Castles are often portrayed as symbols of strength and security with their formidable, rocky facades and their towering, reinforced gates. Meanwhile, fairy tales speak of them as abodes of nobility, stature, and chivalry. Besides the legends that earn them their place on flags, like that of the British Overseas Territory and headland of Gibraltar, castles play a key role as centers for defending and rebuilding the surrounding towns. Although many castles today function as museums, most castles have lost their glory over time. Walls and ramparts, silent witnesses to lost kings and past victories. One castle that seems to have buffeted the storms of time and still stands in its majesty and beauty today is the famed Leeds Castle in Kent, England. Nicknamed as the Loveliest Castle in the World, the Leeds Castle has a history spanning more than 900 years!
Here are a few interesting things about the Loveliest Castle in the World:
- The Leeds Castle is situated on an island in a lake formed by the River Len, in Kent.
- In case you are wondering, it draws its name, not from Leeds, which is more than a couple hundred miles away, but from the Saxon chief called Leed, who owned the site of the castle in 857 CE.
- The original structure, built in timber over two adjacent islands, was rebuilt in stone by Robert de Crevecoeur, in 1119.
- The castle has functioned as a Norman stronghold and served as a private property for six of England’s medieval era queens. Beginning with Eleanor de Castile, King Edward the First’s Queen in 1278 till its last owner, Lady Baillie, the daughter of Almeric Paget, the 1st Baron Queenborough.
- The Leeds Castle has also served as a hospital during the early part of the Second World War, under Lady Baillie.
- Today, the castle has been opened to public as a historical monument as well as a center for social events.
Since its last owner left it to the Leeds Castle Foundation, posthumously, in 1974, the Leeds Castle has seen numerous additions and modifications. This includes an aviary (closed), gardens, children’s playgrounds, a maze, and the world’s only museum of dog collars! It is one of the most frequently visited historical sites in England. The Leeds Castle is open throughout the year. Oh, and the best part, your admission ticket allows you to visit the Loveliest Castle as many times as you like, across the year! Here are the sights to look out for when the Leeds Castle is on your itinerary on your next trip with a UK tourist visa:The Gatehouse Exhibition
The Gatehouse of Leeds Castle describes the castle’s vivid journey through ancient artefacts and relics from its early Norman beginnings to the subsequent centuries it spent in royal as well as private possession. It is a nostalgic testimony to the ages and events the castle has seen in its days of glory.The Field of Cloth of Gold
The Field of Cloth of Gold is a series of displays telling the story of a tournament held between King Henry VIII and King Francis I, to build bonds and strengthen political ties. The event was said to present incredible glamour, including an endless fountain of wine!
The castle once boasted over a hundred exotic birds in its aviary. However, due to its fastidious nature, it has now been reduced to a small, yet impressive display of raptors such as falcons, hawks and owls. Should you decide to have a Hogwarts-style wedding at the castle, you may even book a ring delivery via owl.The World’s Only Dog Collar Museum!
The Dog Collar Museum at the Leeds Castle is a special attraction for all who visit. Presented by Mrs. Gertrude Hunt in 1977, the collection initially had about 60 pieces from all over Europe, spanning three centuries. Since then, the collection has grown to more than a 100 through purchases and donations from across the world. Among the collection, the oldest is a 15th Century Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar, which served as protection against wolves and bears.Adventure Golf at the Leeds Castle
Laden with artificial rocks, sand, plants and water bodies, the golf course at the castle is themed to the rest of the premises. It is a 12-hole course open throughout the year and even has a ferry to match the theme.The Maze
The Maze is perhaps the main attraction for those who venture into the castle. The Maze consists of 2,400 yew trees. It has a curious structure which appears to be set in a square, but when seen from above, appears to be circular. The Maze also has a section that looks like the Queen’s Crown. Once you solve it, at the center lies the opening to the outside. An underground Grotto made of shells, mineral, and wood forming vivid beings from legends and tales.Knight’s Stronghold Playground
Children up for a feel of what it felt like to act as a Norman stronghold can play at this venue, wherein, lies a castle made from timbre, a replica of the Leeds Castle.Events at the Castle
The castle even organizes British Sign Language tours for the hearing impaired. Whereas, should one want to dive into the history as they traverse through the castle, you can purchase and Audio Tour from the Gate House, which is available in 6 languages, besides English. They host a range of tours, talks and workshops at the castle such as photography, painting and floristry.Venue for a Royal Wedding
The Leeds Castle has been opened up for private functions, diplomatic meets, and even hosting weddings. Should you choose to get married at the Castle, the Ceremony Room and Henry VIII Banqueting Hall, the largest room in the castle, will be at your service. Several accommodation options are available too, for the guests: Holiday Cottages, Stable Courtyard Bed and Breakfast, Maiden’s Tower Bed and Breakfast, Knights’s Glamping and the Battel Hall Manor House.
The Leeds Castle is an interesting journey through time. Rich in culture and history, it is a perfect choice for those looking for an educational tour, to have fun, or even get married. So, the next time you draw out a visa to the UK, make sure to add this to your itinerary.