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Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Trip to Windsor Castle

Whether you are a tourist looking for a day trip from London or you live in the UK, Windsor Castle is definitely worth a visit. This royal residence, located in the English county of Berkshire, is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the home of various kings and queens for around 1,000 years. Today it is one of The Queen's residences (her favourite weekend home) and also one of the most iconic attractions in the UK.



Getting to Windsor Castle

If you are travelling by train, there are 2 options. Trains run to Windsor & Eton Central and Windsor & Eton Riverside from London Waterloo and London Paddington. If you are travelling by road (like we did), then do make note that there is no visitor car parking at the Castle. You can check www.parkopedia.co.uk for parking spaces near the Castle.

While my family went in to collect their tickets from the counter (we had booked tickets online to avoid the long queues), I went to pick up my complimentary ticket courtesy of Royal Collection Trust’s Press Office. After that we passed through a quick airport style check and entered the castle. We strolled around the Castle precincts for a while and then joined the queue to the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the State Apartments. It is advisable to check the opening times of the Dolls' House to avoid disappointment. Built for Queen Mary, the dolls' house is an extraordinary miniature replica of a royal home. You will be amazed to see miniature versions of nearly everything you would find in a home. And even more impressive is the fact that the Dolls’ House includes electricity, working lifts and even running hot and cold water.










After the Dolls’ House we moved to the State Apartments. Frequently used by the Royal Family members for various events, the State Apartments represent the extraordinary, artistic skills of some of the finest craftsmen from Europe. The sheer scale and grandness of the interiors leaves one stunned. Whether it is the paintings or sculptures, the armoury or the exquisite rugs that adorn the rooms, everything was incredibly ornate. Photography was not allowed inside the State Apartments and Dolls’ House, so I have no pictures to share.

An excellent example of Gothic architecture and the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, St. George's Chapel has seen many royal weddings. It is even the final resting site of many royals including Henry VIII, his 3rd wife Jane Seymour and Charles I. We were lucky the Chapel was open on the day of our visit, as I had wanted to visit this beautiful building which has so much history linked to it.  The audio guides which we picked up at the entrance to the castle proved to be very useful as they provided all the information about each place as we went round the chapel and the castle.






Other things not to be missed at Windsor Castle are:
Changing the Guard : which is a very colourful British pageantry. The ceremony takes place at 11am, weather permitting. It does not take place daily, so do check the schedule on the official website when you are buying your tickets.
Conquer the Tower Tour 2015 : The tour takes approximately 45 minutes and involves climbing 200 steps to the top of the tower. If you are up for it, you can book a combined visit to the Castle and the Tower. Again, this is not a regular feature, so check the website for details.

To sum it up, we had a lovely time at the castle. The castle has a long history, is an active royal residence and combined with the chapel and the tower tour, it makes for a wonderful day out from London.




Tips for visiting Windsor Castle
  • Book your tickets in advance! I noticed a massive queue to buy tickets on the day. So it is wise to book in advance; especially if you are travelling with children or the elderly. Also do check the official website to ensure that the Castle and/or State Apartments are open on the day you plan to visit.
  • If you purchase your tickets directly from the Royal Collection Trust, you can convert it into a 1-Year Pass, allowing you to enjoy free re-admission for 12 months. You just need to get your tickets stamped at the time of exit.
  • Do not forget to pick up one of the free multimedia audio guides at the start of your visit. These guides are available in 9 different languages and provide excellent information on the Castle’s history, architectural details and also about the use of the Castle today.
  • You can visit the official website for more details on the admission times and ticket prices.
Besides the beautiful castle, a visit to Windsor is incomplete without a visit to Windsor Royal Shopping which is located right opposite the castle and includes around 40 shops, many restaurants, cafes and bars.

 

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