The Queen of England has three residences in the UK. Buckingham Palace in London, Holyrood Palace in Scotland and Windsor Castle on the outskirts of London. It could be said that Buckingham Palace is her office, Holyrood is for Scottish visits and dignitaries and that Windsor Castle is her home.
How to get there
Windsor Castle is located around 1 hour west of London. If you are taking public transport, you can take the train from Paddington Station to Slough which takes about 40 minutes. At Slough, walk across to the bus terminal and take the number 71 bus from gate 8. It 7 stop and about 15 minutes to the castle. Disembark at the Parish Church stop J and walk up the hill to reach the castle.
Tickets can be purchased online or from the gate. An adult is £20 if the state rooms are open or £10.80 if they are closed. If you are a British tax payer you can gift aid your entry and then enjoy the benefits of free entry for a year. In addition to the entry fee, if you wish to tour the kitchens or the tower, each tour will cost approximately £6 extra. The tower has 200 steps, so its not for the feint hearted!
Free grounds tour
Once you have collected your audio guide you will see a signpost advising the times of the walking tours. It isn't very well marked and you will need to keep your eye out for it. I happened upon it by chance and it was very worthwhile taking. The tour guides are passionate and knowledgeable about the castle and very clearly enjoy their jobs. Guilia guided us through the castle grounds telling us about days gone by and how the castle operates today. She stopped by major landmarks such as the motte and bailey and the Queen's apartments before leaving us at the Royal Apartments to explore on our own. The great thing about these guides is that they are more than happy to answer any questions on the site and the family and will provide you will a detailed and interesting answer. The tours last around 30 minutes and depart every 30 minutes with a break over lunch.
The royal apartments
Photography or mobile phones aren't allowed in the royal apartments, so you really have the chance to enjoy the architecture and history without being distracted. Quite a number of rooms are open for show including royal bed chambers, dining rooms, sitting rooms and the majestic St George's Hall. St George's hall is an architectural feat on its own. With high a high pitched ceiling that is covered in crests of all of the garter knights (the Queens closest guard). Interestingly, many of the crests are painted over in white to signify those who have fallen out with the current ruler, or been accused of treason. They are referred to as the fallen nights.
St George's Chapel
Don't forget to visit St George's chapel whilst making your way around the castle grounds. It is the resting place of King Henry VIII and one of his wives. You can actually walk over his burial plot which is situated in the floor of the chapel. Traditional in style, the chapel features ornate stone ceilings and arches. It's stained windows are stunning and there are a lot of small side chapels to explore.
The round up
I've visited a lot of castles in my time in the UK and I have to say that each has its own merits. These buildings are ingrained with history and culture of years gone by. There is no such thing as 'seen one, seen them all' when it comes to castles in the UK as there is always something to learn and enjoy. This being sad, Windsor castle is certainly worth a visit. I would put it towards the top of my list alongside Edinburgh and Cardiff castles as one of the best.
Have you visited many castles in the UK? Do you have a favourite? We'd love to know!
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