Liberty Adventures: Discover Leeds Castle

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Connor Estes
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with castles and would daydream of seeing the places of the days of Henry VIII and other kings and queens I've studied in European history. Growing up in rural Southeast Missouri, however, you'll have about as much luck finding a castle as you would a 200-foot dragon.

That's one of the great things about being stationed in Europe. I can see all the castles I want, relive my childhood dreams and have an adventure every weekend.

This past weekend I loaded the car and took my family on a road trip south for an adventure to Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle is located seven miles outside of Maidstone and about a two-hour drive from Royal Air Force Lakenheath. Situated on an island and surrounded by a moat, Leeds is widely known as "the loveliest castle in the world." The castle has played many roles spanning more than 900 years.

Beginning as a Norman stronghold, it also served as the home of six of England's medieval queens. Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon also used it as a palace. In the 20th century, it was a retreat for the influential and famous. Now Leeds Castle has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.

The interior tour of the castle shows in detail how it looked through different centuries. Rooms have been recreated on how queens used them back in the 15th century. Other rooms were decorated by Lady Baillie as they were used in the 1900s. Lady Baillie made Leeds Castle her family home for half a century, and it became her lifelong love. You can see her love of birds, flowers and fine furniture throughout the castle and grounds still today.

The grounds include beautiful gardens and a yew maze made out of tall hedges that leads you to an underground grotto. There is an aviary on the grounds with more than 100 species of birds. Some of these birds participate in the World of Wings show twice a day on the grounds.

One of the favorites for children is the Knight's Realm, a large wooden castle playground that has different levels with bridges, slides, swings, tunnels and other areas to keep kids busy and happy for hours. There are also castle shops, kiosks, restaurants and snack stands throughout selling souvenirs and food. There is definitely enough to do for families to spend a whole day at the castle and grounds. If you are not able to see everything in a day, you can reuse your ticket for one year from the original purchase date.

Editor's note: no federal endorsement is intended or implied concerning places of interest covered by 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs