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Castles in Kent

Castles in Kent: Must-Visit Castles for Your Next Family Day Out

Heading to Kent and interested in exploring some of its famous castles? This guide has got you covered. With a landscape dotted with historical fortresses, Kent offers a rich tapestry of England’s past for families to explore.

From the grandeur of Leeds Castle, often called the “loveliest castle in the world,” to the strategic importance of Dover Castle, known as the “Key to England,” there’s a story at every turn. Wander through the romantic ruins of Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, or delve into the medieval history of Rochester Castle.

Whether you’re a history lover keen on learning more about England’s royal past or looking for a picturesque setting for a family picnic, Kent’s castles provide a perfect backdrop. This guide will help you choose which castles to visit, offer tips for making the most of your trip, and ensure you and your family have a memorable day out exploring the historical wonders of Kent.

List of Castles in Kent:

  • Leeds Castle
  • Rochester Castle
  • Dover Castle
  • Hever Castle
  • Deal Castle
  • Walmer Castle
  • Scotney Castle
  • Upnor Castle
  • Canterbury Castle
  • Tonbridge Castle
  • Chiddingstone Castle
  • Chilham Castle
  • Eynsford Castle
  • Lullingstone Castle
  • Sissinghurst Castle
  • St Leonard’s Tower
  • Sutton Valence Castle

castles in kent

1. Leeds Castle

Address: Leeds Castle Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL

Leeds Castle is not only known for its stunning gardens, moat, and maze but also its rich history that spans over 900 years. The castle has been home to many notable figures, including King Edward I and King Henry VIII.

Throughout the years, it has served as a royal residence, a prison, and even a hospital during World War II. Today, visitors can explore the castle’s well-preserved rooms, enjoy falconry displays, and participate in various seasonal events.

castles in kent

2. Rochester Castle

Address: Rochester Castle, Castle Hill, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1SW

Rochester Castle has played a significant role in England’s history, surviving three sieges and witnessing many important events. The castle’s 12th-century keep is one of the best-preserved in the country, standing 113 feet tall and offering spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Learn about the castle’s history through informative exhibits and take a guided tour to delve deeper into its past.

castles in kent

3. Dover Castle

Address: Dover Castle Castle Hill Rd, Dover, Kent, CT16 1HU

As the “Key to England,” Dover Castle has a strategic location atop the White Cliffs of Dover. This impressive fortress has a storied past, housing secret wartime tunnels, a Roman lighthouse, and a medieval Great Tower.

Visitors can explore the castle’s vast network of tunnels, including those used during World War II for Operation Dynamo, and experience life in the medieval court by visiting the meticulously recreated Great Tower.

castles in kent

4. Hever Castle

Address: Hever CastleHever Rd, Hever, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NG

Hever Castle’s most famous resident was Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. This double-moated fortress houses a museum dedicated to the Tudor era, showcasing artifacts and artwork that provide a fascinating insight into the lives of its residents.

Hever Castle also boasts beautiful gardens, a water maze, and a challenging yew maze, making it an ideal destination for families and history enthusiasts alike.

castles in kent

5. Deal Castle

Address: Deal Castle Marine Rd, Deal, Kent, CT14 7BA

King Henry VIII built Deal Castle as a coastal artillery fort to protect England from invasion. Its unique design, featuring a low, circular structure and numerous cannons, made it an imposing defensive stronghold.

Today, visitors can explore the castle’s extensive underground passages and learn about its history through interactive displays.

castles in kent

6. Walmer Castle

Address: Walmer Castle Kingsdown Rd, Walmer, Deal, Kent, CT14 7LJ

Walmer Castle, another of King Henry VIII’s artillery forts, has served as the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports for over 400 years. The castle’s extensive gardens, created by famed gardener William Kent, provide a tranquil setting for exploration.

Inside the castle, visitors can view the original Duke of Wellington’s bedroom and study, as well as a fascinating collection of memorabilia from the Duke’s time as Lord Warden.

castles in kent

7. Scotney Castle

Address: Scotney Castle Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 8JN

Scotney Castle is a romantic ruin set within a picturesque garden and surrounded by a moat. The 14th-century castle served as the Hussey family’s ancestral home for over 450 years before it was intentionally ruined to create a picturesque landscape feature.

The estate also includes a Victorian country house, offering a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its inhabitants.

castles in kent

8. Upnor Castle

Address: Upnor Castle High St, Upnor, Rochester, Kent, ME2 4XG

Constructed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Upnor Castle was built to protect the Royal Navy’s warships on the River Medway. Despite its military purpose, the castle has a distinct domestic appearance, showcasing the unique architectural style of the time.

Explore the castle’s well-preserved rooms, learn about the famous Dutch Raid, and enjoy views of the River Medway from the castle’s gun platform.

castles in kent

9. Canterbury Castle

Address: Canterbury Castle, Castle St, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2PR

Canterbury Castle, a Norman castle built in the 11th century, served as a royal residence, prison, and administrative centre. Although much of the castle has been lost to time, the remaining walls provide a glimpse into its historical significance.

Take a self-guided tour of the castle’s ruins and learn about the role it played in England’s history.

castles in kent

10. Tonbridge Castle

Address: Tonbridge Castle, Castle St, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1BG

Tonbridge Castle’s magnificent gatehouse and 13th-century moat provide an impressive setting for visitors to explore. The castle’s interactive audio tour offers fascinating insights into its past, including the role it played during the Baron’s War and the Peasants’ Revolt.

The castle grounds also provide a peaceful setting for picnics and leisurely walks.

castles in kent

11. Chiddingstone Castle

Address: Chiddingstone Castle, Hill Hoath Rd, Chiddingstone, Edenbridge TN8 7AD

Chiddingstone Castle, a stunning country house with Tudor origins, houses an eclectic collection of art and artifacts, including Egyptian antiquities, Japanese Armor, and Stuart paintings. The castle is surrounded by picturesque gardens and a beautiful lake, providing a serene setting for visitors to enjoy.

castles in kent

12. Chilham Castle

Address: Chilham Castle, Chilham, Canterbury, Kent, CT4 8DB, England

Chilham Castle, a private residence dating back to the 12th century, boasts beautiful gardens that are open to the public on select days. The castle offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and its picturesque gardens provide a tranquil setting for exploration. Visitors can also enjoy the charming village of Chilham, with its medieval square and timber-framed houses.

list of castles in kent

13. Eynsford Castle

Address: Eynsford Castle, Eynsford, Dartford, Kent, DA4 0AA

Eynsford Castle is a rare example of an early Norman enclosure castle. The site features the remains of a stone keep and curtain wall, showcasing the castle’s strategic importance during the Norman period. Wander through the ruins and learn about the castle’s tumultuous history, including the bitter family feud that led to its eventual destruction.

list of castles in kent

14. Lullingstone Castle

Address: Lullingstone Castle, Lullingstone Castle, Dartford DA4 0JA

Lullingstone Castle is home to the World Garden, a unique collection of plants from around the globe, meticulously curated by modern-day plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke. The castle itself dates back to the 15th century and has been owned by the same family for over 20 generations. Visitors can explore the historic rooms, enjoy the tranquillity of the gardens, and learn about the adventures of the castle’s current heir.

list of castles in kent

15. Sissinghurst Castle

Address: Sissinghurst Castle, Biddenden Rd, Cranbrook TN17 2AB

Sissinghurst Castle is a 16th-century manor house surrounded by the famous gardens designed by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. The estate includes a vast array of flowers, trees, and architectural structures, such as the iconic White Garden and the Rose Garden. Guided tours offer insights into the castle’s history and the vision behind its enchanting gardens.

castles of kent

16. St Leonard’s Tower

Address: St Leonard’s Tower, St Leonard’s Street, West Malling, Kent, ME19 6PD

St Leonard’s Tower is a striking 11th-century Norman keep, which once formed part of a larger castle. Although the rest of the castle has disappeared, the tower remains an impressive sight, providing a fascinating insight into medieval military architecture. Explore the tower and its surroundings, and imagine the once-grand structure that stood in its place.

castles of kent

17. Sutton Valence Castle

Address: Sutton Valence Castle, Rectory Lane, Sutton Valence, Kent, ME17 3LW

Sutton Valence Castle is a 12th-century ruin that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The castle’s remains include a three-story tower and portions of the curtain wall, providing a glimpse into its past. Explore the ruins and learn about the castle’s history, including its use as a residence for various powerful families during the Middle Ages.

rochester castle

Why does Kent have so many Castles?

There are several reasons why Kent has a high concentration of castles:

Strategic location:

Kent is located in the south-eastern part of England and has a long coastline along the English Channel. This strategic position made it a crucial entry point for invasions from continental Europe, as well as a key area for defending against potential threats. As a result, castles were built to protect and secure this region.

Proximity to London:

Kent is close to London, the capital city of England. Throughout history, it has been essential to ensure the safety and security of the capital, and castles in Kent played a significant role in providing that protection.

Wealth and influence:

Kent has historically been a prosperous region, with rich agricultural lands and well-connected trade routes. Wealthy landowners and nobility built castles as symbols of power and prestige, as well as to protect their lands and assets.

Royal influence:

Several kings and queens of England had connections to Kent, either through birth or residence. They often built or expanded castles in the region to serve as their residences, administrative centres, or military strongholds.

Overall, the combination of strategic location, proximity to London, wealth, and royal influence led to the construction of numerous castles in Kent throughout history.

castles of kent

Final Thoughts

From medieval fortresses to enchanting gardens, the castles in Kent offer a wealth of experiences for history buffs, families, and travellers alike.

As you explore these magnificent sites, immerse yourself in the captivating stories, stunning architecture, and picturesque landscapes that make Kent’s castles a must-visit destination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the Castle of Kent.

How many castles are in Kent?

Kent, often referred to as the “Garden of England,” is home to an impressive array of castles. The county boasts over 30 castles, including famous ones like Leeds Castle, Dover Castle, and Hever Castle, offering visitors a unique glimpse into England’s rich history and heritage.

What is the oldest castle in Kent?

Dover Castle, known as the “Key to England,” stands as one of the oldest castles in Kent. With its origins dating back to the 11th century, it has a storied past, serving as a crucial defensive fortification throughout English history.

Can you stay overnight at Leeds Castle?

Yes, Leeds Castle offers unique overnight stays. Visitors can choose from luxurious bed and breakfast accommodations in the stable courtyard, holiday cottages on the castle grounds, and even medieval-style glamping during the warmer months.

What makes Hever Castle famous?

Hever Castle is renowned as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. This double-moated castle is not only steeped in Tudor history but also features stunning gardens, a water maze, and a challenging yew maze, making it a fascinating destination for all ages.

Is Dover Castle English Heritage?

Yes, Dover Castle is managed by English Heritage, an organization dedicated to the preservation of England’s historic sites. Visitors can explore the medieval Great Tower, wartime tunnels, and enjoy panoramic views over the English Channel.

What activities can families do at Leeds Castle?

Families visiting Leeds Castle can enjoy a variety of activities, including navigating through the famous maze, exploring the castle’s interiors, participating in seasonal events, and enjoying falconry displays, ensuring a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Are there any castles in Kent suitable for weddings?

Many castles in Kent, including Leeds Castle and Hever Castle, offer romantic settings for weddings. With their historic ambiance, picturesque landscapes, and excellent facilities, they provide an idyllic backdrop for special occasions.

Can you visit the gardens at Walmer Castle without touring the castle?

Yes, visitors can choose to explore just the gardens at Walmer Castle. The gardens, designed by famous gardener William Kent, offer a tranquil setting to enjoy the outdoors, with the option to visit the castle at an extra cost.

What is the best time of year to visit the castles in Kent?

The castles in Kent can be visited year-round, but spring through autumn offers the most pleasant weather for exploring the gardens and outdoor features. Seasonal events and displays, particularly during the school holidays and summer months, add to the appeal of visiting during these times.

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