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London Trip 2016: The Very Beautiful Leeds Castle

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One of the reason why we chose UK as our holiday destination at the end of 2016 was because we wanted to see (at least) a castle. A real one! The one that was built nine hundred years ago and with a long (and maybe dark) history where real Kings and Queens and Princes and Princess once lived there.

The boy was so crazy about The Medieval Period (since he read Geronimo Stilton books…………..see, Geronimo Stilton books are actually not just the ordinary children books, they present histories facts in a fun and easy way for the children to understand). He was interested in the history facts about Kings and Queens, how they lived, how they died, the wars, etc from the Middle Ages. So, it was no surprise that he really wanted to see real castles and castle ruins during our trip.

After I searched on the internet, the nearest and most recommended castle was Leeds Castle. It was said as a family friendly castle with lots of attractions for children and adults. It is also said as the loveliest castle in the world.

Since we would visited during winter, opening and closing time were different than during summer time. Some of the attractions were also closed during winter. For more information about the castle and its facilities, you can check on its website at www.leeds-castle.com. You can also book tickets online through the website which will also be cheaper than buying tickets on-site.

We were ready to go from Hammersmith Station on a cold morning

We were ready to go from Hammersmith Station on a cold morning

The nearest train station to Leeds Castle is Bearsted Railway Station. We used direct train from London Victoria Station to Bearsted Station with some stops in between. We had to buy the tickets online (cheaper than buying on the D-day in the station) at www.southeasternrailway.co.uk. You can also search for the cheapest option by booking online (date and time of travel will effect the price) . My suggestion is to book an open return ticket so you can come back at anytime of the day.

I bought the tickets from London Victoria to Hollingbourne

I bought the tickets from London Victoria to Hollingbourne (Hollingbourne station is after Bearsted Station), because we planned to visit Hollingbourne village after visiting Leeds Castle, but we were too tired so decided to came back to London after finished exploring Leeds Castle. The price from Victoria to Bearsted or Hollingbourne was the same at that time. Using the tickets, we could break our journey and continue again as long as it was done in the same day

From the nearest tube station from our hotel (Hammersmith Station), we took the tube (it was like MRT in Singapore) to Victoria Tube Station, then walked all the way (just follow the sign or ask the staff) to the National Rail Station. The staff told us to exchange our e-tickets with real tickets in the self service ticketing machine. We then asked the staff again which platform was the train going to be, and she said between platform 1 to 7. We had to look for the train that went to Ashford International Station via Bearsted Station. There were big signboards above the entry gate to the platforms, so look carefully in which platform your train is going to be.

We were waiting for our train platform to be displayed in the signage board above our heads

We were waiting for our train platform to be displayed in the signage board above our heads. Daddy was also checking the platform number through the website

It was quite confusing for us as first timers, so we did ask the staff or customer service several times before we finally managed to get to our train. The train didn’t stop for too long, so enter the platform as soon as you know in which platform your train is going to be. Victoria Station is huge and can be confusing for first timer tourists like us, so ask the staff or customer service for assistance if you’re not sure of what to do.

The boy bought ham and cheese sandwich to be eaten on the train

The boy bought ham and cheese sandwich to be eaten on the train

The train was clean and quite empty that day. As it was almost empty, we switched seats from one seat to another and we could enjoy the view from both sides of the windows.

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Happy faces on train ride

We really enjoyed the journey which took 1 hour and 15 minutes. We loved the view as it was very beautiful. We saw old English houses, farms, the farmers going for work, old churches, big grass fields, horses and cows eating grass, birds flying, and even small train stations just like in Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie books.

Enjoying the view of old stations like in the story books

Enjoying the view of old stations like in the story books

 

Lovely view on a lovely morning

Lovely view on a lovely morning

I told the boy that the old fashioned station reminds me of The Five Find Outers and A Dog from Enid Blyton book series. It the books, the four children (Larry, Daisy, Pip, and Bets) and a dog named Buster often waited for Fatty (his real name was Frederick but his friend called him Fatty), their friends which was also the leader of the group and Buster’s owner. Fatty came home from his boarding school during the holiday by train and he would stop in a small station near the village that they lived in. There was a police officer named Mr.Goon who disliked them and they didn’t like him either. He would chase and yell and scream every time he saw the children, but he was very afraid of the dog. We always laughed when we read that scene.

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A perfect place for the Five Find Outers to wait for Fatty, their friend

Just when we stopped at a station, we saw 4 people and a small dog were waiting in the platform. There was also a policeman sat down inside the station. So I said to my boy that they were Larry, Daisy, Pip, Bets, Buster, and Mr.Goon waiting for Fatty. The boy agreed with me and we laughed together. The scene was so real and we really wanted to believe that they were the main characters jumped out off the books, hahaha………….

A lonely chair in a train station in the village. This would be perfect for Dick and Julian from the Famous Five

A lonely chair in a train station in the village. This would be perfect scene for Dick and Julian from the Famous Five to wait for their sister Anne and cousin George with her dog, Timmy……….

 

After more than 1 hour, we finally arrived in Bearsted Station. It was also a lovely station in the village.

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Bearsted Station

To go to Leeds Castle, we just had to take the shuttle bus / or van that was already waiting for its passengers outside the station. It took about 20 minutes to Leeds Castle and we paid GBP 2.5 per person for one way journey. We exchanged our e-tickets with real tickets that could be used to enter the castle for 1 year in the ticketing office. we also got the castle maps from the ticketing office. There was no bag check so we just entered the castle grounds.

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Finally…………….Leeds Castle……………

The Cascade garden was indeed very beautiful. I would love to visit Leeds Castle on different seasons (Summer, Fall, Autumn, Winter / Snow) if I lived nearby to see the different colors of the trees in the gardens.

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Black swans in the castle pond

 

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Big moat in the castle ground

 

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Still taking pictures with the same moat in the background. Do you see the different color of the trees behind?

By the way, Leeds Castle and its surroundings are really huge. It took us more than 30 minutes (including time to take pictures) to walk from the entrance door to the castle itself. And then behind the castle, there were still more super huge gardens, pond, falconry, maze, grotto, playgrounds, food court, and museum. So prepare to walk and walk and walk with your most comfortable outfit, but especially shoes.

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Lovely view in the castle ground

 

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We didn’t mind the walk to the castle actually, as the scenery was really breathtaking, but on the way back it was different, hahaha………………we were so tired and it was like an unending walk

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Walking happily to the castle

 

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Ducks and pigeons were everywhere

 

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We watched 2 ducks fighting for food in cold water

 

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Beautiful color of the leaves

 

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It was very cold that day

 

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Are we there yet? Apparently, not yet…….hahaha………..

 

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Look, we finally see a glimpse of the castle. Does this mean were already very near to the castle?

 

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Taking pictures (again), hahaha…………….it was so lovely that we couldn’t stop taking pictures………….

 

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The long road to the castle

 

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The building in the background was actually a small museum (the Gatehouse) to introduce us to the castle and its history, toilets, and a souvenir shop

 

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In here, we learnt about the history of Leeds Castle

 

According to its website, 

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.

The name “Leeds” comes from an old English word: “slope” or “hillside”

The castle is now owned by Lady Baillie who bought the castle in 1926. She then redecorated the interior. Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public. The castle was opened to the public in 1976.

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Another big pond at the back of the castle

Just when we thought we were already very close to the entrance door to the castle, the staff told us that it was the exit door and that we had to walk again to the back side of the castle to enter the building. Ohhh…….noo………….and yes, it was another long walk again………..

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Can you see how big it is? We were on the other side of the castle grounds

 

 

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I bought a tripod so we could take picture together, but the boy didn’t like it as it made us move slower, hahaha………….so after 3 photos, we were done with the tripod and I just put it back in my bag…………sigh……..

 

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The third and last picture of us together

 

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Going down

 

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Lovely view everywhere

 

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Finally, we could see the castle building

 

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Imagine what happened centuries ago in this castle……………….

 

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We were entering the castle from the back door

 

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Inside the castle………….this was what we saw when we first entered the building

 

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The full picture of the castle with Lady Baillie’s painting

 

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Real fireplace with real fire (first time we saw it………….)

 

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I have no idea why they call it The Quuen’s bathroom, it was more like a kitchen to me………….

 

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One of the queen’s bedroom

 

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The Yellow Bedroom……………and I would love to have one like this please………

 

Seminar Room

Seminar Room. I love the green color in this room

 

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Henry VIII Banqueting Hall…………..another old fireplace………….

 

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Praying in the chapel (for photography only, hahaha……..)

 

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I loved the fact that the castle had a small wooden chapel

 

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Look at the stairs…………I could imagine back then when electricity ha sn’t been found yet, the people inside the castle would use candles at night to help them move from one place to another

 

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It was almost Christmas, so of course there were Christmas tree in almost every room, but this one was the biggest among all

 

And now, we’ll see what was inside Lady Baillie’s room:

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Bathroom

 

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Beautiful bedroom

 

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Inside the bedroom

 

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A fireplace, a Christmas tree, and a picture of Lady Baillie

 

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Room with a view. I would love to wake up with this view every morning

 

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Library

 

 

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Cozy reading corner…………..also in my bucketlist to have someday………….

We were so hungry by the time we finished exploring the castle, so we decided to grab something to eat, but then again, it was a long way to go to the Fairfax Restaurant. We needed to walk for at least another 15 minutes to go to the restaurant (as you can see, you really need to be very fit to explore all the area of Leeds Castle). Luckily we didn’t go on a hot day, so it was actually quite comfortable to walk around the castle and the grounds.

Although the temperature dropped to almost 0 Celsius degree that day, but there was no strong wind, so as long as we kept on walking, it didn’t feel so cold. When we stopped then it felt very cold.

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The castle main door which was also the exit door for our tour

 

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The castle was surrounded by big lake

 

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In front of the castle

 

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The Maiden’s Tower in the background

 

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This was not even half of the castle, it was so big inside, but I said to the boy that I wanted to sleep over for the night. He refused and said that it would be very creepy at night, hahaha…………

 

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After we walked through Barbican and Fortified Mill, we arrived at the other side of the castle

While walking to the restaurant, we could see another sides of the castle and the big lake surrounding the castle. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. All the pictures here don’t do justice to the beautiful scenery that we saw that day. Although I’ve never been to another castles, but I believe when they say that Leeds Castle is one of the loveliest castle.

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The lake surrounding the castle

 

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The castle from another angle

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Ducks and swans roamed freely

 

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There was suppose a free train ride along the castle ground, but that day, the train was broken, so we had to explore the grounds on foot

 

Leeds Castle

It was a good thing that we explored the castle on foot, since we could stop anytime and anywhere we wanted to

 

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Beautiful autumn color

 

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Another view of the castle

 

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Finally, we arrived at the restaurant. There were some buildings in the area which made this place looked like an old town

 

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I could imagine that this could be Miss Marple’s house (from Agatha Christie’s mysteries books)

 

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Fairfax Restaurant

 

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Chicken, fish, and kids meal for lunch. Drinking water was free

 

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Finally……….lunch…………

There was a small dog collar museum in front of the restaurant. I inserted some of the photos below. The boy was the one who curious and wanted to see what was inside.

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Dog collars from time to time

 

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My cute lil puppy

Even after all that walk, we hadn’t finished yet. There were still Lady Baillie’s garden, maze and grotto, falconry, and children playground.

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In front of Lady Baillie’s garden. We didn’t explore all the area of the garden because were too tired

 

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Long walk to the falconry and to see the bird show

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Lost inside the maze

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The maze…………it was so difficult and we got lost several times

 

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The top of the maze . From here, we could go down to the grotto for a short cut to the exit door

 

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Another beautiful view from the top of the maze

 

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The confusing maze below

 

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Children playground in the background

 

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This playground was for older kids. There was another playground which was more suitable for younger kids next to this playground

 

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The castle bridge in the playground

Last but not least, we visited the souvenir shops. There were 2 souvenirs shops in Leeds castle, one was near the castle, and the other one was near the car park. We spent more than an hour here because we loved seeing everything inside. I felt like I could buy all the lovely things that they sold there.

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The castle shop

 

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We loved all the colorful and pretty things in the shop

 

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There were magnets, key chains, premium tea, candies, Turkish Delights, books, and the so pretty Christmas ornaments

 

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We ended up buying fridge magnets

The visit to the souvenir shop also ended up our tour. There were some parts of the castle that we hadn’t seen yet, but since it was winter, the castle closed early so we had to go back. We spent around 5 hours and that wasn’t enough!

There was no more shuttle bus to Bearsted Station by the time we got back to the entrance door, so the staff at the souvenir shop offered to help us get a taxi by phone. It took about 30 minutes for the taxi to arrive. The car was very clean and smelt very nice, and it only cost GBP 8 to go back to Bearsted Station.

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Bearsted Station at night

 

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Waiting for the train………..we were so tired of walking

 

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The train that would take us back to London

Phew……..finally, we arrived back at the hotel and just bought take away food for dinner. It was very tiring, but it was also a very lovely day at Leeds Castle. I would love to go back again someday on another season. I saw in the pictures that it was very beautiful on snowy days. So hopefully, we will come back again someday.

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Author: cruiseoflife

Hi there. I'm from Indonesia but now live quite far away from my home country. I love cooking for my family. I learned how to cook for the first time from my mom and I believe that mom's cooking is always the best, and I do hope that my son will feel the same too even though he grows up so fast. I love Indonesian food as I grew up with it, and I promise to myself that my son, although he doesn't live in Indonesia right now, will always like and enjoy authentic Indonesian food. I make this blog so that my family will always remember our togetherness and happy time that we had, are having, and will have when we eat together and have good memories about a mother's love through her dishes. Hopefully these recipes will help other people to make healthy home cooked dishes for their families.

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