Hobbling down the cobbled road towards St George’s Chapel in my trainers, I could finally understand why so many of the celebrities I had watched on the TV taking the journey just a few months earlier had appeared to be struggling in their heels. Emma, and I had arrived at Windsor Castle earlier that morning and had found ourselves gushing constantly over the fact that we were walking in the footsteps of the guests that had attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
And at the fact that The Queen was in residence during the time of our visit.
A brief history of Windsor Castle
Nestled in the midst of the quiet town of Windsor, you would be forgiven for believing that Windsor Castle would be small in size and lack any grandeur. You would be forgiven, but you would also be entirely wrong. It is, in reality, one of the largest and oldest occupied castles in the world and it is where Her Majesty The Queen spends many of her private weekends, so it is every bit as splendid as you would imagine a royal home to be.
Complete with large turrets, huge state rooms, incredible grounds, and the spectacular St George’s Chapel, Windsor is every bit the traditional castle, and more.
Originally founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs, including Queen Victoria, who was the first to open the State Apartments to the public in 1845.
Known for being one of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite residences, Windsor was also a special place for Queen Victoria for many reasons. Not only did she spend her childhood running the halls of the castle, she also celebrated her 20th birthday there, proposed to Prince Albert within the Blue Closet and gave birth to her first son within the Castle walls. However, sadly, it also became the place that Prince Albert died, after which the Queen was dubbed ‘the Widow of Windsor’.
Fast forward to today and Windsor still maintains its strong presence within the royal family. Offering an escape to the country, The Queen takes up official residence there from March to April, and again for a week in June every year, alongside spending many of her private weekends.
Planning a visit: What to see at Windsor Castle
Exploring the inside of Windsor Castle
Today, Windsor Castle is managed by the Royal Collection Trust - the same group that looks after many of the other royal residences including Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Surprisingly, despite the fact that The Queen still frequents the Castle, there’s a surprising amount of areas open to the public; with two routes providing a thorough tour through the Castle’s interior.
The first of the two routes, known as the Ceremonial Route, will take you on a journey through the very rooms that are still used by The Queen today for welcoming official visits from Heads of States, as well as for award ceremonies. The rooms are therefore, striking in every way imaginable.
The second, dubbed the Historic Route, will take you through the rooms that were built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza.
Visiting St George’s Chapel
Included in the price of your Windsor Castle ticket, St George's Chapel is a working church with services still taking place most days.
With its large windows, tall pillars, Medieval wood and ironwork, and Gothic architecture, St George's Chapel is worth the visit simply to take in its splendour. Not to mention that you can also walk down the very same aisle that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, and HRH Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank, did on their wedding days.
For those looking to soak up some history during a visit, the Chapel is also the site of a number of royal tombs and memorials. Walk through a memorial chapel off the North Quire aisle to see the tombs of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret. Or, head elsewhere in the Chapel to see the memorials of Edward IV, Henry VI, and King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Henry VIII and Charles I.
Please note: St George's Chapel is closed to visitors, but open to worshippers, on Sundays when services are held throughout the day and that the church closes earlier than the rest of the Castle to prepare for the evening service.
Changing the guard
Once a day, traffic comes to a standstill in the town and the roads become lined by residents and visitors alike as the Regiment hand over to the New Guard within the walls of the castle grounds.
Led by a Regimental Band, the ceremony begins at 11 am, following a march from the Victoria Barracks. The crowds will appear quickly, so be sure to get there early and position yourself by the railings, just below St George's Chapel to be sure that you get a good view.
Practical tips for visiting Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle opening hours
From the 1st March to the 31st October, Windsor Castle is open from 10am, closing at 5.15pm with last entry at 4pm.
From 1st November to 28th February, Windsor Castle is open from 10am, closing at 4.15pm with last entry at 3pm.
It is worth noting that Windsor Castle is still a working royal palace and so all, or parts, of the castle may be closed on certain dates so be sure to check the website ahead of visiting.
How much does it cost to visit Windsor Castle?
Tickets are priced at £22.50 per adult, with discounts available for seniors, families, those under the age of 17 and students.
Your ticket price includes a multimedia tour and, at the end of your visit, be sure to ask a warden to stamp your ticket which will convert it into a one year pass, allowing you to enjoy free re-admission for a year.
Getting to Windsor Castle
By car: Windsor is accessible via the major motorway networks of the M3, M4, M25 and M40.
Windsor Castle is also located within reach of a number of short and long stay carparks. Long-stay car parks include Romney Lock and King Edward VII on Datchet Road and Alma Road and Alexandra Gardens, next to the coach park. All of these are within ten minutes walk to the castle and offer much better prices than the short-stay car parks located in the middle of town.
Please note: there is no car parking at Windsor Castle itself.
By train: The nearest stations are ‘Windsor and Eton Central’ and ‘Windsor and Eton Riverside’.
By bus: It’s possible to get the Green Line 702 from Greenline Coach Station, located near Victoria Station in London or to use a shuttle bus service between Windsor Castle and Hamton Court Palace from spring to autumn.
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