"The Loveliest Castle in the World"

Trip Start Apr 12, 2012
Trip End Apr 30, 2012

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What I did
Leeds Castle Maidstone
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, April 20, 2012

We returned to the airport to pick up our rental car - Noah was going to brave the left sided driving while we were in England and Ireland. With Julie as the navigator we headed south to visit Leeds Castle. Having visited the castle when she went to London after high school, it was a place she remembered as one of her favorites, and we were all very glad she wanted to share that with us.

Before we went to the castle we walked through the gardens, which was Julie's plan and one I would recommend. I actually think I could have skipped the castle entirely and just focused on the gardens. Even though we were a little early to see everything flowered out, it was still gorgeous. We made a new friend - a beautiful peacock who seemed to enjoy posing for our cameras. With his tail high and proud he gave us lots of photo opts, making a 360 turn so we could enjoy viewing him from every angle. We also got to see a white peacock fan his tail, which was quite a thing to see.

After enjoying the gardens we went to see the maze. It was like something out of The Shining and was not at all simple to navigate, made up of 2,400 yew trees. After several, actually more like lots, of wrong turns and about faces we finally made it to the raised center, which is actually a hollow dome. Unfortunately for us there was a group of high school students there from France and they were pretty rowdy and loud and often just downright obnoxious. Still, we were able to get a good group photo of the 4 of us before descending into the hidden underground grotto, which is an exit point from the maze. The grotto was designed to represent the Underworld, and there are carvings  depicting the four elements and mythical beasts. The lighting adds to the macabre feeling in this strange underground place.

We had lunch on the castle grounds and then went to tour the inside of the castle. I started feeling bad so I ended up just sitting on a bench while everyone else toured the castle, which means I didn't see too much of the interior.  The part I did see was very pretty, not so ornate as what we saw in Bavaria. This could be due to the fact that much of what we see today dates mostly from the 19th century.

While we were lucky to get some blue skies during our visit, by the time it came to an end the rain returned. Lucky for us Elsie the Castle Train was ready and waiting for us, so we were able to catch a ride back to the entrance and remain relatively dry. All in all it was a wonderful visit and I totally agree with the quote "Loveliest Castle in the World".
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