Sandringham, The Queen’s Retreat

I am so sad to say goodbye to The Queen. She has been a constant presence in all of our lives here in England, having reigned for 70 years and overseeing governments run by Churchill to Boris. I know the concept of monarchy is seen as outdated by many, and I don’t disagree that the history is difficult, but I am still a royalist. The Queen gave her life in service to this country and I am very sad she is no longer here. It is a huge loss to this country, and watching her funeral today was definitely emotional for me and for many others.

So it felt fitting this week to post about my trips to Sandringham – the last being on a glorious day just a few weeks ago, in August. And I’m referring to it as The Queen’s House, as it was when I visited.


A Summer visit

Sandringham is about a 1.5hr drive from my house and it’s famous for being the Queen’s retreat, where she spent every Christmas and in the jubilee year I thought there was no time like the present to visit again. Little did I know just a few weeks later she would no longer be here.

My tickets were for 10.20am but I was running late. On the way, 2 cows had decided to set up home for the day in the middle of the road and I couldn’t get through causing a longer than I would have liked detour. When I finally arrived at Sandringham, the road was closed because the tarmac had melted in the heat making it impassable. I turned up at 10.35am flustered, sweaty and overheated.

I looked at my phone – it was 34 degrees (93F). The UK is built for temperatures between 10-20 degrees. When it’s too cold we have warnings to stay in and stay warm. When it’s snowing we don’t go in to school or work because we get warnings it’s too dangerous on the roads. And when it’s too hot…well, we all receive an amber warning to stay indoors as the roads were melting.

And so, to a virtually empty Sandringham I arrived.

A completely deserted Sandringham in the sun

I registered my car at the kiosk for free parking (‘oh you were brave driving today, I heard people’s steering wheels were melting’….WTH kind of cars do people have?), and then hurried in to the grounds. The house appeared on the horizon – wow. I can see why the Queen liked it here.

Down the drive to Sandringham

I explored the gardens, enjoying the North formal gardens (my only company was a pigeon walking round in circles…must have been the heat), the Lawns and a walk around Alexandra’s Nest – a beautiful big lake outside the house. Alexandra was the first Queen to call this place home, when King Edward VIII purchased the house in 1862 for himself and his wife.

Hello Mr Pigeon

Since then, it’s been the private home of generations of British Monarchs. Unlike most Palaces (e.g. Buckingham, Windsor), Sandringham is personally owned by the Queen herself, not the Crown. The Queen spent about two months each winter on the Sandringham Estate, including the anniversary of her father’s death and of her own accession in early February. In 1957, she broadcast her first televised Christmas message from Sandringham. In 1977, to mark her Silver Jubilee, the Queen opened the house and grounds to the public for the first time and today we can all still visit.

It was time to escape the heat and head inside. No photos are allowed, but it was lovely. Much less grand than Windsor and much more like a very posh house. They had the little Paddington Bear/Marmalade Sandwich sketch from the Jubilee earlier in 2022 set up in one of the rooms which made me smile, and I loved all the family photos everywhere.

Inside the Queen’s sitting room (from official website)
And the Queen’s favourite Christmas spot (from official website)

Back in to the heat I headed to St Mary Magdalene Church, where the Queen attended church on Sundays and Christmas Day when in residence. It’s a beautiful little church.

Arriving at the church

A final walk round the grounds brought me to a temporary art installation of beautiful blue butterflies everywhere. I really liked it, and as I felt the sun on my face I smiled.


Before I left I went to the restaurant to have some lunch. It was empty, apart from an American couple by the window – of course I was directed to sit right next to them. The lady was lovely, oooing and ahhhing at everything from the place mats to the spoons. She ordered a cup of English tea and when it arrived poured it straight from the pot in to her cup (not realising the silver strainer was to get the leaves out), and then complained it was ‘full of bits, English tea sucks’. The man had ‘the most beautiful toast he’d ever seen’ (it was just some toast) and they sat there cooing that they wished they could be English and ‘see the Queen regularly’.

It made me sad actually at the time as I thought ‘she won’t be here much longer’. So many people love her and I think she has given her life to serving this country. I’m glad she could find somewhere to call home and be peaceful at Sandringham.

I headed back to my car. The steering wheel hadn’t melted.


A Winter Visit

On my previous visit to Sandringham, in December 2020, the steering wheel was unmanageable for another reason. It was so cold I needed gloves.

For goodness sake Hannah, why are we going out at night in the freezing cold in mid-December, the roads will be icy and dangerous – proclaimed my husband. Yes darling, we might be in danger…but then again we might not, and we might even have a nice time, I replied.

So off we drove to head to the Christmas lights trail at Sandringham, Luminate. It was a lovely trail, full of light installations to enjoy on a 1hr round loop of a walk around the estate. As the Queen was in residence, there was no way of getting close to the house let alone seeing inside – but the gardens are so big it didn’t matter.

The gardens and park at Sandringham are over 600 acres and are maintained by a large number of staff. Sandringham is somewhere the Queen, and the Royal Family for generations before, have liked to hunt – the boxing day pheasant shoot is famous. Recently Sandringham faced a hunting scandal when a protected bird, a little owl, was killed on the Estate. It will be interesting to see if future generations continue hunting in these grounds.

Anyway I digress. Also on offer were lots of glow sticks, and marshmallows to roast on open fires, and some little stalls selling nice things. I bought my grandpa a postcard and some lemon curd, and myself some gin (I know, I know). My husband moaned about how cold it was for a few hours, but cheered up when we bought some food.

I had a really nice time. And in the end we decided to extend the evening by stopping at a festive looking pub on our way home – The Dabbling Duck. The perfect way to warm up on a cold night.

The lovely festive pub


Sandringham is beautiful to visit in any season and is a special place. I’m glad the Queen had so many happy times and memories here, and I can’t believe my visit in August was my last with the Queen still alive. Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.

28 Comments

  1. Sandringham is a lovely place to visit! Politics aside, I think it’s a beautiful spot to explore a bit more of the UK and to enjoy all there is to learn about the country’s history. You certainly braved the stifling weather and still had fun! Honestly, I could totally see myself in that American man and him having the incredible toast, haha…truly, some things probably taste better abroad than at home! 😉 Thanks for sharing this gem of a place, Han.

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    1. Hahaaaa your comment about the man and his toast made me laugh – there I was sitting there only a few miles from home thinking ‘what is he on about?’ but I do get it….he’s hundreds of miles from home, in a royal palace, and it’s a whole new experience for him. Glad you enjoyed reading it, thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  2. Your two visits were completely different ahahah! It must have been very peaceful to walk around there almost alone but I’m sure the heat was difficult to bear! Are the rooms you visited inside *really* the ones she lives in where she’s there? I’m sure it’s very interesting because I feel like in those kind of places we usually see rooms where people *used to* live in. Anyway, I can definitely understand why she chose this as her retreat – such a beautiful place! Also, that piece of toast is really the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my entire life 😉

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    1. They really were!! It was very peaceful to have it to myself, and I actually didn’t mind the heat to be honest, I just drank lot and stayed in the shade. That’s a good question…I think a lot of the house you can’t visit BUT there are Christmas photos of her with her children and grandchildren in the rooms we were in, so I think it’s a mix of both 🙂 Hahahahaha that toast!

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  3. I’d love to visit Sandringham one day, especially around Christmas. I too was sad watching the funeral procession. She was such a devoted servant and sweet lady. 96 is a long time to live, but it’s still hard when she’s been the steadfast queen 70 years and she’s all we’ve ever known. I am so happy I made it to London and Windsor so I could recognize all the places they brought her, that was neat. There was also a rainbow in NYC last night and it seemed like she was saying goodbye to NYC 🙂

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    1. Yes it’s a really lovely place. When you come and stay, I’ll take you on a tour of East Anglia and all the best spots in Cambridgeshire/Suffolk/Norfolk. I’m glad you got to watch some of the funeral, it really was a historic day for us as a country yesterday and it’s lovely people all across the world have been so kind and shared in tributes. I like the idea of the rainbow over NYC 🙂

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  4. Loved seeing Sandringham in the summer and the winter! I cried my eyes out watching the funeral. She was an incredible example of service and duty and grace under pressure. I am so glad she got to enjoy her julibee this summer. She will be greatly missed! Flags around here have all been at half mast for her all week so it’s been nice to see the tributes to her here across the pond.

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    1. Aw Meg, I’m sorry you were sobbing too. It’s been such an emotional week over here for sure, and it’s so lovely that so many people all across the world have really shown support and care too. It’s lovely there have been tributes in the US as well.

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  5. It was very sad news to hear of her passing, indeed ~ such an amazing woman, Queen Elizabeth II 🙏🏻 Your visit and photographs of Sandringham look wonderful, Hannah. I love vintage architecture, especially exteriors on such grand structures, and with unique interior spaces. Thank you for sharing, my friend 🙂

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  6. What a lovely place to visit and to have seen such personal places that the queen would have been. She really was a remarkable lady and will be missed in the UK and also here in Canada. Hard to believe she is gone. Her funeral really was so full of pageantry and yet personal as well. The perfect good-bye.

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    1. I totally agree her funeral was so fitting and a wonderful tribute. We are still all sad here, but it’s so lovely that people in other countries have been so lovely as well – thank you for your thoughts from Canada 🙂

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  7. The Queen was such a legend. This makes me want to visit Sandringham even more so. I couldn’t help but laugh that you were a bit late for your visit because there were cows on the road. I didn’t even realize that roads could melt! That’s wild. The grounds look beautiful, in the summer and the winter.

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    1. She really was and it’s so nice that so many people think that – regardless of thoughts on the monarchy, she did an amazing job. Haha I knowwww, it was just so English to be late because the cows wouldn’t move in the heat haha! Thanks for reading 🙂

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  8. Lovely sunny weather (as we South Africans would describe a day like this 😁). And how much different does it look during winter (this is maybe were I will “moan” about being cold). Great photos Hannah – this is a fitting tribute to your late Queen.

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