Journey through 900 years of captivating history at the ‘loveliest castle in the world’… Set amidst 500 acres of beautiful parkland, Leeds Castle has been home to England’s royalty, lords and ladies for almost 900 years. The first stone castle was built on an island in the River Len in 1119 by a Norman baron during the reign of William the Conquerors son Henry I. In 1278, a century and a half later, it came into the possession of Queen Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I and became one of his favoured residences. For the next 300 years the castle remained a royal residence and was the private property of six of Englands medieval queens. Henry VIII also transformed the castle in 1519 for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
It later became a private home and was handed down over four centuries, by both inheritance and purchase, through a network of interlinked families. The Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a wealthy Anglo-American heiress, was the last private owner of the castle. Upon her death in 1974, in accordance with her wishes, the castle was left to the Leeds Castle Foundation, and kept as a living house, with bedrooms that regularly accommodate guests. As such, it quickly became an elegant, early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous.
Today, Leeds Castle is one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain where visitors are offered a glimpse into its rich past through its fine collection of art, eclectic mix of period architecture, sumptuous interiors and family treasures. A packed programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year, including the brand new exhibition ‘What the Butler Saw’, ensures a visit to Leeds Castle is filled with fun, colour, nostalgia and pageantry.
Children will love the Knights’ Realm Playground, Maze, Grotto and Toddler’s Play Area and can take a ride on Elsie the Castle Land Train or the Black Swan Ferry Boat.