Outing to Leeds Castle, 21st May 2019

The coach was full; the weather good all day; no worries then, in fact, no, there weren’t any. A splendid day altogether. We arrived on time and given the route was the M25, that in itself was an achievement. We’d obtained special permission to take the coach up to the entrance (not normally allowed) and then we were allowed the extra special privilege of taking it right to the land train drop off point near the Castle. It seems that mentioning age, Marlow, and Tom Kerridge gets you anywhere. In fact I found all the staff (and many volunteers) very helpful and courteous all day which by today’s lowered standards counts for a lot. Congratulations due for that alone.

Leeds Castle is really the Leeds Estate with a castle within its grounds. And, Oh Boy, what a Castle, moated and magnificent with acres of history. It’s not the original building of course but it’s good to imagine that it is. I’d suggest that perhaps only Bamborough challenges it as the archetypal fairy tale location. Its history stretches back some nine centuries. First stone built in 1278 when Queen Eleanor of Castile (wife of Edward 1) purchased the property; it has many royal connections including Edward 11, Henry V, Henry V111 and Catherine of Aragon. It became a private residence in 1618 and has continued as such since then, albeit it is now a charitable foundation. The Castle we see today was built in 1822 in Tudor style on the Norman foundations.

In 1926 it was bought by Lady Baillie and became a magnet for the rich and famous. She is largely responsible for the interior designs of the Castle that you see today. In 1974 Lady Baillie made plans for the creation of the Charitable Foundation that is the present estate.

Apart from the Castle, there was time to walk the grounds and gardens; see a birds of prey demonstration (impressive); cross the lake by ferry and visit an excellent maze; a good variety of eateries and coffee shops; a dog collar museum (bizarre). Punting (for lovers) and a tree top adventure (for children) was also available but untried to my knowledge. A pity as I fancied doing both, but I was unfortunately unaccompanied.

We bid a fond farewell at 3.45pm and made excellent time to be back as projected at 5.15pm. An excellent old-fashioned charabanc day out. I was quite pleased with it.      Roger Smith