Windsor Castle is the world’s largest and oldest occupied castle, dating back to c. 1070-86. It is where The Queen spends her weekends, Easter, and a week in June for the Order of the Garter and Royal Ascot at Windsor Castle.
In a few days on Saturday, 19 May, the spotlight will be on a special couple who will get married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The couple in question, of course, is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. All these royal wedding updates have me reminiscing about my visits to Windsor Castle in 2016 and 2017. Windsor Castle is one of my favourite castles in the world due to its historical significance and magnificent interiors. Here are some of the photos I took of the 900+ year old royal residence and fortress along with my tips for visiting. You can read about the history and the Castle’s function on plenty of websites.
Windsor Castle – State Apartments
I wanted to photograph everything but no photos are allowed (even though many sneakily take some when the staff are looking elsewhere). The first part of this self-guided tour is of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House with views of life upstairs and downstairs during the early 1920’s. Don’t forget to see some of the miniatures placed in the walls. As someone who adores miniatures, this is one of the best ‘miniature house’ I’ve ever seen.
Visitors will have a multimedia guide that will provide plenty of information on each room. Aside from the magnificent Semi-State Rooms and State Apartments, I especially loved St George’s Hall.
St George’s Chapel
Built in 1475, this gothic chapel features an incredible vaulted ceiling (if you can’t crane your neck, there are some mirrors available) and the magnificent Albert Memorial Chapel. It is also the resting place of many monarchs and other royal members including King Henry VIII, King George VI, and The Queen Mother. No photos allowed inside unfortunately!
Conquer the Tower (the Round Tower)
The Round Tower was built in 1170. This exclusive guided tour to go up the Round Tower was offered last year but does not appear to be offered this year (check the website in case anything changes). At the top of the Round Tower, visitors will have a panoramic view of the Long Walk and other parts of Windsor. Visitors will also see the 15-metre flagpole with the Union Flag (I believe The Queen will not be in residence during the tour as she should already be at Balmoral.) This flagpole is made from a Douglas Fir tree from Canada – I later confirmed that it was from British Columbia (read that it had been a gift to the Crown from BC).
During the tour, you’ll spot many planes departing from and arriving at Heathrow. Photos may be taken of the view but only where the guide specifies is ok. For security and privacy reasons, one may not take a photo of The Queen’s private apartments.
- Check Castle closures! You wouldn’t want to get to Windsor and find that you can’t get into the Castle!
- Check the opening times of the Castle and Chapel. I visited the Chapel before the State Apartments as the Chapel closes
- It’s worth converting your ticket to a 1-Year Pass. This allows you to gain complimentary readmission within 12 months (I had initially assumed this meant many times within 12 months but in my experience it was only two admissions for the price of one). Make sure your ticket is stamped for the 1-Year Pass as that will 1) allow you re-entry and 2) give you the expiry date of your ticket.
- I would recommend going during the Christmas season to see the decorations and during summer when Conquer The Tower is available* (it’s not currently listed on the website but just in case it re-appears, make sure to go when it’s on!).
- IF Conquer the Tower is available, make sure you purchase your ticket in the Ticket Hall. When I went last year, it was £8.50.
- Failing that, visit between autumn (from 29 September 2018) and spring (until 25 March 2018) when the Semi-State Rooms are open (it is closed during summer).
- Eat (a lot) before visiting the Castle. There currently isn’t a cafe within the Castle for visitors to eat or drink. A permanent cafe is in the works as Windsor Castle transforms its medieval Undercroft from the 1360’s. I look forward to visiting Windsor Castle again when the cafe opens!
- There are at least two shops within the Castle but visit these at the end.
- Go when Changing the Guard takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11:00am. I’ve always turned up at the Castle in the afternoon so always missed it.
- Best avoid visiting on Sunday as St George’s Chapel will be closed to visitors.
Directions from London:
- Buy a day pass (or one way ticket if you’re staying longer) from London Paddington station.
- The train will stop at Slough and you’ll need to change platforms to catch the next direct train to Windsor & Eton Central (if you end up on the train to Riverside, it’s a bit of a walk).
- You really can’t miss the Castle once you’re at Windsor station – you just have to find your way out!
Tickets: Adults £21.20
1 Nov – 28 Feb: 9:45am-4:15pm (last admission is 3:00pm – last admission to the State Apartments and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is at 3:30pm; last admission to St George’s Chapel is at 4:00pm)
1 Mar – 31 Oct: 9:30am-5:15pm (last admission is 4:00pm – last admission to the State Apartments and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is at 4:30pm; last admission to St George’s Chapel is at 4:00pm)