Maidstone, England, United Kingdom
A Norman castle of stately proportions situated on two islands, Leeds is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. You can even stay there as a guest because part of the castle has been made into a hotel and guests gain the added benefit of having dinner in the historic Henry VIII Banquet Hall. It evolved this way due to the fact that the Noble owner was a poor one who married an American heiress, and she set about refurbishing the interior to the highest of standards. When you visit her rooms in the museum part of the castle, you will be viewing the memorabilia from when she lived there, making this castle have the feel of a home as well as an historic attraction.
A bonus part of the tour is the interesting Museum of Antique Dog Leashes and the Bird Aviary. There are also many graceful black swans that are at home around the castle.
Try to plan your visit on a good weather day as the 500 acres of grounds are well groomed for a picnic, a stroll through gardens beside lakes, and an outdoor playground for children to enjoy. Adults will want to try finding their way out of the famous Maze!
You can also have a meal at The Fairfax Restaurant in an attractive old beamed barn on the property, or snack on sandwiches at the cafe nearby. If you are a golfer, there is golfing open to the public on the grounds with its own pro shop and resident professional.
Leeds Castle is one of the most popular castles in England and it holds a long and interesting history within its walls too. Originally built in 1119, the castle was later taken over by Edward I and his queen Eleanor of Castile as one of their main residences. It is a picture perfect medieval castle with Draw Bridge, portcullis, gateway and barbican. In the early 14th century it was besieged by the forces of Edward II and Richard II’s wife also spent time there before she married the king in 1381. Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife Catherine of Aragon and Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle before her coronation.
During the English civil war the castle was spared thanks to the fact that the then owner Sir Cheney Culpeper sided with the parliamentarians. It was actively used as an armory and a prison during this time however.
Today you can visit this hotbed of political and royal history and intrigue at its location in the Kent countryside. There is also a maze, grotto and kind of bizarrely a museum of dog collars.
The castle is located 7 kilometres from Maidstone, Kent.