England is chock full of castles and palaces and cathedrals, all of them glorious in some way or another. Many of them remind me of that quote from the movie version of Dr. Zhivago which goes somewhat along the lines of, “twelve families could live in this home.” Well, I’ve visited Blenheim Palace and now Leeds Castle and a dozen families could live probably live in their servants quarters.
Full view of Leeds Castle from a distance
Touring these “homes”, I’m filled with ambivalence: How could anyone live in such opulence knowing that those who waited on them so differently and damn, aren’t those incredible gardens?
The gardens are by far the best part of Leeds Castle. The Castle folks have added or added onto all sorts of things to lure families and people who say, “Ho, hum, another castle” but – for me – the gardens need nothing other than those things God gave them and the gardeners pruned (and well, yeah, I guess there was a water feature person and a bird person but you get my drift).
It’s a long walk from the parking lot to the Castle and on an early fall, late Monday afternoon, there were only a few visitors who we encountered few and far between. The weather was cool. Shade was abundant for most of the trek and the scene pastoral.
There were the requisite peacocks…
There were black swans, white swans and black & white swans…
and then there was the Castle…
The majority of the Castle tour winds through the living quarters occupied by Lady Baillie, the last private owner of Leeds Castle who made a gift of it to the nation at her death in 1975. Lady Baillie did much to restore and maintain the Castle which is to her credit but her rooms – other than their extravagant style – are rather bland. The Castle’s older structures and the views of the ground from its windows are the high points of the tour.
the Castle keep
a half-timbered courtyard
view of the moat from the Castle’s interior
a lion from the thirteenth century, found at the bottom of the stairs at tour’s end. I really liked him and if he were in my home he’d be in the front room next to my stuffed gorilla.
And then it was time to make the long walk back to the parking lot, find Sevenoaks, dinner, a hotel and – of course – a pub for tomorrow, it’s off to London.