I’ve always been a fan of the British Royal family and since two royal weddings have been held at Windsor Castle this year, I thought there’s no better time to visit the castle and its namesake town: Windsor. Near to London, you can easily visit in a day! Thus, here’s my guide to the perfect Windsor day trip:
Getting to your day out in Windsor –
By Train –
Getting from London to Windsor is super easy. Southwestern Railway operates a direct service from Waterloo Station every half an hour. The journey takes just under an hour and arrives at Windsor and Eton Riverside Station, which is located just a few minutes walk away from Windsor Castle. Taking this train is by the easiest way to reach Windsor from London. There is an alternative service from Paddington Station to Windsor and Eton Central. However, this requires you to change trains at Slough.
By Car –
Alternatively, travelling to Windsor by car is also relatively easy. From London, you want to take the M4 to Junction 6 and then follow the signs to Windsor Centre. My mother and I drove on our own Windsor day trip and found there to be ample long stay parking near to the castle.
There are in fact three long stay carparks that you could use: the first two (Romney Lock and Kind Edward VII) are located on Datchet Road. Meanwhile, the Alexandra Gardens Car Park is located nearby on Alma road. It is a little pricey to park here, we paid £8 for four hours. However, these car parks are much cheaper than any alternative city centre parking in Windsor!
Visit Windsor Castle –
Obviously, the main reasons to take a Windsor day trip is to visit the glorious Windsor castle, which is, in fact, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s been the family home of British monarchs for almost 1,000 years.
If like me, you visit Windsor castle during the winter months, there’s no need to prebook tickets as the castle is notably less busy during this period. We simply arrived at the entrance and paid the £21.20 Windsor castle entrance fee... There is a slight discount for students (£19.30) and children’s tickets only cost £12.30.
This said if you’re visiting during the peak summer season you’ll want to book your tickets in advance online. They cost the same price, but it will save you hours of queuing on the day!
TOP TIP: Whatever time of the year, it is best to visit Windsor castle either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. This way you’ll avoid busy coach tours and have the grounds more to yourself (Note however that the castle does close at 4pm, 3pm in winter).
Castle Attractions –
The first attraction included within the Windsor Castle admission ticket is an exhibition showing the fabulous Queen Marys Dolls House. Built in the early 1920s by a leading architect, the dolls house demonstrates the best of British flamboyance and excess, in miniature form. The model even has electricity and running water, meaning its slightly more impressive than anything I had as a kid. 😉
After our minds were blown by the detail of the miniature world inside the dolls house, my mum and I continued our Windsor tour by heading to explore the castles State Apartments, of which there are 19 fabulous rooms that visitors can tour.
TOP TIP: Sadly you’re not allowed to take photos within Windsor Castles State Apartments or St Georges chapel, however, you can snap to your heart’s content around the grounds, so make the most of it!
From the outset, I was blown away by the grandeur of the Queen’s favourite residence, as visitors are treated to entering the castle via the grand staircase. All of the rooms are lavishly decorated and furnished with some of the finest pieces of art from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Van Dyck and Rubens.
Highlights for me included the Crimson Drawing Room and the Green Drawing Room (the latter of which you might recognise from Harry and Meghan’s wedding photographs). These are some of the most richly decorated rooms in Windsor and provide an elegant and romantic feel, which is emphasised by the fact that they look over the wonderful East Terrace gardens.
The Fire: the rooms described above were extensively damaged by a fire in November 1992. Thankfully most the priceless art had been removed at the time. Following a £36million renovation, using the original designs supplied to George IV, the rooms were restored to their 19th-century grandeur. The work was done to such an amazingly high standard that you’d have no idea walking around that such extensive damage had occurred.
TOP TIP: Although the rooms are incredibly beautiful, there are no information plaques to read about their furnishings or purpose when walking around. Therefore, I’d highly suggest picking up your free audio guide at the entrance as it provides fantastic information about each castle attraction.
(If you’re a fan of castles, why not check out my guide to the Tower of London)
The final part of Windsor Castle that you can tour is the exquisite St George’s Chapel. Tracing the steps of Meghan Markle by walking down the churches magnificent nave truly made me feel like a Princess. What’s more, as the spiritual home of the historical Order of the Carter, and the final resting place of Monarchs such as Henry VIII, the chapel has history oozing out of every corner.
TOP TIP: Although the Castle is open all year round, it is sometimes closed due to royal functions. Also, the Semi-State rooms are usually only open between October-March. To make sure you visit on a day where you can see as much as possible have a look at the Castles Official Website.
Windsor Day Trip (Other Things To Do in Windsor) –
This post isn’t about a day trip to Windsor Castle alone so lets get into the fun things that there are to do within the wider town of Windsor:
Shopping in Windsor –
During your day out in Windsor, you’d be foolish not to have a browse in the towns wide selection of shops. The Windsor Royal Shopping Centre is located opposite the castle and it is a real highlight of the town! Located inside a Grade-II listed refurbished Victorian railway station, any shopping experience here is sure to be a unique one!
The Long Walk –
Another attraction you can not miss when in Windsor, is the famous Long Walk. Stretching from the gates of Windsor Castle, the straight path is flanked by a double row of Elm trees and stretches roughly three miles, ending at a copper horse statue of King George III.
This is a fantastic place for a walk and the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air. Visiting in a somewhat overcast day in November, my mum and I basically had the Long Walk to ourselves which was remarkable as the seemingly endless straight road created a striking view.
TOP TIP: if you visit Windsor on a clear and sunny day, make sure you walk down the Long Walk to Snow Hill. This is the perfect place for a picnic and it provides amazing views back towards Windsor Castle. You can even make out Wembley Stadium and London’s Sky Scrappers in the distance.
The Crooked House of Windsor –
When Windsor sightseeing a fun attraction and photo opportunity is the Crooked House of Windsor. This little timber house, on the edge of the towns market square, was rebuilt in haste in 1687 after a land dispute. Being built quickly and without care meant that the buildings wooden framed buckled when it dried, causing the unique and quirky structure that still stands today.
Take a Bus Or Boat Tour –
Although I didn’t have time on my own Windsor day trip, a fantastic way to see the town’s highlights is to take an open top bus tour, for which you can book tickets here. Likewise, for an even more interesting perspective of the town, you can view Windsor from the River Thames by taking a boat tour! I’ve heard great things about the French Brothers tour.
Eton College –
My mum and I ended our Windsor day trip by crossing the River Thames and walking over to the town of Eton, home to the historic college of the same name where Prince William and Harry went to school. The High Street here is simply charming and the boys walking around in their black school gowns makes for an interesting and slightly surreal sight (oh how the other half live).
Lego Land –
If you’re visiting Windsor with kids then a trip to Lego Land is a must. This exciting theme park is just two miles from Windsor and its filled with over 50 fun Lego-themed rides, meaning its the perfect place for some family fun!
That completes my guide to the perfect Windsor Day Trip. I loved this charming town and the castle is just so magical and fascinating that it can’t be missed if you’re a fan of the British Royal family! Further, since Windsor is so close to London there’s really no excuse to miss it…
Interested in Visiting More Royal Residences? Check out my Guide to Visiting Kensington Palace!