"" Writer's Wanderings: Leeds Castle, Kent

Monday, June 25, 2012

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle
Our day and a half in Canterbury had covered all that we wanted to see. We had visited the Cathedral on a previous trip so while we munched on fish and chips we had asked the proprietor what he recommended we see that would be a day trip. He didn't even have to think about it. "Leeds Castle. It's a lovely spot. You'll quite enjoy it!"

So on our third day in Canterbury, Kent County, we boarded a train and headed for Bearsted. We had to change trains in Ashford which was very simple to do. Along the way we met some interesting folks visiting from South Africa with a lady who lives in England and goes to Africa to find water. She is a dowser. We had quite a discussion about how Americans eat. They
Leeds Castle on River Len
 didn't have a good impression of our eating habits. Can you blame them?

At the Bearsted station we had to wait a few minutes for the shuttle to Leeds Castle. For a small fee you get a neat ride through the little town of Bearsted and out into the countryside where the castle is located. I fell in love the moment we stepped off the small mini bus. Cinderella's castle has always been a bit too fru-fru for me. This was a REAL castle.

The grounds were absolutely spectacular, especially in the morning sun. We couldn't believe it.
 Another gorgeous weather day. Did someone move England farther south?

Henry VIII Banquet Hall
Lady Baillies's Dining Room

As the Leeds Castle website says: "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."

A Lady Baillie Bedroom
Queen's Bedroom

The first stone castle was built in the 1100s on an island in the river Len. Over the centuries, it was owned by many queens who expanded on the facility. After all, every new owner needs to redecorate and renovate. In 1926, ownership of the castle came to an American heiress, Olive Wilson Filmer, later known as Lady Baillie.

Lady Baillie spent much of her oil inheritance on restoring the castle and renovating parts of it for her residence. She was quite a social hostess and entertained extensively such guests as Edward VIII, the Grand Duke Dimitri of Russia, Douglas Fairbanks junior and senior, James Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin.

Black Swan Bathroom
Queen's Bath

As you tour the castle, you begin with rooms furnished in the medieval style and move to the more modern tastes of Lady Baillie. Throughout there is commentary called "What the Butler Saw" that tells of life in the castle during the days of Lady Baillie's social gatherings. The information was interesting but took an awfully long time to read as people crowded around. A nice audio tour would have worked so much better.

Looking at my pictures, you can see the contrast between the medieval owners and the more modern changes that the last owner made.The black swans on the towels in the bathroom picture were a symbol of Lady Baillie's castle. There are hundreds of water fowl in the streams, river, and pond on the over 500 acres of property surrounding the castle. And of course, among them, keeping their regal feathers dry are several peacocks.

When Lady Baillie died in 1974, she left the castle to a trust that continues to ensure the public enjoyment of the castle. She also allowed for its use by international statesman which led to the mini-Camp David in 1978 involving US Foreign Secretary Cyrus Vance, General Moyshe Dayan of Israel and Mohammed Ibriham Kamel of Egypt.

Inner Courtyard
Before we left, we ate lunch in the restaurant across the pond from the castle and then decided we could take on the maze. We were wrong. The maze was amazingly difficult. We wandered around and wondered how it was there were kids getting to the middle way before us. Were we getting too old for a sense of direction? No. The answer was evident when we saw one kid climbing over the hedge and another being helped by a parent who had found their way. Eventually, by luck, we made it to the center and down the steps to the grotto below it. So much for medieval entertainment.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...