- Location: 30 miles west of London, UK
- Attraction Type: Castle
- Significance: Longest Inhabited Royal Castle, Home to the British Monarchs
- Best Time to visit: Between 9:30 hrs and 17:30 hrs. However, the timings may change with the season. So, check the local timings before you start.
- How to Reach: Windsor and the Royal Borough are among an hour’s driving distance from Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The 77 Bus carries passengers from both the airports to the Castle. From Gatwick, you can also take a train to Clapham Junction, and then change on to a train to Windsor and Eton Riverside. There are buses every 30 minutes from Windsor to Heathrow. All of them depart from Terminal 5 of Heathrow. There are free shuttle services from the Central Bus Station. If you want to travel by train, there are direct services from London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside station. The journey takes just below an hour. Motorway networks M3, M4, M25, and M40 serve this destination.
- Nearest International Airport: Heathrow International Airport and Gatwick International Airport, London.
You don’t necessarily have to be quiet and demure when you are in the Queen’s backyard. Cycling and horse riding through the Royal Borough is an exhilarating activity. The evenings can be spent in one of the traditional English pubs or attending one of the concerts. The British royalty has reigned from the Windsor Castle for over a thousand years now, and they make sure that their guests have a nice time. No tour to England can be complete without a visit to Windsor Castle.
History of Windsor Castle The history of Windsor castle is inextricably linked to the history of England and later on, Great Britain. The national situation almost always got reflected in the architectural additions and alterations to the castle structure. In fact, by looking at the times of the construction of its various facets, one can get a fair idea of the way in which British history moved. In times of war, there were strengthening of fortification; in times of peace, there were additions of apartments. The castle, despite being the longest inhabited castle complex in the world, is very much a living entity, as living as the present, and as rooted in history.
The construction was started by William the Conqueror after his victory in the Battle of Hastings. However, the modern structure was started by King Edward III, who was often referred to as ‘Edward of Windsor’ in 1312. Thereafter, all kings and queens of England not only inhabited the castle but also actively contributed to its growth. Processes of restorations were also continuous. King Edward IV, the Yorkist King, started the construction of the present St. George’s Chapel, in the Perpendicular Gothic style. However, like everything else in the Windsor, this too underwent plenty of renovations. Finally, it was demolished and the Lady Chapel was built in its place. By the end of the War of Roses, the castle more or less had a stable grand form. Queen Elizabeth had gallows erected, ordering the execution of anyone visiting from London to safeguard against the rapid outbreak of the bubonic plague. The Castle became the seat of Oliver Cromwell during the Parliamentarian years.
After many years of remaining virtually unchanged from the Middle Ages, rapid transformation schemes were introduced after the Restoration. Charles II was particularly keen on beautifying the castle, suited to his French taste and aesthetics. Versailles was an immediate inspiration behind the Long Walk, and the new Royal Apartments built by Hugh May. There were changes in the interior as well. However, soon after the king’s death, the castle fell into neglect, and one had to wait till the arrival of the keen eye and the extravagant tastes of George IV for massive reconstructions to take place again. George IV brought about some of the greatest single-handed changes in the castle’s history. Everything from the Upper Ward, the private apartments, to the Round Tower and the South Wing were renovated.
Queen Victoria spent a great amount of time in the Windsor Castle, and she also brought about significant changes in the castle’s construction, interior and exterior. From then on, till the time of Elizabeth II, small but significant changes continued to be done to the castle, keeping the fundamental structure intact. Presently, it is the Queen’s favorite weekend retreat.
The layout of the Windsor Castle
The basic plan of the Windsor Castle, despite later additions and renovations, remains essentially medieval. The castle still stands on the artificial man-made mound where William the Conqueror built his wooden castle. The Round Tower built by Henry II, who also made the first stonewalls around it, still stands as the most recognizable landmark of the castle. Subsequent constructions were built around the original motte, or artificial hill, by several monarchs in two clear sections — the Lower Ward and the Upper Ward. The State Apartments, the Private Apartments, and the South wing are adjacent to one another in the Upper Ward, leading to the Long Walk built by Charles II during the Restoration Age after the French fashion in Versailles. St. George’s Hall, the room with the impressive ceiling decorated with the coat of arms of all members of the Order of the Garter right from the beginning of the Order to the present times, is located in the State Apartments.
The Horseshoe Cloister towards the west of the Round Tower is adjacent to the famous St. George’s Chapel, all in the Lower Ward. These can be approached by King Henry VIII Gate, which is the principal access to the castle. The entire structure is surrounded by the Home Park, containing homelands, parklands and estate cottages that serve as living quarters of the employees.
Things to See in Windsor Castle
A guided tour in the Windsor Castle is quite an experience. The sheer magnitude of the construction and the uninterrupted grandeur are bound to overwhelm you. Moreover, since the castle has been built and enlarged upon by monarchs of subsequent generations, there is a great conglomeration of varied styles. Some of the most prominent landmarks of Windsor Castle that you must never lose an opportunity to witness include
The Round Tower: This is the most representative architecture of the entire Windsor Castle. Seen from a distance, it appears as a cylindrical tower with clearly medieval looks. However, the tower is actually not cylindrical but appears so simply because of its position on the mound.
The Doll’s House: This was built by under the instructions of Queen Mary, who was fond of everything in miniature, by Lutyens. Representing an entire aristocratic mansion of great proportion, complete with furniture and pictures, it is one of the major attractions of Windsor Castle.
The Drawings Gallery: This chamber with its great collection of artworks attracts the largest number of tourists. Exhibitions change from time to time, showcasing the best from the royalty’s personal collection. Favorite books, photographs as well as personal memorabilia are also in display.
The Long Walk: Built by Charles II after the fashion of the French castle of Versailles, this promenade with surrounding elms and poplars is one of the greatest attractions of the castle.
St. George’s Chapel: This is one of the most beautiful religious architectures in the whole of Britain. A number of monarchs along with their wives were buried in this chapel, including King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.
The Royal Borough: The Royal borough is a great place for tourists to indulge in some quaint but equally gratifying activities. Horse riding, tennis, rowing and different types of sports are available here. You can also indulge in horse riding, badminton, and polo, among other sports activities.
Accommodation in Windsor Castle
For the most comprehensive view of Windsor, it is best for you to choose a hotel and accommodation in the Windsor, Maidenhead or Ascot region. There is a large number of hotels there, from practical and no-frills accommodations to ones that present an exceptional degree of luxury. Choose one that suits your taste and budget.
Apart from hotels, there are a large number of guest and self-accommodation facilities that are available at Windsor. You can also opt for campus or hostel accommodation.
There is a large number of restaurants and pubs that are spread all over the Windsor and Maidenhead region. You can find multi-cuisine restaurants as well as traditional English style pubs that serve excellent food and drinks.