I think a visit to the UK or London is never complete without a trip to Windsor, the home of the historic Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, is the residence of the British Royal family for over 1000 years and is said to be the Queen’s favourite weekend getaway residence. In fact, if you see the Royal Standard flag flying from the Castle’s Round Tower, it indicates that the Queen is in residence. It has been the home for thirty-nine monarchs and is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. It has recently hosted the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on 19th May 2018. With so much history just on one site, I am sure it makes a perfect destination for a special weekend break or a day out. My visit here was during the summer of 2018 and it appeared as perfect as it was when I last visited about 5 years ago.
Windsor is a historic market town in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, Southeast England. It has a lively atmosphere with great shopping and restaurants. It sits on River Thames, just west of London, and is under an hour’s journey from London (see below: Access). It is a rather pleasant short walk up a slight hill and you will come to the ticket office.
Windsor Castle is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. The Castle floor area is 13 acres (5 hectares) and has 1000 rooms. It comprises of two-quadrilateral-shaped building courts that are separated by the Round Tower.
The Round Tower, as the name suggests, is a circular tower, massive and is built on an artificial mound. The court in the west of the Round Tower is called the “Lower Ward” and the court to the east is called the “Upper Ward.”
Lower Ward – Includes St George’s Chapel and the Albert Memorial Chapel.
Upper Ward – Includes the private apartments of the Queen and the private apartments for visitors. It also houses the Royal Library which contains collections by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other famous artists.
The Northeast corner of the Upper Ward was destroyed by fire in November 1992 which included over 100 rooms and St George’s Hall. This area has been successfully restored and was completed in 1997.
Changing of the Guards Ceremony
The Changing of the Guard Ceremony takes place at 11:00 in the Lower Ward within the Castle grounds. The times can change and there may be occasions when the Ceremony may take place without music because of other duties and demands on the guards. The guards return to their barracks at 11:25.
Begin by exploring the interior of the Castle. I would suggest that you start with the State Apartments, at Henry VIII’s North Terrace. You may encounter a queue here, but they get through very quickly.
State Apartments & Semi-state Apartments
This part of the Castle is a grand building with opulent furnishings with intricate ceiling paintings. There are many art-work on the Royals and is home to the infamous Queen Mary’s Doll House.
St George’s Chapel
My favourite part of the Castle! Being here, in St George’s Chapel which is rich in history and in royal tradition is, at moments, simply overwhelming. It is unique in that it has a Perpendicular Gothic-style architecture. Construction of the Chapel began in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed by Heny VIII in 1528. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in this Chapel in May 2018.
The architecture is absolutely breath-taking! You need to see to experience it. Cameras are not allowed in the Chapel but I quite simply had to steal a moment to capture this jaw-dropping wow sight for keeps.
I spent quite a lot of time walking around the grounds at leisure and then lunch at the nearby pub. Afterwards, a walk up to the parks and down to Albert Road to view the Long Walk.
To the Eastern side of Windsor Castle is Home Park which was previously known as Little Park. It is approximately 655 acres (265 hectares) of parkland privately owned by the Crown Estate. Frogmore House is in this Park and is only open twice a year, May and August.
Great Park is situated towards the South of the Castle. It is approximately 5000 acres (2,020 hectares) which includes a deer park. Parts of this Park is open to the public, however I did go that far this time.
The Long Walk
The Long Walk is the straight path that links Windsor Castle with Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park, the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse). It is approximately 3 miles (5 kilometres) in length. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat and waited at Snow Hill for news of execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
However, the path and the landscape as we know it today only came much later, an improvement to what was by King Charles II and Queen Anne. King Charles II had 1,652 Elm trees planted in double-rows the entire length of the route and Queen Anne had a road constructed down the centre of the tree lined landscape, so the coaches could head into the park comfortably.
Winding-down your day
A short walk from the Castle, the Long Walk is crossed by A308 (Albert Road) to Old Windsor. There is a quintessentially English pub at the quiet corner here by the Park Street gates (which leads to the Long Walk and Cambridge Gate, entrance to Windsor Castle), a peaceful cul-de-sac where you can stop for a hearty pint! It’s called the Two Brewers, one of the smallest pubs in Windsor, established in 1792 although the building dates back to 1709.
Windsor Castle is uniquely beautiful, set in a lively town, with accommodation to suit every individual, couples or family, It has great shopping choices and restaurants to fulfil every palette. Wind down your afternoon with some traditional British grub for example, fish and chips in a quintessentially British pubs such as the Two Brewers.
- There are guide maps available free at the counter. Just pick one. Given the vast area where you need to walk, I found the map to be extremely helpful.
- If you gift-aid your entrance ticket, you get a 12-month pass to return. Just ensure that you write your name and address and get it stamped at the designated area near the exit.
- Commentary on the audio, for the most part is good and informative but sometimes too elaborate. It is also sometimes hard to navigate to the number of the room.
- Give yourselves between 3 to 3.5 hours although the recommended hours are 2.5 to 3.
- Audio guides are available in all major languages.
- Induction loop on Audio tour is provided to hearing impaired visitors.
- Guide dogs are permitted
- Toilets for disabled visitors
- Areas are wheelchair accessible.
- Castle car-park is a ‘Pay & Display’ car-park, so you will need coins. £14 for 5 hours;
- Car-park next to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station – £4 All-day if you arrive after 10:00. You can pay by phone
Regular (£) During closure of State Apartments (£)
Adult 21.20 11.70
Family [2 adults + 3 under 17s] 54.70 30.60
Senior/Student 19.30 10.60
Under 17/Disabled 12.30 7.20
Access: Getting to Windsor
Getting to Windsor Castle from London by train is the most convenient and cheaper mode of transport.
There are 2 services:
- London Paddington to Windsor Central – services are provided by Great Western Railway, need to change at Slough for the shuttle service to Windsor & Eton Central. The shuttle service runs every 20 minutes and will have extra charges.
Return Adult Fare is £10.20
2. London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside – services provided by South Western Railway are 4 services per hour, at 20, 28, 50 and 58 minutes past the hour. Return Adult Fare is £10.50
I hope this blog has been helpful in planning your visit to Windsor Castle. If you have found it helpful, please share on social media so that it may be helpful to another person you know. If you have any further questions, please drop me a message on the contact page and I will get back to you within a couple of hours.
Have a splendid and happy adventure!