Project Description

During my stay in England, I told myself “why not enjoy a bit the English countryside and visit a few of the most beautiful castles in the country while I’m here?” No sooner said than done! From London, it is extremely easy to get by bus or train to many attractions including Leeds, Warwick and Windsor castles (just to name a few), but you can also join an organised tour, which is what I did.

I chose to split my visit of the castles mentioned above on several days. There are of course others castles to visit in England, but I chose the ones that seemed most interesting and I must admit that this selection was pretty good! As usual, it’s early in the morning when someone comes to pick me up and then take me to the main bus station in London, from where leave different buses. As I was quite in advance there, I manage to choose a good seat on the bus, conveniently located next to the rear exit door to avoid lengthy queues when other tourists take hours to get off the bus.

Below is a brief summary of the three castles visited, with a few pictures. I also put a link to the official websites of castles, where you will find lots of useful information such as location, schedules, entrance fees, etc.

LEEDS CASTLE

Leeds Castle, located in Kent in southern England, is from 12th century, but the renovation work done in the 19th century have altered his appearance to make it more consistent with the Tudor style, equivalent of French neo-Gothic . The lake surrounding the building, however, was dug in the 13th century by King Edward I, the first to make changes to the castle, turning it into a royal residence. Today, the lush gardens that surround the lake almost steal the show from the castle itself. The park and castle are also the number one destination for weddings!

The castle has hosted royals members, including French ones! Indeed, Edward I has spent his honeymoon with his new wife Margaret (sister of Philip III the Bold, King of France), all of which were held at Leeds Castle in order to appease relations between the Kingdom of France and England. This tradition of hospitality and peace has lasted until today: indeed, negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland were taken to Leeds Castle by Tony Blair in 1994.

WARWICK CASTLE

Warwick Castle is situated on a cliff overlooking a bend in the Avon river in the center of England. Renowned for its prestigious university, the small town of Warwick is dominated by an imposing castle of Norman style. Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle would have the distinction of being haunted… Indeed, many ghost stories are told about it. One of the most persistent legends is about the castle underground, which would be inhabited by a mysterious little girl… It is also in this house that the Countess of Warwick have conducted spiritism seances. The castle now belongs to the Tussauds Group, which was acquired in 1982. Since then, the castle has become a true tourist attraction. You should also know that the gardens of the building were rebuilt according to the plans of 1868 and were also baptized by Princess Diana in 1986.

WINDSOR CASTLE

Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world. This is one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II. The history of this castle is particularly eventful: indeed, it was a fortress, then a mansion, a royal residence and a prison. Henry I was the first king to reside. It was Henri II who modernized the castle, ordering the replacement of wooden walls of the Norman fortress by a stone wall and a stone keep at the center of the site. In 1312, it saw the birth of Edward III, King of England, which will transform the castle into a royal residence. The famous St. George’s Chapel was built in 1475. It is also rather a small cathedral than a chapel! The castle gardens were designed at the request of Edward IV, who exclaimed one day “I think I’m in a prison. There are no galleries or gardens where you can walk”.

During the Victorian period, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg lived together in Windsor until the death of the Prince in 1861. Windsor remain the residence of Queen Victoria until her death in 1901. After the accession the power of Edward VII in 1901, the castle will often be empty, the king only staying there a week per year, at Easter to attend the horse races. It was at the time of the successor of Edward VII, George V (which ruled from 1910 to 1936) as his wife Queen Mary renovated the castle, abandoning the baroque style established for years. King George VI succeeded to the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth lived in Windsor until 1939 and the beginning of World War II. It was at this time that the castle resumed its role as royal fortress: princesses Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret lived there for their safety. In 1952, Elizabeth II ascended the throne and decided to settle in Windsor.

In 1992, a fire raged in the private chapel of the Queen, thus destroying nine principal rooms of state apartments. It was estimated that 20% of the castle was damaged in the fire. Once completely restored in 1997, Queen Elizabeth II uses Windsor Castle as a second home, having installed her headquarters at Buckingham Palace where she lives since. While visiting England, Windsor Castle is a historical place not to be missed, both its architecture and its history is rich and echo the history of the kingdom.

OFFICIAL WEBSITES

MY OPINION ABOUT THOSE CASTLES

Warwick Castle was definitely my favorite. This is probably due to the very medieval atmosphere as a medieval fair was taking place during our visit. Actors wearing old-style costumes, birds of prey shows and roasted meat on huge pin over the fire literally brought me back quite a few centuries back. Awesome! However, Leeds Castle and its surroundings were a very relaxing visit and I really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the place. I also would not mind having a house in the area, aha! Finally, Windsor Castle is very touristy as you might expect, but the huge and lavish interiors are worth a trip. Note that pictures and videos are not allowed inside the castles of Windsor and Leeds, but not in Warwick.