Statistics: 6.75 miles, ascent 1123′, descent 1227′.

Leaving the Black Horse Inn, we had to walk uphill to return to the North Downs Way. Then, entering White Horse Wood Country Park, we decided to investigate Thurnham Castle which was just a short way off the path. Although first mentioned in documents in 1225 AD, the castle is thought to date back to the late 11th-century when it was occupied by a tenant of a brother of William the Conqueror. It was eventually abandoned and fell into ruin in the 15th-century.

Thurnham Castle ruin

Most of the morning was spent walking through peaceful woodlands.

We followed the rolling contour of the Downs, occasionally with ups and downs over steep stairs. From time to time, the path wound deeply into a forest.

The first sighting of the village of Hollingbourne was to see it snuggled below us while we still had a good view of the surrounding countryside. (Picture: left center, left of yellow field.)

View of Hollingbourne (left center)

Hollingbourne is a quaint village with attractive homes and a pub, The Dirty Habit, that had been highly recommended for dinner. We agreed that we would return via taxi in the evening.

The Dirty Habit, Hollingbourne

We veered off the North Downs Way once again to reach our B&B, Chegworth Watermill, an old watermill located on the River Len.

Chegworth Watermill B&B

After settling in, we called a taxi and headed to the nearby Leeds Castle to spend a lovely afternoon. This castle is a magnificent structure, used as the quintessential castle of history, having been a Norman fortress, a royal residence and a palace and located on two islands in the center of a lake. Listed in the Domesday Book (1086), it was originally built by the Saxons in 857 AD. Edward I transformed Leeds Castle into a royal palace in 1278 and it has been the home of six medieval queens, including Elizabeth I who was imprisoned here before she became a reigning monarch. Henry VIII put his stamp on the castle by remodeling it for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It survived the English Civil War because the owner at the time was sympathetic to the Parliamentarians. Lady Olive Ballie bought it in 1926 and began the most recent remodelling. She also established a foundation which still oversees the castle and its grounds, allowing the public to appreciate this treasure.

Leeds Castle

Strolling through the extensive gardens was a delight.

Leeds Castle gardens

A friendly peacock enjoyed strutting his handsome array of feathers for us.

Leeds Castle peacock

Swans were in abundance on the property and most accommodating when posing for a photo op!

Leeds Castle swans

Walking through acres of gardens was the perfect way to spend our afternoon.

Leeds Castle gardens
Iris at Leeds Castle

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