Visiting Windsor Castle
The day started off bright and clear so we thought, let’s do a road trip to visit Windsor Castle. With two royal couples getting married at Windsor a day trip to Windsor is in the cards so you can check out the chapel where they said their vows.
Windsor is however much more than a Castle if you are looking for things to do in Windsor here is a look at my favourites.
Arriving at Windsor, we found a parking spot and tucked the car in just behind the Castle. If we knew then what we know now we would have taken a better look at the area and not parked there because the resultant ticket cost us £35. Lesson learned. Now if you are sensible you won’t drive in the UK although outside London it’s not too bad, I would highly advise taking a tour with a group like Viator they have a fantastic tour to Stonehenge and Windsor and it includes Bath which is just beautiful.
How to visit Windsor Castle
1 Visiting Windsor Castle is an expensive proposition for 2 people, it is only a self-guided tour but it does take around 3 to 4 hours to see the whole site. We walked down from our parking spot which was at the back of the castle to the front area noticing the absolutely huge line up of folks wanting to get into see the place. There were literally hundreds of people in line and we decided that next time we are going to get to Windsor very early to beat the crowds. If you are visiting from the US you can use CheapFlights to find a great price on flights to London.
Guards in bearskin hats and purple coats march through the grounds of the castle and you are allowed to take photos outside but not inside. The audio tour guides are available in lots of languages and they help guide you through the palace and the grounds.
The State Apartments are as grand as you would expect from the palace that the Queen calls home, and their 17th-century furnishings and layers of more recent history tell the story of the monarchs that have called this castle home.
On 20 November 1992 Windsor which was the Queen’s beloved residence and home to the British monarchy for nearly 1,000 years burst into flames destroying nine rooms, injuring one and risking priceless artworks. Prince Edward was resident at Windsor at the time and he recalls the “shock and horror” of seeing his home go up in flames. The fire apparently started when a spotlight caused a curtain to go up in flames.
It caused an estimated £37 million of damage and took months to restore the palace, in particular, the St George chapel, to its former glory.
Prince Edward who was resident when the fire took place described the “Shock and horror” of seeing Windsor Castle ablaze.
St George’s Chapel is where weddings will take place in 2018. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries, it is a stunning example of Gothic architecture. Inside the Chapel, there are vaulted ceilings, gorgeous stained glass and the tombs of many of England’s monarchs.
When to visit Windsor Castle
From March – October the doors open to the public at 9.30am every day, including Sunday, and close at 5.30pm.
From November to February opening time is 9.45am, closing 4.15pm. Last entrance is 90 minutes prior to closing time.
Visiting Windsor Castle the Changing of the Guard
Changing of the guard happens between 11 am and 11.30am also adding to the morning rush. Many of the coach tours will commonly stay until around midday departing after the changing of the guard.
On Sundays, St George’s is closed for religious services.
If you are very lucky you might even be visiting when she is “at home”! Check the flag flying from the Castle’s Round Tower; if it’s the Royal Standard the Queen will be in.
Entrance, exits and security at Windsor Castle
On paying your admission you pass through airline-style security where bags are put through an x-ray machine and you empty your pockets and pass through a detector door. Once through the security, you pick up your audio phone at the kiosk opposite. The exit is from the main Windsor Castle-Henry VII Gate, not the entrance with the ticket desks.
There is an information desk, toilets and a gift shop here too. By the audio kiosk is a sign that details the times of the guided tours that day. It is from here these tours start.
From our Castle visit, we passed around the back of the Windsor parish church and High Street. The beautiful old parish church of St John the Baptist dates back to 1822 and backs onto the Castle.
Visiting Windsor the village
2 Windsor Great Park is a beautiful green space of over 4,800 acres. This is where the Kings and Queens of England used to hunt, fish and ride their horses. There is a herd of red Deer, loads of walking paths, gardens, a lake and a bridleway.
3 The Alexandra Wheel a summer-only attraction the wheel is similar to the London Eye. With spectacular views over the battlements of Windsor Castle, you can even see the arch of Wembley Stadium. There are beautiful gardens below the wheel and a lovely little Cafe.
Then we meandered around the side of the castle down to the High Street. Windsor is obviously a well-kept little town, very clean with thousands of tourists milling around.
4 The iconic Queen Victoria statue at the front of the castle. This fine bronze statue of Queen Victoria was designed and executed by Sir Edgar Boehm. It was erected in 1887 in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The cost of £2,500 was covered by subscriptions from the people of Windsor and the surrounding districts.
We took a walk around the front of the castle, meandering down to the Thames where we had decided to take a boat tour of the river to be able to take in the views and just watch the birdlife.
5 Thames River Cruise – we embarked on a French Brothers 40-minute cruise, which was just great value for money at £7 each. The boat goes from the Windsor Bridge pier just a short walk away from the centre of town.
6 The Windsor Bridge was built in 1824, or rather completed in 1824, as there were apparently many problems with the building of the bridge. The structure is quite weak and has been closed to traffic since 1970.
7 Eton College – to the right of the river is Eton the famed Eton founded by Henry VIII in 1440. Rowing and swimming took place just down the river from Windsor for many years.
8 Ascot Racecourse – there is lots to see along the water from the racecourse at Ascot to the interesting water birds spotted on the river. The swans that flock to the waterside and beg tourists for food are a treat. To own swans has always been a privilege granted by the crown.
9 Swans on the river – today there are three owners of the swans, the Monarch, and the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers. On the pier, you will find boxes of swan food to feed these hungry birds.
After a lovely 40 minutes cruise, we disembarked and strolled up to the High Street.
10 The Famous Fudge Kitchen – walking along, we chanced upon the Fudge Kitchen shop. Being very big fudge fans, we decided to check it out but convinced ourselves we were not going to buy any. So we entered to be greeted by Jimmy handing out huge fudge samples, we which obligingly tasted.
The fudge was absolutely superb and so naturally we had to buy some. Jimmy told us not to refrigerate the fudge, it could be frozen or eaten but refrigeration apparently kills the texture – who knew?
11 Windsor Royal Shopping is located opposite Windsor castle in the grade II listed Victorian Railway Station. Many of the original features remain including Jubilee arch, the cobbled stones and Queen Victoria’s Royal Waiting Room.
12 Victorian Railway Station – this shopping area is just beautiful with over 40 top of the line shops and dozens of cafes, restaurants and bars it is a unique use of an old Victorian Railway station and you can still grab a train here.
13 Foodies in Windsor – walking back up the High street we passed the newly opened Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Restaurant opposite Sir Christopher Wren’s Guildhall and decided as foodies this would be well worth a visit and blowing the budget.
Unfortunately, we were incredibly disappointed, there was absolutely no service and we waited over 15 minutes to get noticed and served and nothing. So we left and wandered over the road to a lovely pub called the Three Tuns and had a great Panini sandwich and a cider.
We had a great lunch after a severe disappointment and then walked the cobblestone streets back to the car. Even with a parking ticket, the day trip to Windsor was a great success.
Shopping in Windsor covers the gamut of chain stores to independant retailers. Many of the top names in both fashion and lifestyle are here in the Royal shopping centre.
But there are also many bargains to be hand in the open-air market of Windsor from fabulous leather goods to a wide variety of tourist style gifts like fridge magnets.
14. Windsor & Eton Brewery – fancy a pint then head over the to the brewery. They offer 3 types of tours in this “beer-led” brewery. The Duke Street Experience: ideal for individuals or small private groups, The Brew Masters Tour: an experience completely suited to beer connoisseurs and Corporate Tours: tailored more towards groups from small and large businesses.
I absolutely love the names of their beers Scumbag Maggot (a nod to the Fairytale of New York by the Pogues), the Windsor Knot (a specific knot for you ties), Caught by the Fuzz – these are just a few of their tongue in cheeky names. Check out their website for more information.
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