Leeds Castle

From £35 To £45

The 12th-century Leeds Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in Kent. Called the “loveliest castle in the world” by Lord Conway, Leeds Castle is a very well-preserved castle considering its age and its setting, surrounded by a moat in the Kentish countryside, makes it a favourite with tourists and a must-visit destination for anyone passing through this part of Kent.

The origins of Leeds Castle can be traced back to the 9th century when a Saxon manor stood on the site. The castle was originally constructed in the 12th century and over the centuries, the castle witnessed a fascinating transformation, with subsequent owners adding their own touches and expanding its grandeur. This has included substantial extensions made during the 18th-century and a major update to the interior design during the 1930s.

One of the castle’s most notable periods was during the 16th century when it was in the possession of King Henry VIII. The castle underwent extensive renovations during this time, transforming it into a luxurious palace fit for royal residences. The castle later passed into private ownership and has since been carefully preserved and maintained, showcasing its historical splendour for visitors to admire.

From being a Norman stronghold to a royal palace favoured by kings and queens, Leeds Castle has played a significant role in the country’s history.

Early morning autumn light on the moated 12th-century Leeds Castle near Maidstone. (Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash)
Early morning autumn light on the moated 12th-century Leeds Castle near Maidstone. (Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash)

What to see at Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is very well maintained for a castle that dates back to Norman times and it is also run in a manner that ensures that there are plenty of things to see and do beyond simply walking through an incredible old building.

The visitor experience starts with the Queens with Means exhibition which includes an audio visual presentation that introduces you to the seven queens who have called Leeds Castle home and it also brings to life Leeds Castle’s role as a glamorous country retreat in the 1930s.

A visit inside the castle lets you see its lavish interiors and gives you a greater insight into its rich history. Visitors can see opulent state rooms adorned with priceless artwork and antique furniture to the castle’s historic bedrooms. Visitors can also explore the underground medieval chambers, which offer an intriguing insight into the castle’s past.

The library inside Leeds Castle. (Image by Alexandria from Pixabay)
The library inside Leeds Castle. (Image by Alexandria from Pixabay)

The Dog Collar Museum is one of the more unique attractions within Leeds Castle. The museum features an unrivalled collection of historic dog collars dating from the late 15th century to to the 20th century.

The castle is set on 202ha (500 acres) of parkland and its extensive grounds and gardens are well worth taking time to explore. The formal gardens, with their neatly manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds and serene water features, offer a peaceful retreat. The Wood Garden and Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden provide a beautiful natural backdrop, while the Culpeper Garden showcases a collection of fragrant herbs. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll around the castle’s moat, enjoying views of the castle from every angle.

Leeds Castle is surrounded by a moat. (Image by Charles from Pixabay)
Leeds Castle is surrounded by a moat. (Image by Charles from Pixabay)

The castle grounds include a maze consisting of 2,400 yew trees and from the centre of the maze you can head down to the underground grotto.

There is also a golf course on the castle grounds where you can play a round with views of Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle offers more than just things to see, there is plenty to do as well. Visitors can take a boat ride (£1.50 each way or free with an Ultimate Explorer ticket) across the Great Water between the maze and the Boathouse Cafe, a train ride (£1.50 or free with an Ultimate Explorer ticket) or explore the castle’s parkland on foot, bicycle or by Segway (an additional charge). The Birds of Prey Centre includes falconry displays that provide a unique opportunity to witness birds of prey in flight, while the adventure playground and maze offer fun and excitement for younger visitors.

The Go Ape high ropes course has several variations for different age groups including the Treetop Challenge that features five zip wires including two that are over 250m (820 ft) long.

Visiting Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is around 10km (6 miles) south of Maidstone and it is around a 15-minute drive or a half-hour bus ride after you factor in the time walking to and from the bus stop.

It is easiest to visit Leeds Castle if you’re driving and ample free car parking is available. Stagecoach bus route 10X, which runs between Ashford and Maidstone, stops just a short distance from Leeds Castle. The bus runs around once an hour with less frequent services on Sundays.

The castle is open most days of the year, however, it does sometimes close including a five-day closure in mid-November to set the castle up for the Christmas season.

You have two types of admission ticket, the Explorer ticket and the Ultimate Explorer ticket. Both options are annual passes that give you access to the main attractions at the castle and allow you to make multiple return trips during the year and the Ultimate Explorer ticket also includes a few extras that would normally be an additional charge with the standard Explorer ticket. The extra features of the Ultimate Explorer ticket include six trips on either the Black Swan Ferry or Elsie the Castle Train and a round of adventure golf. It is around £5 cheaper if you book your tickets online.

A multimedia guide is included with an Explorer or Ultimate Explorer ticket. These guides offer an audio tour of the castle

Most of the attractions and activities are included in your admission ticket, although the Black Swan Ferry boat ride and rides on Elsie the Castle Train cost £1.50 each way (£1 for children) and there are optional falconry experiences that cost between £30 and £150. Falconry displays, however, are included in your admission fee.

For the most part, Leeds Castle is accessible for most people with disabilities; however, we advise that you check on the Leeds Castle website for more specific details.

There are extensive visitor facilities at Leeds Castle, which include several places to eat plus a large gift shop. Dining options include the fine dining Castle View Restaurant as well as more casual dining options like The Parlour, near the maze, and the Stable Courtyard Kiosks. Afternoon tea is also available in the Castle View Restaurant.

There is a lot to see and do at Leeds Castle so allow a full day for your visit.

Amenities
  • Free parking
  • Wheelchair access
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Gift shop

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