Leeds Castle, Kent England

Leeds Castle, advertised as 'one of the loveliest castles in the world', is situated in Kent, and is famous for the wide, shimmering lake encircling the castle giving it a certain air of serenity. As early as the mid-8th century, there was a manor house situated here, owned by the Saxon royal family, and it was given the name 'Leeds' after the little village close by. Following the Norman invasion, the Norman barons found it necessary to build strong fortresses, so as not to be overwhelmed by the huge numbers of hostile English in the area, and so in 1119 a stone castle was built at Leeds.

Quite unusually, Leeds Castle sits on an island, surrounded by extensive grounds. The Barbican, constructed during the reign of Edward I, is unique in that it is made up of three parts, each having its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway and portcullis. Placed on the outer wall of the dam, it afforded great protection. Before the castle was built, a mill existed on the site, and this became an important part of the defences at the outer gates, located at the south end of the Barbican. Its purpose was to flood the Len valley, via an aqueduct in the basement, during times of impending danger.