Most famous as the home of the Royal residence, Windsor is brimming with history, foodie spots, great shopping and picturesque views aplenty – well worth a day-long wander. We’ve put together a little selection of hints and highlights from our big day out in Windsor in August 2017.
Obligatory trip to Windsor Castle
There is surely no better place to begin a day in town than at Windsor Castle itself, the oldest and largest continuously occupied castle in the world – a must-see for visitors from across the globe. Whilst locals may have visited countless times, most of us have never been inside – and the Castle is much bigger than you probably realised! Set across almost 13 acres, the complex can take a good two hours to explore.
Time your wanderings right, however, and you’ll see the Changing of the Guard, a tradition of British pageantry which has existed – in various forms – for more than 350 years. The changing of the Guard takes place daily (except Sunday) from April until the end of July and alternate days for the rest of the year. Find yourself a spot on the High Street by 10.50am to catch the new Guards marching past in their vibrant red tunics.
Whilst there’s plenty to see within the Castle, St George’s Chapel, one of the finest examples of late medieval architecture in the UK, is a definite highlight. Book your tickets here to avoid the (potentially huge!) queues on the day.
Time for Tea
Once you’ve had your fill of the Castle itself, pick a spot in the sunshine along nearby Church Street, where tables spill out onto the cobbles, heavily laden with traditional cream teas.
All too easily missed, this little pedestrianised lane – once the heart of medieval Windsor – is full of history in itself. Having served variously as a fish market, a hospital and the home of Nell Gwynn, actress and mistress to King Charles II. The road widens to accommodate Church Street Gardens, the smallest public space in Windsor, once the site of a row of cottages which burned down in 1800. The cottage fireplaces are still visible on the far wall, and Nell herself is remembered by the Tea Room named in her honour – a perfect place to perch as you watch the world go by over a gloriously indulgent slice of the good stuff. Planning a winter visit? Cosy up inside a charmingly creaky café before continuing to explore.
Known as ‘Guildhall Island’ – there’s even a Guildhall Island gin produced at the nearby Eton & Windsor Brewery, also fun for a drink – since the nearby Guildhall was constructed in 1690, this little warren of streets is well worth a potter. Pop around the corner to Jersey Pearl to admire the quirky architecture, head to a pub for a taste of the local tipple, look out for the shortest street in the country and search for the hidden tunnels which once permitted soldiers to march in and out of the Castle in secret.
Swing by the Museum & the Church
Explore some of the fascinating facts about life in Windsor beyond the Castle walls in the interactive, family-friendly local history museum, on the ground floor of the imposing Guildhall. Regular tours take visitors up to the Council Chamber and the Ascot Room, famous as the site of the wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Just along from the Guildhall is Windsor Parish Church, dating back to 1822, when it replaced an ancient building with Saxon arches and Norman work. Spot ‘The Last Supper’ by Franz de Cleyn (court painter to James I), displayed above the west door entrance. George III gifted it to the Parish Church after it had previously been in St. George’s Chapel.
Fine food at The George
Ambling past picturesque shops and little eateries, make your way down to the river. The view alone is well worth the walk – and there’s plenty to explore on the Eton side. Leave the crowds behind and tuck in to a hearty Steak, Windsor & Eton Ale Pie in the sun-drenched (we hope!) beer garden at The George.
Amble around Eton
If you happen to be stopping by during the school holidays, the Eton side of the river will be a bit of a ghost town. More’s the better – the architecture of the College’s historic buildings is stunning, and occasional tours permit visitors to gain an intriguing insight into the world’s most famous school – full details here. Missed the tours? Never fear – the College also boasts a gem of a Natural History Museum. Look out for the exhibit relating to Sir Joseph Banks, an Old Etonian and botanist who sailed with Captain Cook.
Grass Under your Feet
Keen to stay near the town centre? Alexandra Park is a picturesque riverside hub, ideal for everyone from dog walkers and cyclists to picnickers and frisbee throwers. Enjoy live music played at the bandstand through the spring and summer months, some of which are organised as part of Windsor Festivals: click here for details of upcoming events.
For those looking to venture further afield, Windsor Great Park is wonderful for long wild walks or contemplative bookworms eager to sprawl within view of a lake-full of lily-pads. Get lost (as we did!) or follow the gravel paths to the magnificent Cumberland Lodge, a former Royal residence. What a way to round off a big day out in Windsor!
Think that we’ve missed something brilliant? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your favourite venues, events and hidden gems in Windsor — we’re always keen to look into anything that might be of interest to our members.
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