Saturday, Evan and I went to Leeds Castle. It all started in a pretty dramatic fashion, when we nearly missed our train. Evan rushed to buy one from an automated kiosk, while I tried my luck standing in line. Of course, we both reached the front of our respective lines at the same time, and while I was being hassled by the Victoria Station ticket agent, who told me I really should just go to Leeds Castle another day since it was already the afternoon and kept hassling me about our travel plans while refusing to let me purchase a ticket, Evan managed to get them.
We ran through the station, rounding a corner where we could see our train beyond some gates, and the large digital clock, which was ticking down about 30 seconds from departure time. We struggled with our tickets to get through the gates, and finally hopped on the train — hoping it was the right one — before the doors shut right behind us. Whew!
The train ride itself was thankfully uneventful, and we had a rather relaxing, hour-long journey to Bearsted, despite the looming clouds which threatened rain. By the time we got to Bearsted it was quite rainy, the coaches had stopped running to the castle and the number outside the coach and car hire office wouldn’t connect us to anyone. So we walked into town and stopped at a pub for a bite to eat and directions. The pub, The Oak on the Green, turned out to have some good food, and our server helped us call a cab to take us to the castle.
Once at the castle, the fun really began. We walked through the duckery, where I got quite close to an albino peacock, which really became the theme of the day — me trying to get close to the birds, that is. And we caught some very nice views of the castle in the distance.
We then walked along a winding garden path, and finally approached the castle. We passed black swans, some sort of snake sculpture that emerged from the grass and a whole bunch of very whiny children (they all seemed a bit tired and on their way out of the park). We entered the castle through the gatehouse across the moat, then walked around its outside to a back entrance.
Inside the castle, we got to walk through a large number of rooms, mostly decorated for the castle’s most recent owner, Lady Baillie. There were also some really nice and clear exhibits on royal coats of arms, and the castle had an interesting history — it was used as a hospital during WWII, and Lady Baillie’s daughters served as nurses. And there were lots of bird drawings and sculptures decorating the rooms.
Once we finished the castle tour, we headed to the dog collar museum (sort of interesting, though small), another garden, the aviary and the labyrinth, which were situated along a river.
The labyrinth, though it looked small, still took a while to figure out, and we spent a good amount of time wandering its green corridors trying to find our way to the center. Once in the center, we got to climb up to see the top view of the hedge maze, then descended into the cool, watery grotto to make our way out underground.
Though we could have stayed longer, had a picnic and caught one of the falconry shows or duck feedings, half a day was enough to have a good time at Leeds Castle. We wanted to check out the Go Ape adventure experience, but they seem booked up for a long while, so it wasn’t an option. And our only slight hassle was getting a cab. But once we got the number, they came quite quickly and were pretty inexpensive — £6.80 each way, I believe.
Also, admission was £15 a person, which lets you return anytime for an entire year after purchase.
Check out more photos on Evan’s site.