20 March 2014

Day Trips from London: London to Windsor Castle

Hey everyone, I'm back for another installment of my London day trip series. As you know, last week I took you to the WB Studio Tour (also known as the Harry Potter studio tour) but this week I'll be taking you from Hogwarts Castle to Windsor Castle, home of the Queen. Did you know HRH refers to Buckingham Palace as "The Office" and Windsor Castle as "Home"?

The State Apartments and Quadrangle - Windsor castle

I have been to Windsor twice to visit Windsor Castle and explore the town. Both trips were enjoyable and a very comfortable day trip from London.

Windsor Castle

Like the majority of Historic Royal Palaces that are actually in use - there are only sections available to the public. Visit Windsor Castle and you will get a glimpse of the ornate State Apartments, Semi-State Rooms, St Georges Chapel and the grounds. Occasionally they open other areas, for example, they recently did a tours that allowed you into the Round Tower (the Keep) or the Kitchens. And lets not forget seeing the Changing of the Guard.

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

My favourite spots have to be:
  • The Waterloo Chambers - this is a massive room with a beautiful ceiling
  • The Grand Staircase - mainly a thoroughfare but its usually filled with light and has all sorts of interesting curios (the photo doesn't really do it justice)
  • The North Terrace - If you walk past the entrance to the State Apartments (and are lucky) further down the terrace you can see the East Terrace which is where the Private Apartments are located - but regardless of that, its just so picturesque

The Grand Staircase (via)

The Waterloo Chambers (via)

The beautiful East Terrace of Windsor Castle

My only gripe with visiting Windsor Castle is the "no photos allowed" policy which is applied to all  properties in the Royal Collections Trust including Buckingham Palace. Surely security is up to scratch enough to allow this? And if they are worried about congestion, they have Wardens in every room that can help with the flow of people moving about.

The North Terrace and entry to the State Apartments - Windsor Castle

Around Town

Windsor High Street is full of cute shops, tea rooms, cafes, pubs and restaurants. You have to see the Crooked House of Windsor - I'm surprised it doesn't just keel over and that its still in use! But it does have a quirky charm about it. Church St, Church Lane and Market St near the main entrance to Windsor Castle are cute lane ways with restaurants geared towards tourists but still charming to walk through.

The Crooked House of Windsor

If you fancy a walk, you can walk alongside the river by Alexandra Gardens - maybe stop at the Chocolate Theatre Cafe on Thames St first? To really get away from all the noise, try The Long Walk. Just follow the High St to Park St and you will see the gates to the park at the end of the road...right near the Two Brewers Pub ;) You might not want to do the whole walk, it is seriously long, but you can do part of it and it does provide lovely views of Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle viewed from The Long Walk

If shopping is more your style, the boutique shops and market stalls inside the Windsor and Eton Central Rail Station are good bet. Peascod St and Bridgewater Way are also full of shops.

A view of the Quadrangle and the Visitors Apartments - Windsor Castle

Tips for visiting Windsor

  • Book your ticket to visit Windsor Castle before you go and skip the queue! You can book online directly through their website.
  • To get there by train you will need to choose either Windsor and Eton Riverside (WNR) or Windsor and Eton Central (WNC) rail stations when purchasing your train tickets. Both train stations are within a few minutes walk of Windsor Castle - Windsor and Eton Central is bit closer though, and a prettier station to arrive into.
  • Train trips are approx 30mins if you depart from London Paddington Rail Station (bear in mind that most trips from this station will require you to change elsewhere - usually Slough) and an hour if you depart from London Waterloo Rail Station which wont require you to make any changes.
  • You can drive there from London - the trip takes an average of 40 - 50 minutes depending on your departure point. There are limited car parks but this is a good site which show where they are and how much they charge.
  • Bus services to Windsor depart from Victoria coach station and other London locations - for a starting point, you can check out these companies: National Express, Greenline, First Group
The Norman Gateway and the Round Tower - Windsor Castle
  • The Queen Marys Dollhouse is usually quite the attraction - its a 7 level doll house complete with working lights and running water. If its not your thing, give it a miss as the line is usually super long and inside it can be too crowded to actually see anything.
  • Make sure you stamp your ticket before leaving the Castle as this will allow you free entry to the Castle for a year! You can usually find the Warden who does this in Engine Court when you exit the State Apartments
  • Try not to take any oversized bags or sharp objects with you - you will be subjected to security screenings on entry. 
  • Check the Opening Times to make sure you don't visit on a day when all or part of Windsor Castle is closed
  • Useful links: Practical Information, How to Get There, Opening Times and Prices

Do you like exploring Historic Royal Palaces and Castles?

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