We’ve been to Leeds Castle in Kent a few times now. There’s a reason for that…we’re getting our money’s worth! We first went for the Christmas Market in December and were quite surprised to have to pay an entrance fee at all (we, wrongly, assumed the Christmas market was a separate thing, open to all. We were even more surprised to discover that the entrance fee was £74 – made a bit of a dent in the Crimbo shopping budget!
Still, £74 is for a family ticket (two adults and up to four children) for a year – so not too bad after all, as long as you remember to revisit. Leeds Castle is around an hour’s drive from Wandsworth, there is plenty to do and it is worth making a day of it.
Keep hold of your ticket and you can revisit as many times as you wish. They take a picture of the adults when you first buy the ticket so you can’t share it with your friends, although you can take in up to four children- not necessarily your own. You don’t have to queue on your revisit, just show your ticket and whiz through the gate. Don’t worry if you lose/forget your ticket – they have you on file and will look you up.
Leeds Castle has lots to offer, the castle has an interesting history and the kids love playing knights on the grass. There are beautiful walks, gardens, free-roaming wildlife and trees to climb. You can take the land train to the castle (£1 for adults and 50p for kids) and the ferry across the lake to the playgrounds (£1 per person, cash only). There are falconry displays, a maze and a fascinating (if a little creepy) shell grotto.
We went on Monday for the third time as Leeds Castle have just opened a new playground, the Knight’s Stronghold. It is an impressive wooden fortress, possibly better suited to children aged 6+ as it is pretty high with steep steps, slopes and climbing walls. It is fully accessible for prams and wheelchairs so you can chase you littluns around even if you have a baby in a buggy. Super! The smaller playground next to it is for children under 6 and is a great little playground with sand, slides, swings and zip lines. There are loos, a cafe and mini-golf between the playgrounds so you can spend a good chunk of time up there quite happily.
The only thing I would say is that I always find it quite a cold and windy spot – its on a hill and quite exposed- so make sure you have a jumper! Time passes very slowly if you are waiting for kids in the cold!
Regarding food and drinks – lots of people take picnics and there are tables and grassy areas to set up camp. A picnic keep the costs down and makes a revisit a cheap day out. There is a restaurant, a Costa and and an outdoor hot food kiosk to choose from. There are also refreshment kiosks dotted around. I thought the hot lunch was pretty good value- £25 for two adult and two kid’s meals with drinks- the fish and chips is delish!
We have until December 2019 to make the most of our annual ticket! We’ll definitely visit in the summer holidays for a sunny picnic, in October half-term for Halloween themed fun and, just before the ticket expires, in December for the Christmas market.