Escape to Leeds Castle

img_4498
The Black Swan – now synonymous with Leeds Castle and its official symbol – was introduced from Australia by its last private owner, Lady Baillie, in the 1930s.

Despite experience having taught me over the past few years that, as a Responsible Adult, the festive season is indisputably the busiest and most manic time of the year, I am always surprised by how little time I actually have to myself in the run-up to the Great Event. Despite all the treats and mince pies your colleagues shower upon you, work still needs to be done. Christmas Parties need to be attended. Friends and family need to be seen.Presents need to be bought and wrapped. Cakes and goodies need to be made and boxed. I end up with an extra cat to look after when my parents inevitably abandon me for the glorious sun of the Floridian keys. Regular grocery shopping becomes impossible. Waterstones, usually a safe haven for a book-lover like me, becomes unbearable as people rush to buy celebrity autobiographies, humour and coffee table books to fill stockings with. Pilgrimages must be made to Nightwish gigs on the complete opposite side of London. It’s all go, go, go, go, go!

So it was really lovely for me to escape the carnage of it all with my wonderful boyfriend Mark to Leeds Castle for romantic break a couple of weekends ago. We stayed in the Stable Courtyard Bed & Breakfast within the castle grounds and it was so peaceful, with a beautiful view out of our window and the relaxing sounds of varied bird-life on the Great Water – including Lady Baillie’s famous black swans – to lull us to sleep and wake us up in the morning. An ostentation of peafowl joined us for breakfast every day without fail, and we ate like kings at the Fairfax restaurant in the evenings (my trousers felt really very tight on my first day back at work, I ate so much!).

Leeds Castle, dubbed ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ by the historian Lord Conway, is situated in Kent, which in turn is known as the ‘Garden of England’ for its orchards and hop farms… That should give you some idea of how pretty the place is. In terms of its history, to quote the website, the 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; [and] an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous.’ Aside from the castle itself, attractions include a maze, a faerie grotto, falconry displays, playgrounds, a golf course, guided walks and quite possibly the world’s only dog collar museum.

By night one way by day another
“By night one way, by day another.” ~ Princess Fiona, Shrek (2001)

As it is the festive season, there was also a beautiful Christmas market next to the maze which was filled with a magnificent array of gifts, food and drinks, an old fashioned fairground and a couple of tuckered out reindeer called Cranberry and Chestnut. Only a couple of weeks before, Mark and I attended the comparatively disappointing and ridiculously busy Dickensian Christmas Market in Rochester (also hosted on the grounds of a castle), so it was nice to have my faith restored! Mark was able to top up on Christmas presents for his relatives, and I indulged in some additional Christmas decorations for my flat in an attempt to make the bare walls more festive. Sadly the food had run out by the time we got around to being hungry, but the food we saw other people eating sure did look good!

img_4499The castle itself was also bedecked especially for Christmas with white paper decorations littered throughout the themed rooms. Some were light-box structures depicting various well-known Christmas carols, others were ornaments hanging from the most unlikely of places. A Christmas tree had been placed in every room, not least in the main entrance hall; there, it was really quite something to behold.

Alas now with only two days until Christmas, I am completely socialised out and in danger of bursting all over the room like Mr Kreosote. My romantic escape to Leeds castle seems like an age ago, but it was beautiful while it lasted, and I had such a lovely time with my wonderful significant other. Just what I needed to keep my sanity for the rest of the Christmas period. Mark, I love you very much!

Take care and Merry Christmas!

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Leeds Castle, including events, its history and accomodation at the Stable Courtyard B&B, please visit the official website:

www.leeds-castle.com

All photos included in this blog post were taken by me and are included in the website’s copyright. Please do not use without my permission. Thank you!

 

 

 

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