A monument to Britain’s past, the grand Leeds Castle is among Europe’s best preserved medieval landmarks, with more than nine centuries of history represented. Sprawled over 500 acres (202 hectares) and surrounded by a regal moat, the stone castle and its gardens offer a peek into the past as well as a variety of present-day, quintessentially English events and activities.
A trip to this royal 12th-century gem is essential for any visitor who wishes to truly understand Britain's venerable history, and its short distance from London through the English countryside makes it an easy day trip destination. The castle features medieval tapestries, furnishings, and art, as well as an exhibit covering the Gatehouse and the Dog Collar Museum. The outdoor maze, the Bird of Prey Centre (specializing in falcontry), the golf course, and the underground grotto offer other unique forms of Leed entertainment. The formal gardens, including Culpepper Garden, the Woodland Garden, and the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden Terrace, are additional highlights, and guests will find wildlife spotting opportunities with black swans, great spotted woodpeckers, and kingfishers frequently seen on the grounds. The castle is often visited on full-day group and private tours from London to southwestern England that also stop at areas such as the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury.
Things to Know Before You Go
- All tickets grant entry for one year from time of purchase, allowing for multiple visits.
- Families with kids can visit the onsite Squires’ Court Playground (ages 6 and under) and Knights’ Realm Playground (ages 7 and up) for royal fun.
- Rain is not unusual in England, so bring waterproof gear if you plan to be outdoors.
- Complimentary transport service on the grounds is available for those with limited mobility. The castle interior cannot accommodate strollers.
- Fee-based castle audio tours are available in six languages.
How to Get There
Leeds Castle is in Kent, England, one hour from central London and seven miles (11 kilometers) southeast of Maidstone. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Channel Tunnel and Channel Ports with signs directly drivers to the castle on all routes. To get around the grounds, visitors can traverse the moat on a punt boat ride, cross the Great Water from the castle to the maze on the Black Swan Ferry, or ride Elsie the Castle Train from the entrance to the castle (all require additional fees).
When to Get There
The castle is open daily from 10:30am to 4pm from October to March (last entry at 3:30pm) and until 5:30pm from April to September (last entry at 5pm). The grounds and gardens have longer hours, from 10am to 5pm from October to March and until 6pm from April to September. Weekend afternoons are the castle’s busiest time; weekday visits are much quieter.
Day Trips to Southwestern England
In addition to Leeds Castle, some of England’s finest sights can be found in this region, from Canterbury Cathedral to the famous Cliffs of Dover. Most tours cover the top sights and also stop at the outer London borough of Greenwich, known for its maritime history, the Royal Naval College, and the historic British clipper ship, the Cutty Sark.