Courtly Castle: A review of Leeds Castle (in Kent!)
Leeds Castle - the self proclaimed ‘loveliest castle in the world’ - is situated not as you might assume in the city of Leeds, but much further south in the Kent village of Leeds in Maidstone. Lucky for me really, because that’s very near where I live, although to my shame I had not been there before.
Steeped in history, the castle which was first built in the 11th century has been home to six queens and was the private palace of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The castle and its extensive grounds are now open to the public 361 days a year.
Our first trip to Leeds Castle was on a very rainy Good Friday.
I have to be honest, when the weather isn’t great there isn’t a lot for small children to do there, as a lot of the activities are outside.
We went into the castle itself which was far more interesting to us adults than it was the children, and got lunch at the heaving restaurant.
There is also a dog collar museum, but I have to admit I wasn’t hopeful that the children would be enthralled by this so we cut our losses and went home after a few hours.
The great thing about Leeds Castle is that if you buy a ticket, although fairly expensive for a one-day visit (£25.50 for an adult and £17.50 for children aged 4+), you can use the same ticket to visit as many times as you’d like over the whole year, which means if your day is a washout, it doesn’t really matter too much!
Fortunately when we returned the next week, there was glorious sunshine, and we managed to spend the entire day there.
What else is there to do at Leeds Castle?
On a dry day, loads!
The grounds are stunning and there are many resident ducks, geese and swans to feed on your winding journey up to the castle. It’s a beautiful walk on a path littered with spring flowers and many things to spot and look at on the way; we particularly liked the wood-carved dragon, Aragon.
The walk is buggy friendly although if you would rather save your legs, there is a train which costs £1 for adults and 50p for children aged 4+.
Although there is a restaurant as mentioned above, if you’re prepared and the weather is nice then there are loads of nice spots to sit and have a picnic. Just make sure it’s not too near a mean goose who might pinch it from you!
Up a hill, past the castle and the restaurant, are the maze, adventure playgrounds and falconry displays which are all included in the ticket price.
There is a ferry which for £1 per person can take you from the train drop off point, across the lake and up to this area, however as it was a lovely day we walked and it was fine for little legs.
The maze at Leeds Castle is a must-do.
The yew hedging is about 7 feet tall so there is no peeking over the top!
It can take a fairly long time to reach the centre, even if you use the clues, and especially if you let a four year old decide which way you’re going.
There’s a real sense of achievement once you reach the top, and you are rewarded with a really lovely view. You then exit via the grotto, which scared the pants off of my 4 year old but I found fascinating!
There are two adventure playgrounds; one for younger and one for older kids.
Both are well maintained and good fun. The younger children’s play area has swings, slides, zip wires and a sandpit; the children disappeared for almost an hour while I watched them from a sunny spot. Perfect!
They spent almost as long again rolling down the banks of the lake and ‘climbing’ trees.
There are also falconry displays throughout the day opposite the maze entrance.
Seasonal events at Leeds Castle
The castle runs seasonal events and during the Easter holidays, when we went along, there was an Easter Quest and a Circus Trail running.
Each trail cost £1 with a Malteser’s Bunny treat at the end if you managed to spot the eggs/circus boards, and we managed to complete both trails fairly easily (even in the rain!).
Until September, there is also the ‘Battle for the Skies’ attraction running, where you can learn about Leeds Castle and the role it played during the Second World War. Again my children were a bit young for this one, but I think it’s great that there is something for all ages.
Would I go back to Leeds Castle?
Absolutely! In fact given that our tickets are valid all year, it would be foolish not to pop back, particularly when new events are on.
The children loved it and we managed to spend the entire day there; there is plenty to do and it’s such a beautiful setting, I challenge you not to fall in love with it.