Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin.

When Lady Baillie died in 1974, she left Leeds Castle to a charity that ensures its enjoyment by the public and also promotes the castle for national and international weddings and seminars.

Exploring Leeds Castle

In addition to the castle itself, visitors to Leeds can also experience:

  • The Labyrinth – Planted with 2,400 yew trees in 1988, Leeds Castle’s Labyrinth challenges visitors to reach the panoramic central observation deck. (Don’t be afraid of getting lost; staff perched atop the center help guide the disabled through this topiary castle.)
  • The Aviary : More than 100 species of rare and colorful birds, such as macaws, cockatoos, and toucans, are found in the open-air aviary.
  • The Dog Collar Museum – Certainly one of the most unusual collections in the world, the Dog Collar Museum exhibits nearly 100 ancient dog collars spanning five centuries. Collars dating from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were designed to protect a dog during a time when wolves, bears and wild boars roamed the forests of Europe and the vulnerable throats of hunting dogs needed protection with wide collars of iron bristling with fearful thorns. . The Dog Collar Museum is also home to Leeds Castle’s Little Gift Shop.
  • Culpeper’s Garden – This quintessential English garden features neat box hedges that enclose traditional colorful perennials and scented annuals like roses, roses, lupins, and poppies.
  • Restaurant : More than 8,000 bottles of wine are produced from the castle’s vineyard each year. Leeds Castle’s award-winning wines are sold exclusively in the castle’s restaurant and shops.

Weddings at Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle offers couples four stunning and historic settings for a fairytale wedding: the library, the dining room, the gatehouse and the terrace. In addition to a selection of wedding reception venues suitable for smaller gatherings and banquets, the castle has 37 rooms available for newlyweds and their guests.

Leeds Castle wedding services include a butler, flower arrangements by the castle florist and wines and champagnes from the castle’s extensive Norman cellars.

Travel to Leeds Castle in style>

Although nearly 500,000 tourists head to Leeds Castle annually, those traveling in style take the day trip to the British Pullman Venice Simplon-Orient-Express day trip from London.

Meeting at 9:30 AM at Victoria Train Station, the small group is led by an expert guide who takes them by bus to the castle.

Along the way, passengers enjoy the narrated ride while looking out over the English countryside. Spring travelers are likely to see newborn lambs frolicking alongside their ewe on the velvety green grass.

While other visitors must park some distance from the castle, the Orient-Express bus approaches the entrance and remains parked there until the exit.

Upon arrival, Orient-Express guests receive a sweet muffin and coffee or tea at Leeds Castle Restaurant and are presented with an attractive commemorative brochure. They have more than two hours to explore the castle and grounds, which is plenty of time. (A camera is essential).

Then you are back on the bus, for a ride to the picturesque port of Folkestone, where the British Pullman awaits you. On a clear day, the White Cliffs of Dover are visible from the harbor.

The second thrill of the day, after experiencing Leeds Castle, is boarding the historic British Pullman. Aboard a meticulously restored ocher and cream carriage from the 1920s or 1930s, passengers enjoy a three-course lunch accompanied by champagne and wine as the countryside of Britain unfolds in the window.

Too soon, the train returns the group to London at 5pm, leaving passengers with unforgettable memories of the world’s most romantic castle, and the elegant journey home from there.

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