Windsor Castle Whirlwind Tour
I had been working in London for a few weeks before I started to feel guilty that I hadn’t seen many of the big sights or surroundings.
I was too busy commuting, spending my time in the museums and dancing until the early hours in G.A.Y Late Nightclub! When my pal said he was going to be in London and asked if I wanted to go see Windsor Castle, I jumped at the chance.
Since I had spent all my money partying and he was in the middle of a European backpack adventure, our aim was to keep the cost reasonable and see as much as we could, in the shortest amount of time. If you know me, you'll know that I haven’t always been the best at sticking to the whole "minimal spending" thing (I've been known to get loosey-goosey with the bank card on a night out).
After some deliberation, we decided to book a trip with Viator. The time frame worked out, we didn’t have to organise anything and it included coach transfers, tours and entry fees. Winner! If you want to grab a bargain, you can organise your own trip from London by train. Trains leave Paddington and Waterloo fairly frequently and tickets are usually around £10 each way. With a change at Slough, the journey takes around 30-40 minutes to Windsor station and the path to the castle is a few minutes’ walk from there.
The morning of the tour, I left my Airbnb and made my way to Victoria Coach Station. This walk took me much longer than expected and I got there with 5 minutes to spare... Only to find out I was at Victoria Train Station rather than the Coach Station, which is down the street (or a ten minute walk).
Cue me, sprinting down the road with my backpack to meet my travel buddy who was already lining up for the bus, slightly panicked because I had the tickets! After I boarded the bus, stopped hyperventilating and my sweat dried, I started to relax and enjoy the scenery on the way.
When we arrived at Windsor, the Changing of the Guard was just finishing. It’s basically where the infantry swap shifts but it’s very regimented (similar to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – just smaller and with less horses!). The Guards march along the streets just outside the Castle, so you can watch the first section of the ceremony for free. Anything that takes place inside the castle, you’ll have to buy tickets for.
If you’re going to make plans to see the ceremony, remember not to touch the guards! I’ve seen a few people get shouted at or pushed by the guards for standing too close or getting in their way for a selfie. As long as you’re respectful and don’t get in the way of them carrying out their duties, you’ll be fine to take a few pictures!
Historically, Windsor was an old English market town. The cobbled streets, old shop faces and horses and carriages roaming around make you feel like you’re back in time. There are ice cream shops, coffee shops and a ton of souvenir shops. If you fancy buying some Royal Family memorabilia, go to Windsor!!
Windsor Castle is the oldest and biggest inhabited castle in the world, so it's no surprise that it was reaaally busy when we arrived. We went around the end of May and we ended up waiting for ages to get inside the castle grounds. Although, even our tour guide was annoyed and said that it was unusually busy. I was desperate for the toilet too so I couldn't have thought of anything worse. Especially when we got inside and were herded into cattle pens before getting to security where you had to remove all your metal and go through the metal detectors!
*There are construction works happening from Nov 2017 to improve the efficiency of the admittance centre*
The castle was much bigger than I expected and I didn’t know where to start! Most of the castles I’ve visited in Scotland are ruins, so having the whole grounds, the chapel, terraces and towers to explore was daunting! We were given an audio guide though, which had really good info for all the different attractions.
If you feel like adding some casual cardio into your day, you can attempt the 200 step climb to the top of the Round Tower. (Un)fortunately, I opted to pass on this and wander round the Chapel instead! The Chapel has stunning gothic architecture inside and a beautiful ceiling. It’s the burial place of ten monarchs and spiritual home of the “Knights of the Garter” so it’s no surprise that they ask you not to take photos inside out of respect.
I wandered around outside for a while, listening to my audio guide and taking a few pictures of the amazing landscaping. This was nice, but what I should have done was listen to our tour guide before I left! She told us to head straight to the State Apartments and Queen Mary’s Dolls House as it’s the biggest and most famous Dolls House in the world and filled with thousands of little bits and pieces. It’s one of the most popular sites to visit inside Windsor Castle so the lines can get quite big and entry can take a while!
It’s apparently worth the wait but by the time I had reached the entrance, I had 10 minutes to get back to the bus before the tour left without me… Obviously, I decided to play it safe and ran through the castle grounds and down the hill to the bus (but managed to stop for a Bakewell Tart on the way!).
My whirlwind tour of Windsor Castle was beautiful. The guides are great and the history is amazing – definitely pick up that audio guide! One thing I’d change is the amount of time I spent there. I’d love a full day of roaming round, trying the cafés and seeing a bit more of the town! There’s always next time!
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