I felt very emotional a few weeks ago watching Prince Philip’s memorial service. I’ve always loved our Queen and to see her so frail and so teary, it just made me feel very sad. I think she’s given her life in service to the country and for her to be celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in 2022 (70 years of reign) is quite incredible.
Windsor is the Queen’s main residence which is reason enough to visit, but I also wanted to visit to re-trace my Grandpa’s footsteps there. In March 2016, my Grandpa had a very very special visit as he was a recipient of the Maundy Money. This is a bag of coins that the Queen gives out every year to Pensioners who have contributed to their communities. My Grandpa served as a vicar for decades and is a worthy recipient, and I’m glad he got to meet the Queen.
In 2020 we lost my beloved Granny and over the last few years my Grandpa’s health has gradually declined and in March 2022, he moved in to a home. The impact of age is truly distressing. Thinking of both the Queen, and my own Grandparents, I realise the wonderful lives they’ve led that sometimes we don’t truly appreciate until they’re not here any more. So a lot of this trip was to go while I could still send my Grandpa a postcard to tell him I’d been.
There is so much to see and do at Windsor Castle, and everything is a right royal treat so allow yourself at least 2-3 hours at the site, and assuming you’re doing it as a day trip – don’t allocate anything else to that day.
And if you prefer your castles without the crowds, then I recommend you book a ticket in advance online for 9.30am. You will be able to get photos like mine with nobody in them. But if you leave it until just 10am (the official advertised opening time, when the State Apartments open and the tour buses turn up), it will be heaving and queues can be up to 1.5 hours long just to get in.
Once you’re in, be sure not to miss the main sites in and around the Castle.
A. The Long Walk
The Long Walk is a 3 mile route which runs from Windsor Great Park up to the Castle (though you can’t actually enter the Castle this way, you then have to go round through the town to the visitor entrance), but the walk is stunning. I arrived at 8am in Winsor Great Park to do the walk ahead of going to the Castle entrance, but you could equally do it afterwards.
B. The Precincts
Windsor Castle dates all the way back to the Norman Conquest of 1066 and William the Conqueror himself. Since the time of Henry I (1100-1135), it has been home to our Monarch, making it the longest inhabited Castle in Europe.
The Castle is made up of a lower and an upper Ward, or Precincts – which basically refer to the outdoors areas of the grounds. You can do a Precincts tour with a warden (included in the ticket price), though I recommend doing this at the end of your visit, after you’ve strolled round yourselves.
I also recommend picking up an Audio Guide from the entrance as they are really interesting with lots of great information.
C. State Apartments
Wow. Now you can’t take photos inside the Castle (or the Chapel below) at all, so please be aware you’re not going to get gorgeous shots of the interior. But WOW they are incredible, absolutely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in. Some of the apartments were actually destroyed by a fire in 1992 and have rebuilt in a more recent style, which is also interesting to see.
D. St George’s Chapel
This is a special, special place. Personally because it’s where my Grandpa received his Maundy Money, but historically it’s most famous for who’s buried there, including Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, George VI & Elizabeth (the current Queen’s parents) and many more.
This is also where Harry and Megan got married, and I was really struck by the number of Americans who visited because of that! I’d say about 80% of the people I encountered on my visit were American, and 4 separate tour groups stopped to ask what I thought of Harry. I also heard many groups moaning about not being able to take photos inside (‘they don’t even have a model of the Queen we can pose next to’). I had to stop myself laughing at the thought of the Queen putting a giant cut out of herself in her own garden at a Castle which has been home to our Monarch since the 1100s, but I found myself smiling and loving the idea.
E. Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world. Built between 1921 and 1924 for Queen Mary, it includes contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early twentieth century. It is beautiful if you like that kind of thing.
F. Changing the Guard
Well…it wouldn’t be England without a ridiculous ceremony would it. Changing the Guard happens at 11am, and if you want a front row spot, expect to get there around 10.40 latest to get a good place. There’s a marching band playing amazing music, lots of men parading about in big fluffy hats….and it’s, well, ridiculously, pompously English but marvellous at the same time.
I actually chose to stay the night in Windsor so I could get to the Castle early. I stayed in the Castle Hotel, only a 5 minute walk away. There are also a lot of lovely pubs, shops and streets to wander in central Windsor, so it’s worth popping down to the town after visiting the Castle.
Getting to Windsor
Most people visit Windsor on a day trip from central London – it’s best to take the train from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside which is 55 minutes on a direct route. Trains run every 30 minutes. It’s then just a 6 minute walk up to the Castle. If you’re driving to Windsor, you can park in one of the car parks and it will take you around 1.5hrs from London, 2hrs from Cambridge and 1hr from Oxford.
So what do you think of Windsor? Would you like to visit? I think it’s a wonderful place and if you do ever get the chance to go, please give my Grandpa a thought as you enter St George’s Chapel. Thanks so much for reading – stay safe and happy travelling everyone!