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Dragon hunting at Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle

‘The Loveliest Castle in the world’, claims the strapline on Leeds Castle’s website. It’s been a while since we visited a historical building, so this February half term we decided to take a trip into Kent to find out whether the castle’s reviewer was, in fact, right.

Leeds Castle

Those who prefer their castles to be craggy, ruined and remote may be disappointed. When we visited – the first day of half term – the place was teeming with families; enough to make the place’s 500 acres feel busy (around the more popular areas, at least).

Leeds Castle

A black swan, the castle’s emblem

Leeds Castle

But Leeds Castle does have an awful lot going for it. It’s one of the most spectacular places I’ve seen, flanked by beautiful formal gardens and a number of out-houses that are delightful in their own right.

Leeds Castle

Garden Cottage

Leeds struck me as unusual because it’s both ancient and well-kept. Parts of it date back to the Norman period. King Henry VIII used it as a residence (accompanied by 700 eels, two porpoises, a dolphin and a colossal amount of other items for eating, according to one of the castle’s information boards). He built a new wing for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. And, in more recent times, the castle’s last private owner, Lady Baillie, entertained such distinguished guests as Charlie Chaplin and Noel Coward.

Leeds Castle

A quiet nook in the grounds

The castle and its grounds have been cleverly adapted to appeal to families (and couples or singles too, although on the day we went, the visitors mainly consisted of parents and small folk). We visited for seven hours; although this was almost the longest time you could spend there (opening hours are 10.30-5pm in Winter, and 6pm in Summer), the day passed in a trice because there was something to engage all of us.

D and I managed to get our historical fix, when we walked through the castle and learned about its rich past. The rooms were all carefully reconstructed, with some beautiful period pieces on display.

Leeds Castle

The Queen’s bathroom

The kids were entertained by the knight-themed play area, as well as the half-term fairytale trail and dragon hunt, with storytelling (there was archery, too, for the over-threes, but we didn’t manage to fit that in).

Leeds Castle

Face painting was one of the half-term activities

Leeds Castle

The playground fortress, as seen from the summit of the maze

Leeds Castle

Feeding the birds…birdseed was available to buy

We rounded the day off being helped around the maze by an incredible boy – Dutch, I think – who remembered the way to the centre even though his last visit was three years ago. And he must have been no older than ten or eleven.

Leeds Castle

We made it to the centre of the maze (with the help of a small genius).

We exited the maze through the grotto, which was a bit spooky for the children, but nevertheless a quirky little note to end the day on.

Leeds Castle grotto

Although part of the castle’s 500 acres are off-limits to the public, there is enough walking to make it tiring for little legs, without the help of scooters or a buggy. But a train shuttle service made the final stretch to the exit that little bit easier.

Leeds Castle

We climbed aboard as the light was beginning to dim and, on our final glimpse of the castle, I felt rather sad to be leaving. Entry to Leeds Castle isn’t cheap, but a ticket gives you access for a whole year. It’s the sort of place you can visit several times and, as it’s within easy reach of London, I could imagine taking some of our weekend visitors there for an out-of-town trip.

Leeds Castle

On the fairytale trail, we spotted 26 of the 30 dragons dotted around the place. They’ll be there until the end of this week; I’m already tempted to go back and try to find the remaining four.

I’m not well-travelled enough to say whether it’s the loveliest castle in the world, but for our little team, it makes for a perfect day out.

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is open all year round, except for fireworks weekend in November, and Christmas Day.

Disclosure: we were given free entry to Leeds Castle for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.

30 Comments

  • Christine
    February 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    I do prefer atmospheric castle ruins but it’s nice to visit a fully restored castle once in a while. I haven’t been to Leeds Castle but it looks lovely in your photos. I like the sound of the dragon spotting too!

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 19, 2015 at 9:08 am

      It really was a great day out – and good to see the castle rooms as they might have been when inhabited by Kings and Queens!

      Reply
  • Amy Squires
    February 19, 2015 at 8:14 am

    It really looks great for families and my boys would love that maze! If we’re ever near by I’ll keep it in mind for something to do!

    Reply
  • Otilia
    February 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Love Leeds and the Leeds castle! Its hubby’s home town!

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 19, 2015 at 10:01 am

      I suspect you might be thinking about Leeds up north rather than Leeds Castle Kent! I have to say, I like Leeds the city too….:-)

      Reply
  • Cass@frugalfamily
    February 19, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Oooh I think my two would love it here – there’s lots of adventures to be had at castles 😉

    Reply
  • angela hamilton
    February 19, 2015 at 10:33 am

    What a magical day out! I love visiting castles and exploring the grounds, My children would love this. x

    Reply
  • Mummy of Two
    February 19, 2015 at 11:44 am

    That sounds like such a good day out for the whole family. I don’t think we’ve ever spent that long at one place so it must have lots to keep everyone happy. It is stunning too.

    Reply
  • Sarah Ebner
    February 19, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    We love castles and are so glad you had fun. Now you have to go to some of the others – Hever is a wonderful one too! PS Great pics.

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 19, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks-funnily enough, the friends I saw at lunch were also saying they enjoyed Hever. Must give it a try some time.

      Reply
  • Polly
    February 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    looks like a fun day! this is near where my sister lives, will have to go one day when we’re visiting!

    Reply
  • Izzie Anderton
    February 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Looks like a fabulous place to visit – but sadly, we live too far away. Happy to hear you enjoyed your trip x

    Reply
  • My Family Ties
    February 19, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    It looks like a fabulous day out with the family, and I love the face painting!

    Reply
  • You Baby Me Mummy
    February 19, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    This looks like a wonderful place. I love the black swan and your daughter’s beautiful face painting x

    Reply
  • Stephs Two Girls
    February 19, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Amazing face painting! Can’t believe you stayed so long – must be good 🙂

    Reply
  • Kara
    February 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I have not been to Leeds castle but it looks like a wonderful day out *adds to list*

    Reply
  • Jen aka Muminthemadhouse
    February 20, 2015 at 10:56 am

    When we lived down south we used to pass Leeds castle on the way to France, but never visited

    Reply
  • Charlotte Braithwaite
    February 20, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Gosh this is beautiful – A lovely family day out! I wish you lived closer to fab places like this. But saying that we have just discovered a new gem not far from our home. Maybe next time we’re in Leeds over night we can visit.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Charlotte x

    Reply
  • Sylvia @ Happiness is homemade
    February 20, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Castle looks lovely! I can only imagine how nice it must have been taking baths in the queen bathroom 🙂 I’m a history geek so would love visit it one day!

    Reply
  • Michelle
    February 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    This looks like a great place for a day out! xxx

    Reply
  • Lori
    February 20, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    I’ve never been but it does look like a fun place to explre but we’d prbably have to do it during term time as F doesn’t like the busy crowds so much. great fasce paint too. x

    Reply
  • Jaime Oliver
    February 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

    oh i am certainly putting this on our list of places to visit. We have English Heritage memberships and sine we dont live too far from Leeds we will have to see if this is on the list! 🙂 x

    Reply
  • agatapokutycka
    February 21, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Love the picture of the swan. I’ve never seen a black one before.

    Reply
  • Globalmouse
    February 23, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    I love Leeds Castle (we’ve just reviewed their accommodation actually). It’s a really lovely historic place and has so much going on all the time. Great review.

    Reply
  • Ninjacat
    February 23, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    i would live to visit this castle

    Beautiful review

    Reply
  • Charly Dove
    March 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Beautiful post. Love the photo of you altogether! Please could I use it for the BritMums photography round-up? If you have time today, would be great to have a high res copy sent to charlydove@gmail.com x

    Reply
    • Nell
      March 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you – I REALLY enjoyed taking these shots. Such a beautiful place.

      Reply
  • Stephanie
    May 16, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    It does look lovely – and I love the face painting, do you think I might be too old though? I’ve not been to Leeds Castle which in itself is shocking and something I should correct! #Timetraveller

    Reply
  • Mari
    May 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I love Leeds Castle and am hoping to revisit on an inset day coming up with a picnic. The beauty with Leeds Castle is there is always something going on for the children to do and it makes the visit really fun and memorable too.
    Thank you for linking this great post up to #TimeTraveller

    Reply

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