Windsor Castle and Windsor in 1 day-what to see, do and experience
A trip to the UK or London is never complete without a trip to Windsor, the home of the historic Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle has been home to the British Royal family for over a thousand years and is one of the most visited attraction in UK. Windsor Castle and Frogmore House attracted 1.65 million paid visitors in 2018-2019, making it the most popular of the Royal Estates.
To make the best of Windsor Castle and Windsor in 1 day will require some prior planning. You may also need to have some knowledge of the highlights at the Castle which should not be missed especially if your visit here is just for the one time.
In this article, you shall find some of the highlights of this iconic and historic castle and the town of Windsor. Practical information is included to support your planning.
Town of Windsor
Windsor is a historic market town in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, Southeast England.
It has a lively atmosphere with great shopping and restaurants. It sits on River Thames, just west of London, and is under an hour’s journey from London. You will find Windsor at:
51°29’1.19″ N 0°36’9.59″ E
1 – day at Windsor Castle and Windsor
The day began with a train journey from London, Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside. Exiting Windsor & Eton Riverside, it is a rather pleasant short walk up a slight hill. The street is lined with shops and the castle in sight. The Town Square to your right. A walk-up a further slight hill on your left will lead you to the ticket office. If you are here during the peak season, you will see a queue from the high-street.
Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, is the residence of the British Royal family for over 1000 years and is said to be the Queen’s favourite weekend getaway residence. In fact, if you see the Royal Standard flag flying from the Castle’s Round Tower, it indicates that the Queen is in residence.
Throughout history, Windsor Castle has been the home to thirty-nine monarchs and is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. It has recently hosted the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on 19th May 2018. With so much history just on one site, Windsor makes a perfect destination for a special weekend break or a day trip.
Windsor Castle grounds
Windsor Castle is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. The Castle floor area is 13 acres (5 hectares) and has 1000 rooms. It comprises of two-quadrilateral-shaped building courts that are separated by the Round Tower. The two building courts are called Lower Ward and Upper Ward
Round Tower, Windsor Castle
The Round Tower, as the name suggests, is a circular tower, massive and is built on an artificial mound. The court in the west of the Round Tower is called the “Lower Ward” and the court to the east is the “Upper Ward.”
Lower Ward Windsor Castle
Includes St George’s Chapel and the Albert Memorial Chapel, more on these below.
Upper Ward, Windsor Castle
Includes the private apartments of the Queen and the private apartments for visitors. It also houses the Royal Library which contains collections by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other famous artists.
The Northeast corner of the Upper Ward was destroyed by fire in November 1992 which included over 100 rooms and St George’s Hall. This area has been successfully restored and was completed in 1997.
Highlights at Windsor Castle Berkshire
When exploring Windsor Castle, it would be best to begin with the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Afterwards, you can explore the castle grounds by commencing your tour of the interior of the Castle. I would suggest that you start with the State Apartments, at Henry VIII’s North Terrace. You may encounter a queue here, but they get through very quickly. After the State Apartments, you can visit the beautiful St George’s Chapel and other parts of the Castle.
1 | Changing of the Guards Ceremony
The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is one of the highlights of visiting Windsor Castle. The ceremony takes place at 11:00 in the Lower Ward within the Castle grounds. The times can change and there may be occasions when the Ceremony may take place without music because of other duties and demands on the guards. The guards return to their barracks at 11:25.
This is one highlight when visiting Windsor Castle that you should not miss. It is less crowded than the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, so it allows you a better view of the ceremony itself.
As it takes place at 11:00 prompt, it is best to plan your visit to arrive here before it begins so you get a good view.
2 | State Apartments and Semi-state Apartments
This part of the Castle is a grand building with opulent furnishings and intricate ceiling paintings. There are many art-work on the Royals and is home to the infamous Queen Mary’s Doll House.
** Queen Mary’s Doll House is sometimes closed to public viewing. Best to check before your visit.
3 | St George’s Chapel
My favourite part of the Castle! Being here, in St George’s Chapel which is rich in history and in royal tradition is, at moments, simply overwhelming. It is unique in that it has a Perpendicular Gothic-style architecture. Construction of the Chapel began in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed by Heny VIII in 1528.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in this Chapel in May 2018, which makes this Chapel even more special.
The interior of the Chapel itself is not huge but the architecture is absolutely breath-taking! You need to see to experience it. Cameras are not allowed in the Chapel but I quite simply had to steal a moment to capture this jaw-dropping wow sight for keeps.
4 | The Inner Courtyard
The Inner Courtyard is home to the private apartments of the Queen and the private apartments of the Queen’s visitors. It is of Gothic architecture quadrangle with a green grass square in the middle.
I spent quite a lot of time walking around the grounds at leisure and then lunch at the nearby pub. Afterwards, a walk up to the parks and down to Albert Road to view the Long Walk.
5 | Home Park, Windsor
To the Eastern side of Windsor Castle is Home Park which was previously known as Little Park. It is approximately 655 acres (265 hectares) of parkland privately owned by the Crown Estate.
Frogmore House is in this Park and is only open twice a year, May and August. If you want to visit Frogmore House and its grounds, schedule your visit during these two months in the year.
6 | Great Park, Windsor
Great Park is situated towards the South of Windsor Castle. It is approximately 5000 acres (2,020 hectares) which includes a deer park. Parts of this Park is open to the public.
7 | The Long Walk
A short walk from the Castle, the Long Walk is crossed by A308 (Albert Road) to Old Windsor. This is what I wanted to see and capture the essence of the moment – The Long Walk!
The Long Walk is the straight path that links Windsor Castle with Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park, the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse). It is approximately 3 miles (5 kilometres) in length.
According to legend, King Henry VIII sat and waited at Snow Hill for news of execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
However, the path and the landscape as we know it today only came much later, an improvement to what was by King Charles II and Queen Anne. King Charles II had 1,652 Elm trees planted in double-rows the entire length of the route and Queen Anne had a road constructed down the centre of the tree lined landscape, so the coaches could head into the park comfortably.
Winding-down the day
There is a quintessentially English pub at the quiet corner here by Park Street gates (which leads to the Long Walk and Cambridge Gate, entrance to Windsor Castle), a peaceful cul-de-sac where you can stop for a hearty pint! It’s called the Two Brewers, one of the smallest pubs in Windsor. Established in 1792 although the building dates back to 1709.
On a final note…
Windsor Castle is uniquely beautiful, set in a lively town, with accommodation to suit every individual, couples or family, It has great shopping choices and restaurants to fulfil every palate a destination that will surely not disappoint.
At Windsor Castle – What you need to know
- There are guide maps available free at the counter. Just pick one. Given the vast area where one needs to walk, I found the map to be extremely helpful.
- If you gift-aid your entrance ticket, you get a 12-month pass to return. Just ensure that you write your name and address and get it stamped at the designated area near the exit.
- Commentary on the audio, for the most part is good and informative but sometimes too elaborate. It is also sometimes hard to navigate to the number of the room.
- Give yourselves between 3 to 3.5 hours although the recommended hours are 2.5 to 3.
- Audio guides are available in all major languages.
- Induction loop on Audio tour is provided to hearing impaired visitors.
- Guide dogs are permitted
- Toilets for disabled visitors
- Areas are wheelchair accessible.
Regular (£) During closure of State Apartments (£)
Adult 21.20 11.70
Family [2 adults + 3 under 17s] 54.70 30.60
Senior/Student 19.30 10.60
Under 17/Disabled 12.30 7.20
For up-to-date information on Windsor Castle, you can look-up their official website here: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle
Getting to Windsor
From London by train:
Getting to Windsor Castle from London by train is the most convenient and cheaper mode of transport.
There are 2 services:
- London Paddington to Windsor Central – services are provided by Great Western Railway, need to change at Slough for the shuttle service to Windsor & Eton Central. The shuttle service runs every 20 minutes and will have extra charges.
Return Adult Fare is £10.20
2. London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside – services provided by South Western Railway are 4 services per hour, at 20, 28, 50 and 58 minutes past the hour. Return Adult Fare is £10.50
Buy Train tickets from Trainline
If you are driving:
- Castle car-park is a ‘Pay & Display’ car-park, so you will need coins. £14 for 5 hours;
- Car-park next to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station – £4 All-day if you arrive after 10:00. You can pay by phone
Is this post valuable to you in planning your visit to Windsor Castle and Windsor? If so, let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.
March 2021, Update