9 REASONS TO VISIT LEEDS CASTLE THIS SUMMER
If you’ve never visited the ‘loveliest castle in the world’ before, then this summer is the time to do it! 2019 marks the 900th anniversary of Leeds Castle, a landmark year that will celebrate nine centuries of history and heritage – dating back to 1119 when Robert de Crevecoeur built the first stone castle on the estate – with an exciting events calendar and the launch of many fantastic new visitor facilities.
Set in the Kent countryside near Maidstone, the castle boasts grand medieval and 1930’s interiors as well as a 500-acre estate with parkland, maze, woodland, gardens and a nine-hole golf course. The castle itself has been a Norman stronghold; the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; a Jacobean country house; a Georgian mansion; and an elegant early 20th-century retreat for the influential and famous. Now, in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain so be sure to add it to your own summer to-do list.
As well as the annual calendar of Leeds Castle events, including Motors by the Moat, medieval jousting, the triathlon, the open-air cinema programme and The Festival of Flowers, all of which will have a ‘900’ twist, there will be a myriad of other events and activities across the year to mark this special milestone so it’s the perfect time to discover everything the castle has to offer.
We’re confident that we could come up with 900 reasons to visit this year, but we’ve decided to just pick nine to shout about!
- STEP THROUGH NINE CENTURIES OF HISTORY
Walk through time in the beautiful woodland gardens on your way to the castle and you can look forward to stepping over a range of brand new bronze timelines set within the pathway, each helping you to discover key facts about the castle along the way. For each century, there is a fascinating story and a relevance to the sights around you as you arrive at the drawbridge which crosses over to Castle Island. A stroll and a history lesson in one!
- YOUR QUEST AWAITS AT THE KNIGHTS’ STRONGHOLD
Families rejoice! A brand new playground launched this year named Knight’s Stronghold, providing another spot in the grounds for your little people to let off steam. With an entirely new layout, the playground is fully accessible and will allow all children to be thrilled by exciting and imaginative play. Children will adore the design – a replica of the castle itself – where they can navigate spiralling slides, fireman’s poles, giant cargo nets and zip wires. Climb to the castle turrets to keep a lookout – and spot mum and dad in the handy seating area below!
- SWING INTO ACTION AT ADVENTURE GOLF
Another family favourite this year is the newly launched adventure golf course in the castle grounds. Discover the 12-hole adventure golf course with its miniature Leeds Castle, ferry boat and holes themed to the castle’s attractions. Planted by the Leeds Castle gardening team, this beautiful and fully accessible new attraction is open for visitors to enjoy all year round whatever the weather so swing into action and make plans to visit right away.
- CAPTURING A MOMENT IN TIME
Join in the fun on 25th June as Leeds Castle buries some very special objects as part of its 900th anniversary celebrations including the winning story from their ‘Big 900’ story writing challenge competition that ran earlier this year. The time capsule will be buried deep on Castle Island and will be opened in 100 years’ time! Witness the burial ceremony and be a part of this exciting moment in time!
- A ROYAL DAY OUT
Leeds Castle will hold a ‘Royal Day’ to celebrate the opening of the much anticipated Princess Alexandra Gardens with a fantastic grand opening event. The new gardens, designed by landscape designer Matt Jackson, take their inspiration from existing features from the garden’s heritage. The oriental garden is a nod to the duckery created by the castle’s most recent private owner, Lady Baillie, and gives the visitor a mix of a Chinese stroll garden and Japanese zen garden. Walk through the oriental garden to be met with your first full view of the magnificent castle and see the shape of five further garden experiences beyond. The landscaping team are developing a further Jungle Garden, the Cedar Lake Garden, the Willow Pond and Winter Garden, the Woodland Garden and the Pavilion Garden across the coming years and it’s a real treat to see the stunning new gardens taking shape.
- A CARNIVAL OF HISTORY
It’s time to party as an incredible ‘Carnival of History’ arrives at the castle on the 27th-28th July…and everyone is invited! The dazzling riot of colour will use large scale costumes and reenactors to travel through nine centuries of the castle’s history across two days. Join the procession, which will wind its way from Castle Island around the estate to culminate in an impressive finale set against the stunning castle backdrop. Acclaimed national professional arts companies, community participants, dancers, bands, volunteers and reenactors will join forces to create a vibrant and exciting procession built around key moments in the extraordinary history of the county’s iconic landmark.
- THE TASTE OF KENT
In another nod to the anniversary, Leeds Castle are the new face of Kent Crisps’ Salt & Vinegar with Biddenden Cider flavour, teaming up with these two top Kentish brands to champion the county’s food, beverage and tourism offer. This exciting collaboration showcases just how much Kent has to offer from its tasteful food and quality beverages to its incredible heritage spots. Grab a bag from locations across the county and enjoy some of the best local produce that Kent has to offer. They’ll even be served as the snack of choice on all American Airlines flights.
- A G&T WITH A HISTORIC TWIST
Imagine Lady Baillie, the last owner of the castle, and her houseguests in the 1930s whiling away the evenings in the castle drawing rooms sipping on their gin cocktails and enjoying jazz or playing backgammon… Sound good? Well, you can get a slice (with ice of course) of the action with Leeds Castle’s brand new craft gin available in the online and on-site gift shops. Another Kent local collaboration to celebrate their anniversary, they have teamed up with Copper Rivet Distillery in Medway to produce a special edition Motte & Baillie gin. The gin has been distilled in a limited batch of 900 bottles and is infused with specially selected botanicals from the castle estate; sweet fig from the Castle Island, floral rosehip from the Culpeper Gardens and fragrant pine picked from the Lady Baillie Mediterranean terraces. Each botanical was handpicked by the Leeds Castle gardeners and given to Copper Rivet’s head distiller to infuse the flavours and create this unique craft gin.
- A FAIRY TALE WEEKEND
With all of this going on, you’re going to need to make a weekend of it and it just so happens that Leeds Castle boasts some of the finest accommodation in Kent. Live like a knight for the weekend in the medieval-style glamping pavilions on the edge of the Leeds Castle estate complete with luxurious four-poster beds, warming wood burning stoves, crisp cotton bedding and snug furry throws. Cook your evening feast on the BBQs provided and as the night draws in gather the family around the fire pits for marshmallows and stargazing. Grab the whole family and escape to the country for a magical night under the stars. If you’re after something more classic, book one of the beautiful holiday cottages or B&B bedrooms for night of comfort and style in the castle grounds. For a real fairytale experience, book into the luxurious Battle Hall with its rich oak-panelled dining room and exquisitely furnished bedrooms – the perfect setting fit for this very special occasion.