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Leeds Castle, Kent review for families

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
User rating
Leeds castle

In a nutshell

With a glorious 1930s-themed interior, beautiful gardens, incredible playgrounds, a birds of prey centre, adventure golf, maze and grotto, this is a fun-packed day out for all of the family
Fun for kids
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Fun for parents
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Worth the money
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Facilities
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Family friendliness
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Pros: Beautiful castle and grounds, ticket offers a year’s worth of visits, brilliant kids’ playgrounds, suitable for all ages, additional activities on offer
Cons: Many activities cost extra, grotto may be scary for young children, limited activities for kids on a very rainy day

COVID-19 safety update

There may be additional safety rules or pre-booking requirements. Please check Leeds Castle’s website before travelling or booking.

Visited by:

Laura is an editor and mum of two. She visited Leeds Castle, Kent, with her husband and their 6-year-old and 4-year-old sons during the May half-term, when the weather was changeable.

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Reviewer Eddi also visited Leeds Castle with her 5-year-old daughter Georgie, her cousin Rosa (also 5) and her friend on a beautiful summer’s day.

When we visited:

Laura visited on a Tuesday in May, during half-term. Eddi visited during the school summer holidays on a sunny day when temperatures weren’t too hot, but it was still lovely to wander around in short sleeves. Surprisingly Eddi found the castle was busy but not too hectic, even though it was in the middle of the school holidays.

What age is Leeds Castle best for?

Best for: Children 6+

Still good fun for: Younger children age 1-6

How much does Leeds Castle cost in 2022?

If you buy your ticket two days or more in advance, you’ll get it at a discounted price.

  • An on the gate adult ticket will cost you £32 but booked in advance will cost £29.
  • A child’s ticket (age 3-15) will cost £31 on the gate or £28 in advance.
  • There are two family tickets available – 2 adults and up to 3 children for £106 or £99 when booked in advance – or 1 adult and up to 3 children for £76 or £70 when booked in advance).
  • Children under 3 go free.
  • All tickets grant free repeat entry for 12 months.

Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Leeds Castle, Kent?

At the time of our review there wasn’t any discounted tickets available, and you can’t use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for your tickets either.

However, it’s worth keeping an eye out for offers on sites such as Picniq and Kids Pass.

If you’re looking to stay overnight in the area and want to combine the cost of your admission tickets and accommodation, check for offers on Holiday Extras.

Are there any extra costs once you’re inside?

Yes. If you want to play adventure golf, there’s an additional charge of £3.50 per adult and £3 per children (all ages).

We rode the Black Swan Ferry across the Great Water from the Castle drive to the maze and play areas. This is at an additional cost of £1.50 each way per adult and £1 each way per child (under 3s are free), but we felt it added to the overall experience and was worth the minimal charge. It’s worth noting that the ferry is not in operation between November and March.

Elsie the Castle Train will take you from the main entrance up to the Castle and back, but we decided to walk up to the ferry point as we wanted to take in the grounds on the way up to the Castle. I’d recommend this, as my children enjoyed the wildlife on the walk, and there were beautiful flowers in bloom. But I’d advise getting the train back after a long day when little legs are tired. Tickets are available at the entrance from the Ticket Office, Car Park Café and around the castle grounds at the Stable Yard Kiosks and retail outlets, costing £1.50 per adult each way, £1 per child, and under 3s go free.

There’s a bird of prey centre on site and for a special occasion you might be interested in booking an experience, such as handling and flying an owl. But these are pricey, and your child must be at least 7 years old.

It’s worth noting that Leeds Castle is a cashless site. So, only debit or credit cards will be accepted at the Visitor Centre, shops, kiosks and attractions.

How long did we spend at Leeds Castle?

We arrived at around 11am and stayed until closing time (6pm). When we were leaving, ours was the last car in the car park. The boys could have spent more time in the playground, but overall, we felt satisfied we’d enjoyed all Leeds Castle had to offer.

What’s it like for families?

Leeds Castle is a great day out for families. The playgrounds in particular are a big draw for children:

  • The Knights’ Stronghold Playground is modelled on the design of Leeds Castle. It’s aimed at children aged 6-14, but my 4-year-old also loved it, though I did have to navigate through the wooden replica of the Castle with him. There are climbing walls, fireman’s pole, nets and zip wires, which my eldest loved. There are seating areas within the playground so parents can relax with a hot drink while the children play. But it’s worth noting that the playground might close during colder months when there are icy conditions.
  • Squires’ Courtyard Playground is designed for children aged 6 and under. They can climb turrets, swing across zip lines and play in the sand pits.
  • The Castle Kids Obstacle Course is aimed at children aged 8 to 12 years, but with their dad’s help my boys attempted it and it passed a few minutes until our Meet the Birds experience began.

It’s worth managing your child’s expectations before you arrive though, as fellow reviewer Eddi pointed out: ‘I showed Georgie the website before we went, and she immediately liked the look of the Castle. However, the family activities page has pictures of children dressed in medieval costumes which she was very excited about, but this turned out to be misleading as there was no dressing up available.’

What shouldn’t be missed?

Highlights for us were:

  • The maze – it really is one you can get lost in. We found our way to the stone mound at the middle of it and had other visitors shouting up to us to help direct them out. My boys love a maze and had so much fun running around this one.
  • We all enjoyed the 12-hole adventure golf, although this comes at an extra cost.
  • The free Meet the Birds experience. This was an amazing opportunity to get up close to some of the birds and find out more about these beautiful creatures. The boys loved stroking an owl, and it was a highlight of the visit.
  • The Castle itself was lovely to wander around and my boys enjoyed just sitting out on the grass with an ice-cream and having all the super-friendly ducks waddling right up to them in search of food.

Any parts some children might find scary?

When you’ve found your way through the maze, you exit through the grotto. I really enjoyed the grotto and was trying to point out to the boys how beautiful the statues looked all covered in shells. But they were keen to get out of there! I was surprised they found it a bit scary as they’ve been to The Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire, which has some dark and creepy parts, and they loved that. But my 4-year-old left the grotto in tears and told me the recorded voice had frightened him.

Eddi had a similar experience and adds: “My little girl and her cousin (both 5 years old) found the grotto in the middle of the maze rather frightening. We’d seen photos of it which were brightly lit, so they’d gone in very excited thinking it was going to be fun. What we found however was a dark, slightly dank, subterranean basement with a huge stone face with backlit red eyes and a recorded voice booming out of it.”

If you think this might upset your children, I think the only other way out of the maze is to find your way back around to the entrance.

Does Leeds Castle cater well for a range of ages?

There’s absolutely something here for all ages, from toddlers up to older children – and the grown-ups too – but many of the activities, like the maze and Meet the Birds experience are probably best suited to children aged 6 and up. Under 6’s will still have lots of fun on the Squires’ Courtyard Playground and the train, as well as exploring the castle and grounds, but you may want to avoid the grotto at the end of the maze if you feel they could find it frightening.

What to bring?

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes, and as it’s mostly outdoors, bring weather appropriate clothing. If there is a chance of heavy rainfall, you might want to bring a change of trousers to avoid a soggy journey home. I had a raincoat for my eldest and an all-in-one for my youngest, and I had an umbrella. But in the short sprint to get on the train back to the car park we still got soaked (even Reuben in his all-in-one still somehow managed to get his trousers wet). So, I was glad I’d planned ahead and was able to change them into dry joggers in the car.
  • Likewise, if there’s sunny spells make sure to bring sun cream and hats for the children.
  • It’s always worth bringing snacks and water for the children and I’d usually take a flask of tea with me. But on this occasion, we were booked in for afternoon tea.
  • If the weather is good, Leeds Castle is perfect for a picnic. It would be lovely to sit out on the grass overlooking the water, there is lots of green space near to the maze and playgrounds and there are also picnic benches.

What to watch out for:

  • Make sure not to miss the free falconry displays. These take place in the Falconry Arena, but we sadly missed the 2pm show. Thankfully we did have our free Meet the Bird experience, so the children didn’t completely miss out.
  • Leeds Castle runs both ticketed and free events throughout the year so if you’re planning a visit you might want to visit their website and see what they’ve got coming up.
  • As mentioned above, younger children might find the grotto a little frightening, so use your judgement here.

How easy is it to get around Leeds Castle?

Leeds Castle is really well laid out, and the maze, playgrounds, adventure golf and birds of prey centre are all grouped together. You can pick up a map at the entrance and it’s easy to find your way around.

What are the food and drink facilities like at Leeds Castle?

There are lots of places to grab lunch or a snack and they are all well located. There’s a kiosk by the ticket office entrance if you want to grab a tea or coffee for your walk up to the Castle. A tea costs £2.35 and a Flat White will cost you £3.15. A cold drink will cost you around £2.60.

At the boarding point for the ferry my boys were excited to see an ice-cream truck, but it was closed and the queue for the coffee truck next to it was moving slowly so we gave up and boarded the ferry.

Around the playgrounds, maze and adventure golf area there’s a café selling snacks (sandwiches, sausage rolls, pasties) and Solley’s Kent ice-cream. A packet of Popchips, a single scoop of ice-cream and two double scoops of ice-cream set us back £13.10.

There was a separate grill selling hotdogs and burgers priced around £8-£9 and with family meal deals at around £30. Picnic tables next to this were under a shelter. But in this part of Leeds Castle there isn’t a lot of indoor space to eat if it starts raining.

The Stable Yard kiosks offer fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, and homemade soup. Castle View Restaurant offers a seasonal menu in a beautiful oak-beamed setting with fantastic views of the Castle. We had afternoon tea here and our waiter was so friendly and offered to wrap up what we’d left over. Afternoon tea costs £20 per person and pre-booking is not required.

Can you take a picnic?

Yes, you can take a picnic with you and there are plenty of beautiful spots to enjoy one – especially when the sun is shining

What are the toilets like?

There were lots of toilets all around the grounds and they were clean and well equipped, with plenty of baby change facilities.

Is Leeds Castle pushchair friendly?

While most of the grounds are suitable for buggies, I wouldn’t recommend taking one into the grotto at the end of the maze. Due to space restrictions pushchairs cannot be used inside the Castle or Castle View Restaurant, but there is a designated buggy park where you can leave yours. Baby slings are available to loan for free for use inside the Castle – talk to a steward near the buggy park if you’d like to use one.

How well does Leeds Castle, Kent, cater for disabled visitors?

I noticed lots of wheelchair accessibility at Leeds Castle, including a wheelchair lift in the Castle and in the Castle View restaurant. There were also wheelchair accessible toilets. As you walk around the Castle itself, the space seems wide enough for wheelchair users.

The grounds around the Castle are mostly accessible but the maze and grotto are not accessible for wheelchair users.

Wheelchairs are available on loan free of charge. And a fully accessible mobility bus is available near the ticket office, running regularly throughout the day. But this is not available on special ticketed event days. There is also space for wheelchairs on the ferry.

Visually and hearing-impaired visitors are allowed to bring Assistance Dogs into the Castle and grounds.

At our time of visiting, audio tours were currently unavailable.

You can read Leeds Castle’s full accessibility guide here.

What to do before you go to Leeds Castle:

  • Book in advance to get the best price.
  • Check the weather forecast. It was supposed to chuck it down after lunch on the day we arrived, so we planned to get there for 10am to enjoy the maze, playgrounds and adventure golf before the rain. We were then booked in for afternoon tea and planned to enjoy being indoor in the Castle in the afternoon if it was miserable outside. I feel the enjoyment of Leeds Castle is very weather dependent, so do check the weather forecast to help you plan your day.

Opening dates and times:

April to September

  • Grounds and gardens: 10am – 6pm (last entry at 4pm)
  • The Castle: 10.30am – 4.30pm (last entry at 4pm)

October to March

  • Grounds and gardens: 10am – 5pm (last entry at 3pm)
  • The Castle: 10.30am – 3.30pm (last entry at 3pm)

How to get there:

Leeds Castle is 7 miles east of Maidstone, Kent near junction 8 of the M20 motorway. We used Google maps and found it easily.

Leeds Castle website suggests that if using Sat Nav to follow the brown and white tourist signs once you reach the A20, as the navigation system may incorrectly direct you to a private entrance where you will be redirected. Alternatively, it recommends using the postcode ME17 1RG (which is different from the postcode you’ll find for Leeds Castle on the main homepage of the website).

If travelling by train, Southeastern runs frequent services to and from Bearsted and a coach shuttle service run by Spot Travel is available from this station from April to September. A private service is also available from October to March.

Several companies also offer coach tours to Leeds Castle from London (check Leeds Castle website for details).

Is there free parking?

Yes, Leeds Castle has plenty of free parking available.

Worth a long car journey?

It took us about an hour to get to Leeds Castle from our home in South London, and it was definitely worth the journey. I think it’s a place we would happily visit two or three times a year. It was a longer trip for fellow reviewer Eddi, taking her around 2 hours to get there but she adds: ‘It was worth it.’

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Leeds Castle?

There’s lots more to do around Leeds Castle and in the surrounding area if you have the time or the budget to make an overnight or weekend stay of it.

Nearby attractions:

There’s a Go Ape at Leeds Castle and Kent Life heritage farm park is only a 10-minute drive away. It’s about a 30-minute drive to Port Lympne Reserve and you’re not too far from some of the lovely beaches Kent has to offer. So, if you’ve travelled from far afield there’s plenty in this part of the country to make it worth an overnight stay or weekend away. But Leeds Castle in itself is a full day out.

MFM verdict:

A lovely relaxing day out with plenty of activities for the children to enjoy. Especially worth it if you don’t live too far away and are therefore able to avail of the free repeat visits for 12 months after you’ve purchased your initial admission ticket. It’s about an hour’s drive from our home and I would consider going back again this year, maybe for their Halloween event.

Eddi adds: ‘This was a fantastic day out. The children loved it, most of all the adventure playgrounds, and we adults had a great day too as the Castle grounds are truly spectacular.’

Visit the Leeds Castle, Kent, website

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