I don’t know if it’s my insane love for Game of Thrones, or just a bizarre obsession these days, but I decided that I needed to go visit some castles this summer. While London definitely has its fair share of historic sites, I was craving to see something outside of the city, so I chose to go to the beautiful county of Kent instead! I planned out two separate trips – one to Leeds Castle, and the other to Hever Castle (I’ll have a post about that trip soon!). I had also heard that Kent’s Dover Castle is one of most popular in the U.K., but I’ll save that for another trip.
The loveliest castle in the world
As usual, I dragged my parents along and we drove from London to Leeds Castle, which took about an hour. There are buses and trains from London as well so driving doesn’t have to be your only option. Once we got to the castle, I was incredibly impressed to see the size of the grounds – a whopping 500 acres! I wasn’t actually expecting it to be so large. And what was even more impressive was how well maintained the entire area was. The gardens, interiors, and architecture were absolutely gorgeous, and all felt very much like the muse to an epic fairytale. I fell in love with everything instantly.
We were also extremely lucky that we had come on a sunny day (a rare treat in England), so we started off our afternoon with a yummy lunch, at the Fairfax Restaurant, while enjoying the views of the castle from the patio.
The view from Fairfax Restaurant
Leeds Castle 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; an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.
Before I got there, I imagined Leeds Castle to be a dark and dingy place, on top of a hill or with the standard moat around it. I never thought that it would be so impeccably styled! I think what I enjoyed most was that every single room that I saw was styled to reflect the aesthetics of its different owners over the centuries.
A medieval sword with Arabic script on it
While the castle had been owned by multiple royals, the last private owner was an Anglo-American heiress and socialite, Lady Baillie. She spent most of her fortune and time on restoring the castle with the help of French designers as it was in a pretty sad state when her husband purchased it in 1926-27. In the 1930s, Leeds Castle was considered one of the greatest country houses in England where the heiress would throw lavish parties, and would host royalty as well as celebrities. During World War II, the castle was used as a hospital so her restoration efforts were put on hold until after.
When Lady Baillie died in 1974, Leeds Castle was given to a charitable trust that not only maintained the characteristics of the original royal rooms, but also of Lady Baillie’s luxurious art deco style. Can you believe she had a bathroom made out of onyx!
Absolutely stunning, isn’t it?
Overall, I have to admit, this was probably my favorite castle out of all of the ones that I’ve seen this summer. I enjoyed being able to see Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle, but I think that Leeds Castle has a great deal of charm. And I also think that this is the perfect way for any décor and design lover to be able to understand how interior styles have been influenced over time. I would have thought that I could say that the trends have changed, but the floral prints, green rooms, chairs, and couches, are all pretty much aligned with what’s current. To be honest, I’d take that emerald green armchair any day!