"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” Bill Bryson
Royal Windsor is close to London yet has a completely different feel. Home to Windsor Castle, a historic town, park, river, restaurants, bars and shops all within a 15 minute walk of each other, it’s a ‘bite-size’ destination ideal for a day or weekend trip.
Oozing history and character, Windsor is loved by tourists and residents alike. In fact I loved it so much I moved there so forgive me any bias. With everything so close together there isn’t really a hidden Windsor, however for a full experience it’s worth moving beyond the town centre to enjoy the attractions on the periphery.
1000 years old, 1000 rooms, billions of pounds of artwork and hundreds of staff. The castle is the oldest and largest occupied in the world and home to the Queen most weekends.
The castle is right in the centre of Windsor and dominates the town. A tour takes you through state rooms, historic bedrooms showcasing furnishings used hundreds of years ago, the gardens and the famous dolls house. For anyone interested in history it offers a fascinating insight. St George’s Chapel has daily services and special events.
Changing the Guard is a very popular event. Soldiers in red uniforms march with a band from Victoria Barracks to the castle for the guards’ shift change. This takes place several times a week at 11am, check the castle website for a current schedule.
The Thames runs through Windsor on its way from Gloucestershire to London. Windsor sits on one side of the Thames with Eton on the other, connected by a footbridge. There are several boat trips up and down the Thames from Windsor with an interesting commentary, these are especially worth taking on a clear and/or warm day. Alternatively there are footpaths running alongside the river.
Most famous for Eton College, this pretty little village is just across the foot bridge from Windsor. With heaps of character it’s well worth a wander down the high street with its independent antique dealers, restaurants and curio stores. At the far end of the high street from the bridge is Eton College which dates back to 1440. The 1300 pupils still wear pin-striped trousers, coat-tails and stiff collars, you can see them wandering around during the school day which runs Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 8am to 1pm.
Windsor Great Park
At almost 8 square miles the park is huge. Starting from the castle, it heads down the 2 mile Long Walk up to the copper horse statue where you’ll see lovely views of Windsor and the surrounding area. If you’re feeling energetic the park carries on for miles towards Virginia Water passing an old, pretty village for park workers, Prince Andrew also lives in the park in a less modest house. Alternatively you can drive round to the Virginia Water side of the park where there’s a lake surrounded by some beautiful gardens, well worth a look especially in spring, summer and autumn. Savill Garden is also on the far side of the park, it’s an ornamental garden which charges for entry, personally I prefer a free stroll around Virginia Water lake.
The choice is huge. I always check TripAdvisor to see what the latest and greatest is as restaurants come and go. The lower end of Peascod Street has some great little independent restaurants as does the cobbled Castle Street area right by the castle.
There are quite a few late night pubs and clubs. ‘The Arches’ on Goswell Hill are a range of bars and restaurants open later, especially on weekends. For a bit of culture, the theatre is worth a look.