1. It's beauty and romanticism. The breathtaking setting of Leeds Castle and sheer beauty and romantic feel to the architecture make it one of Britain's "must see" castles. It is not as famous as Windsor Castle, nor does it have the historical significance of other castles in Britain, but its appeal is unparalleled.
2. History. While Leeds Castle did not play a major role in the formation of the British Empire, there are a number of historical elements that make the Castle worth seeing.
The original structure was a manor house built on one of the islands on the River Lens by a Saxon lord in the 9th century. A nobleman named Robert de Crevecoeur began construction on the original stone structure in 1119. By 1278 the castle had been taken over by the monarchy and it became the official residence for Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile, as well as an armed fortress. It was under their reign that most of the additions that make it the way it is today were added. This included three separate wings with their own entryways as well as a drawbridge and entrance gate.
Henry VIII remodeled the castle for his wife Catherine of Aragon, changing its main purpose from that of fortress to more of a royal palace. Later, Henry married Ann Boleyn and subsequently declared their daughter, Elizabeth, illegitimate. Because of this, her brother, Edward VI awarded the crown of queen to another and Elizabeth was actually imprisoned for a time at Leeds Castle before being set free and ultimately claming the thrown as Queen Elizabeth I.
By the time the English Civil War in the mid 17th century came along, Leeds Castle no longer belonged to the monarchy and had become privately owned. After changing hands many times in the next 300 years, it was given to the Leeds Castle Foundation to preserve the castle and surrounding acreage for the public.
3. A visit to Leeds Castle does not stop at touring this magnificent piece of history. A tour of the Castle also includes the world's only dog collar museum. Separate tours include the different gardens on the grounds including the beautiful Culpepper Gardens and a typical English garden.
4. The aviary. Leeds Castle has several aviaries that are known around the world. The different aviaries include exotic birds, peacocks wandering the grounds, swans swimming on the waters of the moat, and even a "duckery". The duckery includes very rare black swans.
5. While in London... With its close proximity to London, a visit to Leeds Castle can include a stay in London to enjoy all of its history and splendor. Trains run from Victoria Station to Maidstone, only four miles from the Castle.
6. Leeds Castle Hot Air Balloon Rides. Between April and November you can take a breathtaking hot air balloon ride either at sunrise or sunset that takes you high over the castle and above the countryside around Kent.
7. Hedge Maze. This maze was built in 1988 and is made from 2400 yew trees. The maze is a bit intriguing because not all of the "walls" of the maze are connected. The typical method of finding your way through a maze by following a wall does not apply.
8. Events. Many annual events are held at Leeds Castle because it makes such a wonderful backdrop. Typical yearly events include jousting tournaments, complete with knights on horses, archery exhibitions, and hawk flying displays. Theater productions are often held on the grounds at Leeds, such as an annual production of Pride and Prejudice.
9. Golf. A small nine-hole golf course is on the grounds near the Castle, built in 1924. Who could ask for a better atmosphere for a game of golf?
10. Holiday cottages. There are even holiday cottages for hire on the grounds of the Castle. This is perfect when planning to attend an event at Leeds or visiting any of the many nearby attractions like Canterbury and Sissinghurst Castle.
Leeds Castle offers something for everyone from history, to gardens and exotic birds, golf, or just relaxing and soaking up the stunning scenery of the castle and the grounds.
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Article Added on Monday, April 19, 2010
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