England Day 3 Part 1: Leeds Castle

We woke up at 6am, still a bit tired from yesterday’s tour. Maiko’s legs were still pretty sore from climbing all 530 steps to the top of Warwick’s Castle tower. It was a good thing my fear of heights kicked in when it did, otherwise, I’d be complaining of more than sore thighs.

After we ate a breakfast of tea and bread, we packed some lunch and snacks for the day. Yesterday’s £11 lunch taught us to mind our budget.

We took a different route to the Holiday Inn hotel, where the Premium Tours bus would pick us up for today’s tour. We made sure to cross the road to the other side, because that’s where the bus had picked us up the day before.

The sky was heavy with clouds and then rain started to pour. I was prepared, of course. I had heard about the infamous London rain so I made sure to bring a small folding umbrella. Maiko and I huddled under the awning of the building behind us and waited for the big bus.

Instead, a small coach arrived 15 minutes later. We guessed that maybe the tour office realized that it would be easier to maneuver the narrow London roads in a smaller vehicle. Eager to get out of the rain, Maiko and I stepped into the small coach. The van was already filled with people, and we squeezed through the narrow aisle to get available seats.

We arrived at the Victoria Coach Station just in time to find the gate and wait for our tour guide.

Our guide for the day was Mary. She arrived five minutes later and led us to the bus, where she checked each person on the list. Today’s tour was 30 people strong and the bus was much bigger than yesterday’s medium sized coach. Maiko and I made sure we were at the front of the line as we wanted to get seats right behind the driver.

We got the seats we wanted, but unfortunately, behind us, were seated four very excited and rather loud people. They were chatting and laughing almost the whole trip. It’s a good thing they decided to quiet down once Mary, our tour guide, started talking about the trip ahead of us.

Having taken up History in college, Mary had a lot of historical information and trivia to share. She was a great storyteller and talked about the kings and queens of England like she was talking about her next-door neighbors. She made history interesting—and entertaining.

I enjoyed Mary’s stories so much, I barely noticed that we had arrived at our first destination for the day:

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle, courtesy of dimensionsguide.com

Located east of the village of Leeds, Kent, Leeds Castle is noted as one of the loveliest castles in the world.

Panorama view courtesy of Wikepedia Commons

Since we were part of the tour group, we were allowed into the grounds before it was opened to the public.

Entrance to Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle provides its own tour guides, and our guide for the day was actually doing her first solo guide ever. A senior guide followed her, making sure she stayed on track (and probably making her more nervous than she already was).

Leeds Castle (Front)

The castle guide informed us that Leeds Castle was a living castle, meaning that some of its rooms were off limits because they were being used as accommodations for guests.

Leeds Castle Guide

She took us through the various rooms open to the public, pointing out specific objects and giving us a history of the castle.

Baron Baillie’s bedroom. Note the picture of his mother-in-law directly in front of the Baron’s bed

17th century bathroom preserved in Leeds Castle

Built in 1119 by Robert de Crèvecœur, the castle was actually built to replace the Saxon manor of Esledes. 159 years later, the castle became a royal palace for King Edward I and his queen Eleanor of Castile.

Posing in front of Leeds Castle

King Edward I and Eleanor’s love story was a prevalent theme throughout the castle tour. Mary had touched on it while we were on the bus, and our Leeds Castle guide reiterated the highlights of their story.

Most medieval marriages were arranged and often unhappy. Though Edward and Eleanor’s marriage was arranged when they were 14 and 13 years old, respectively, they defied the odds by being absolutely devoted to each other. Throughout their marriage, Edward remained faithful to Eleanor, and became one of the few English kings known to have not conducted extramarital affairs or fathered children out of wedlock.

Throughout their 36 years of marriage, King Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile were rarely apart.  Eleanor often accompanied Edward on his military campaigns. There’s a story that once, when King Edward I was shot with a poisoned arrow, Eleanor sucked the venom from his wound. In one of these travels, Eleanor fell ill with fever.

She died in Harby, Nottinghamshire in 1290 with Edward beside her.

His heart broken, Edward I failed to continue on his original journey. Instead, he accompanied Eleanor’s body to Westminster Abbey, erecting crosses (later on named Eleanor Crosses) at every overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster.

Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross Station

courtesy of Kevin Hutchinson

Edward and Eleanor’s beautiful love story came to life when we visited the chapel where King Edward was said to have ordered the priest to say mass for Eleanor’s soul everyday.

Leeds Castle Moat

200 years later,  King Henry VIII transformed Leeds Castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. His daughter Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle for some time before her coronation.

Busts of Henry VIII and his offspring

Leeds Castle passed on from owner to private owner. Until in the 20th century, a wealthy American heiress by the name of Lady Olive Bailie, became the last private owner. She funneled all her finances into the restoring the castle to its former glory and into maintaining the grounds surrounding the castle. Before her death in 1974, lady Baillie made arrangements for the castle to be administered by a charitable trust, which later on became known as the Leeds Castle Foundation.

Portrait of Lady Baillie and her daughters

The tour of the castle’s rooms ended at what I thought was the best room in the house: the Library.

The Library at Leeds Castle

Maiko enjoying the library

After touring inside Leeds Castle, Maiko and I headed outside to take more pictures of the castle grounds.

Leeds Castle in the background

We visited the castle’s shop where we bought some souvenirs.

Inside Leeds Castle Shop

Several postcards, magnets and a painting later, Maiko and I headed out toward another part of the castle grounds.

Leeds Castle Tour Train

Swans, geese and ducks made use of the lake (or moat) surrounding the castle.

Leeds Castle barbican and mill

We even saw black swans.

A black swan

Maiko took this beautiful picture of a family of geese with the castle in the background.

Family of geese enjoying Leeds Castle

We explored the Barbican and Mill area, and Maiko snapped this picture of me peeking through the Barbican’s bars.

Behind the Barbican’s Bars

Leeds Castle Barbican

Moving toward the eastern side of the grounds, we discovered a small garden beyond the castle’s restaurants and found the castle’s aviary.

Leeds Castle Garden

Leeds Castle Aviary

A bird was building its nest in the middle of the aviary’s small pond.

a bird building its nest in the middle of a pond

We had just enough time to look around the aviary and see all the beautiful birds housed within, before we had to head back toward the bus.

There was a castle maze beyond the aviary, but we didn’t get to explore it that day. Mary had warned us before we stepped off the bus not to go into the maze because we might find ourselves lost within its hedges.

A hut with a thatched roof in the background

There was barely enough time to see all of what the castle had to offer, but we were happy with what we were able to see.  One day I hope to return to Leeds with my family and friends to explore more of beautiful Leeds Castle.

Bridge leading toward the castle

I waved goodbye to the castle as the bus headed toward our next destination:

the White Cliffs of Dover.

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20 Responses to “England Day 3 Part 1: Leeds Castle”

  1. Wow, more amazing pictures! And I really enjoyed reading your account, I love history so this was so interesting to me. I loved seeing the rooms, and laughed about the picture of the mother-in-law, what the heck? LOL. Also so romantic to read about Edward and Eleanor. Wonderful post, I enjoyed all of it, and Leeds Castle is obviously a very beautiful place. Thanks again for sharing your adventures!

  2. Hi nutschell!

    I tried leaving a comment but I think something happened as it seems to have disappeared, so I will try again LOL. Thanks so much for sharing your trip here, I loved this post. All of the pictures are wonderful, and I am a history buff so I found the history of the castle so interesting. I especially loved seeing the various rooms. Looks like such a beautiful place, thanks again for sharing!

  3. Again, gorgeous pictures.

    I walked up 1000 steps in Charlestown, figuring no big deal. Boy was I wrong!

  4. Meredith says:

    I want that library! Amazing.

  5. Shelly says:

    Wow! I’m jealous. You’ve gotten to go into real castles. London is all I’ll be able to see when I go. Just get a couple days there.

  6. Elena says:

    So beautiful – it must be a lot of work to maintain the grounds of that place. Love the black swans too, so unique.

  7. What an exciting tour you have provided here, I loved every photo and the history is very interesting.
    Thank You very much.

  8. Joy says:


    This is fascinating stuff! I dunno what I imagined the rooms to look like today, but they appear nice and modern. You have to admire the folks who built these imposing structures. Always wondered about moats and such. Guess the castle was built on an offshoot of the main land mass??

  9. Lynn Kelley says:

    Leeds Castle looks like a fairy tale castle in the Wikipedia photo, and King Edward and Queen Eleanor’s love story is perfect for this castle. I love hearing the history behind it all and looking at the cool photos. Well done!

  10. damyanti says:

    ooohhh man am so envious :)

    Glad you enjoyed the trip and came back to share the awesome pics and descriptions with us!

  11. Duncan says:

    The typical English rain always interferes with outings! The Leeds castle looks splendid; I didn’t know one could go for a tour inside! You have some lovely photographs which I’m sure you’ll treasure.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  12. Ate Zamm says:

    Beautiful castle with so much history. What a deeply romantic and remarkable love story of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile!
    Most of all, I love your pictures! Thanks for sharing. :)
    I’ll be waiting for the rest.

  13. Jayne says:

    Oh what a lovely write-up! I love Leeds Castle, and went there one autumn for a harvest festival, and got lost in the maze (although I made it to the middle before my friends did!) There is an Eleanor Cross near where I live, a bit forlorn now in the middle of a traffic junction. Leeds Castle often pops up in pub quizzes, for people to guess where it is. A lot of people guess it is in Leeds because of the name – I did, at first! Enjoy those white cliffs on your next day out…

  14. Hilary says:

    Hi Nutschell .. lovely photos – so pleased you enjoyed your visit and had a reasonable day there – not too much rain. I’ve never been – yet – it’s only across the county and into Kent .. one day – like all things!

    Sounds fun and the library .. looked particularly special. Thanks for the history too .. cheers Hilary

  15. Jules says:

    I love your photos! Ever thought about the scale of those rooms? Man they are huge!! That library looks bigger than our towns. Bring on the cliffs! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  16. Awesome photos! You saw some amazing places in England. I’ve visited Oxford, but never made it to Leeds Castle.

  17. Julie Musil says:

    Wow, what gorgeous photos. It looks like you’re having an amazing time!

  18. Talli Roland says:

    Can you believe I’ve never been to Leeds Castle? I really must get myself there! Fab photos.

  19. Great pictures! It looks like a beautiful place.

  20. I was unable to get to Leeds Castle while touring England. But I am so glad that you did! Thank you for your wonderful article and fantastic photos!

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