At about 900 years, Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world. Given that it is still functional, it is in pristine condition and gives you a rare glimpse at the life of Royalty.
Getting To Windsor Castle
To get there, I did something I have never done before, I took a tour bus. I stay away from tours mainly because I enjoy my freedom when exploring. I loathe itineraries and schedules.
However, I decided to bite the bullet and go on this particular tour because it departed from Central London and made stops at Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and the city of Bath. It also included entrance tickets for Windsor Castle and the Roman Baths in Bath. This full day tour costs about £79. This tour was operated by Premium Tours if you’re interested.
The tour departs from Victoria Coach Station at 8am. Don’t confuse the Coach Station with Victoria Station (tube line and national rail). On any other day, avoid Victoria Coach Station like it’s the plague. It’s small, crowded, hot and filthy. The problem is, it’s the central location for all bus departures in London.
The ride will take about 45 minutes and the tour guide will let you know of any points of interest on the way. The bus will drop you off about ¼ mile from Windsor Castle’s entrance.
Windsor Castle, A History
Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and has been used by English Monarchs for over 900 years. Located on the River Thames and 20 miles west of London it was originally built as a fortification but soon turned into a residence as well.
Interestingly, there are 9 castles that circle London. They are all approximately 20 miles from London and 20 miles from one to the other. The reason for this is the English army could march about 20 miles per day; pretty smart.
Windsor Castle took on many remodeling’s and restorations over the years to get to the building it is now. In November of 1992, a fire broke out in the Upper Ward and did significant damage to the Castle, it’s artwork and furnishings. Luckily, that area of the Castle was undergoing a renovation and much of the artwork had already been removed.
A Tour Of Windsor Castle
From the exterior, Windsor Castle is stunning. From the interior, Windsor Castle is stunning. At first, I was surprised at how spectacular the inside was but then I remembered that this Castle is functional and still used to entertain Heads of State. Most castles that I have been to are remnants of time passed with their innards gutted.
The State Apartments are probably the biggest attraction at Windsor Castle. To me, they embody everything that is the word ‘Royalty’. Unfortunately, videos and photos were prohibited so I will do my best to walk you through it but you can find (and buy) photos at the official Windsor Castle website.
Upon entering, you will go up a staircase that leads to a room that I would simply call ‘The Armory’. There are literally 100’s of swords, spears, shields, helmets, armor, guns and knives hanging from the walls. Since it’s technically not a museum (it’s a residence), none of the displays were labeled to read but I was able to recognize pieces from the Middle East, China and Napoleonic wars and conquests. There were also countless pieces from England of course.
After leaving ‘The Armory’, you will enter a grand ballroom with vaulted ceilings, a large table in the center and portraits adorning the walls.
From there you will go through a series of rooms displaying a collection of China, paintings, emerald vases, Coats of Arms and golden and silver platters, among many other things.
If you’re really interested in each room and what it’s used for then I definitely recommend the audio tour that can be purchased.
After exiting the State Apartments I roamed around the inner courtyard of Windsor Castle that offered up some great photo opportunities.
As you make your way towards the exit, you’ll pass St. Georges Cathedral. Definitely take the time to go inside. It’s a beautiful Gothic cathedral and past Royalty and important persons are buried there.
Windsor Castle is remarkable. The State Apartments are full of treasures and the architecture and grounds are beyond beautiful. Given that Windsor Castle is only 45 minutes from London, this should be on your to do list whether you’re coming for a week or just a few days.