The castle is surrounded by a large park and formal “gardens.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/south/leeds/index.html It is a lovely half mile walk through the trees and along the river to the castle. For those not wanting to walk, there is a land train. The first view of the castle appears above the lawn. The path goes past the now ruined barbican and fortified mill to the entrance through the gatehouse. The Constable in charge of the smooth running of the castle had rooms above the archway. Stables and accommodation for the soldiers were on the ground floor. From here, there are views across the lawn of the bailey to the new castle with the maiden’s tower on the right.
The recommended entry, and more interesting entrance to the castle, is by dropping down through the wall and along the moat before entering through the Norman cellars under the new castle. The cellars are the oldest part of the castle and date from the early C12th. As well as barrels of beer and wine, they were also used to store food, straw, firewood and wax for candles.
A steep stone staircase gave access to the hall above, but has since been replaced by a more modern staircase, which comes out into the Heraldry Room. This has information about the castle and former owners.
From the Heraldry Room, the C19th lower bridge corridor leads to the Gloriette. The rooms on the ground floor have been restored by the Charitable Foundation to give an impression of what the rooms might have looked like during Medieval times. The Gloriette was the original keep of the castle and housed the royal apartments. It was the safest and best defended part. The rooms are built round a central courtyard with a small fountain. This dates from the 1820 reconstruction but was made over by Rateau for Lady Baillie in the 1920s.
The Queen’s Room has been recreated as the bedroom of Catherine de Valois, the young widow of Henry V. The wall and bed hangings are decorated with gold H and Cs. Catherine de Valois coat of arms is above the fireplace. The lozenge shape, indicates she was a widow. Beyond is the Queen’s Bathroom. The bath tub is hung with a fine white curtain for privacy
Next to it is the Queen’s Gallery. The fireplace with the initials of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was moved here from a room on the upper floor. This leads into Henry VIII’s Banqueting Room, the largest room in the castle. This was originally created for the visit of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1520, who were en route to France to meet with the French King. The room was completely redesigned by Rateau for Lady Baillie. He was responsible for the carved wooden beams on the ceiling and the C16th fireplace which came from a chateau in France.
The final room on the ground floor is the chapel. There has been a chapel in the castle from 1293 when masses were said for the soul of Eleanor of Castile, beloved wife of Edward I. The site of the chapel is unknown, so this room was turned into a chapel by the Charitable Foundation and reconsecrated in 1978. On the walls are four early C16th carved limewood panels showing the Annunciation, Birth of Christ, the Adoration of the Magi and Christ being presented at the Temple.
The rooms on the first floor of the Gloriette are the Lady Baillie rooms and remain much as they were in the time Lady Baillie lived in the castle. The lovely wooden spiral staircase which gives access to the upper floor of the Gloriette was designed by Rateau in 1927. The wood was wire brushed to age it. At the top is a carving of a laughing crusader with his dog.
The first room is the Boardroom which is now used for Meetings of the Charitable Trust and as a conference centre. The Seminar room was Lady Baillie’s private sitting room and later a bedroom for her son. On the walls are Lady Baillie’s collection of Impressionist paintings. It is now used as a seminar room and the preliminary meetings between the foreign ministers of UAS, Israel and Egypt leading to the Camp David agreement were held here.
Next are Lady Baillie’s private rooms. Her Dressing Room was designed by Rateau in the late 1920s in the style of Louis XVI. All her bedlinen and towels were embroidered with a black swan which has since become the symbol of the castle. Off it is the bathroom which is lined with Onyx and had underfloor heating.
The bedroom was designed in the style of the French Regency and some of the panelling dates from then. The rest was made to match.
Beyond is the the Catherine of Aragon bedroom, which was used by Lady Baillie’s third husband. It was turned into a sitting room for Lady Baillie in the 1960s and she controlled the running of the estate from here.
The Upper bridge corridor leads back to the New Castle. A splendid stone staircase leads from the Upper Bridge Corridor into the Inner Hall of the New Castle.
The Yellow Drawing Room is an attractive room with silk damask wall coverings and decorative tassels hanging below the plaster frieze.
Beyond is the Thorpe Hall Drawing Room. Lady Baillie bought the beautiful pine panelling and Italian Marble fireplace from Thorpe Hall near Peterborough, hence the name, as it was being sold off to pay death duties. The panelling had been painted green and had to be stripped before it was fitted. The ceiling had to be lowered to fit the size of the panels.
Across the Inner Hall is the library with its rich cream and brown colour scheme and walls lined with bookcases. Above the fireplace is a painting of Lady Baillie with her two daughters.
Beyond is the dining room, possibly the most elegant room in the castle, with its pale grey panelled walls picked out in white. In some panels are predominantly pink scenes of birds and flowers, which complements the display of Chinese porcelain on the walls.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/stately_homes_castles/england/south/leeds/index.html