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Travel / Tours / England / Leeds Castle
Visit Leeds Castle (in Kent, England)
  Visitor route
  Maze, grotto and lakeside
  Special events
  Further information


Leeds Castle is a beautiful castle in the county of Kent in south-east England, near Maidstone (note that it is not near the city of Leeds, which is in northern England). The first stone castle was built on this site in 1119. In 1278 it came into the ownership of the king Edward the First and his wife Eleanor of Castille, who used it mainly as a place for rest and hunting. It remained in royal ownership for more than 200 years, often as a place where queens could continue to live there after the king had died (it became known as the "Ladies' Castle"). The king Henry the Eighth used it as a place to stay while on his way to meetings in France and improved the royal apartments for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Later the castle passed into the hands of various noble families (St. Leger, Smythe, Culpeper, Fairfax and Wykeham Martin). You can see portraits of some of the former owners inside the rooms. In 1924 Leeds Castle was sold to Lady Baillie, who devoted a lot of time and money to restoring and improving the castle and the surrounding park, finally passing it to the Leeds Castle Foundation in 1974.

(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Aerial view of Leeds Castle (*)

(*) Images marked in this way on this page are ©Leeds Castle Foundation

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After arriving at the car park and ticket office, there is a pleasant walk of about 1 kilometre to reach the castle entrance (a shuttle bus is available if required). Firstly you pass the Duckery, full of ducks, geese and waterfowl, which was created for Lady Baillie in the 1960s (she had a great love of birds, and you can see bird pictures and ornaments in many of the rooms which she used). The visitor route continues through a wood and past a large lake called Great Water. Here the road divides into two paths. The path on the left takes you onto a bridge over the moat (the water surrounding the castle) towards the Gate House, the entrance to the castle. The path on the right takes you to restaurants, shops, the Culpeper Garden, aviary, and maze.

Mother duck with her ducklings

Black and white swans


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Entrance to the castle is made by crossing a bridge over the moat into the Gatehouse.

View towards the New Castle

This bridge was originally a wooden drawbridge

Portcullis gate

(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Castle Dining Room (*)
(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Lady Baillie's Bedroom (*)

(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Henry the Eighth Banqueting Hall (*)
(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Queen's Bedroom (*)

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Lady Baillie started a collection of rare birds in the 1950s, and the aviary has since grown to include over 100 species. It aims to promote awareness of the need for wildlife conservation, and has a breeding programme for some endangered species.

(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Green Winged Macaw (*)


Crowned crane

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The maze was started in 1988 using more than 2,000 yew trees. Visitors try to make their way from the entrance to the underground grotto (secret cave) in the middle - it is wise to allow up to half an hour to get to the middle and out again.

There are mythical creatures made from natural materials on the walls of the tunnel leading to the grotto, where you can see a representation of the giant Typhoeus. According to ancient Greek legend, this giant tried to win against the gods but was defeated by Zeus. As a punishment he was placed under Mount Etna (a volcanic mountain on Sicily, an island in southern Italy), where he became the souce of fire. In the grotto you see Typhoeus holding up the mountain, with "lava" flowing from his mouth. Figures of black and white swans at the top represent both magical powers and are symbols of Leeds Castle.

Lady Baillie Garden (opened in 1999) has an attractive range of plants and offers fine views over the Great Water.

A father helps his son by lifting him out of the maze!
(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
The giant Typhoeus in the grotto (*)

Gorse and lake (view from Lady Baillie garden)

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There are a wide range of special events which take place at Leeds Castle. The castle provides a beautiful backdrop for summer outdoor concerts, or for firework displays for Bonfire Night in early November. There are special events to celebrate Christmas and Easter. Sometimes there are festivals for hot air balloons, vintage cars, flowers or food and drink, or displays of jousting or falconry.

Falconry display

Bonfire Night fireworks festival

(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Balloon weekend (*)
(c) Leeds Castle Foundation
Jousting tournament (*)

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* Booking a tour
Day-trip to Leeds Castle, Canterbury and Dover: Evans Evans Sightseeing

* Visitor information
Leeds Castle:

* Transportation
- The nearest train station is Bearsted: services from London Victoria take about 1 hour. For train times and to book a ticket, see: Shop/Company/TheTrainline. There is a special coach service from Bearsted train station to Leeds Castle.
- It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to travel by coach from Victoria Coach Station in London to Leeds Castle. For timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/NationalExpress (enter "Leeds Castle" as your destination)
- Location map

* Weather forecast for Maidstone/Leeds Castle

* More photos

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Rochester: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester
Windsor: Travel/Tours/England/Windsor
Warwick: Travel/Tours/England/Warwick
British history: Britain/History

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