Exploring Windsor Castle in England

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EXPLORING WINDSOR CASTLE IN ENGLAND
By Glynn Burrows, Norfolk Tours in England

 

Although I specialise in visiting places well off the beaten track, plus places associated with your own family history and interests, and as I also take people to where they want to go, I often go to the internationally known tourist places too. After all, if you are visiting England for the first time, you may well want to see Stone Henge, Windsor Castle, Stratford Upon Avon and York, and I am more than happy to arrange these visits and take you there too.

I enjoy visiting Windsor, with its tiny streets, fantastic Castle and beautiful river. I always love my trips around the area but the downside of visiting these well-known tourist places is that you are surrounded by hundreds of other tourists, doing the same thing, eating mass-produced food and buying the same mass-produced, imported tourist tat. Saying that, it is still possible, if you look hard, amid all the hustle and bustle of a tourist trap, to find locally produced souvenirs and real, local, fresh food too and that’s what I always do when I go there.

Starting the visit to Windsor from the station car-park, gives a great view of the Castle and shows how it dominates the area, with the massive walls and the Keep towering on the skyline and, walking up into the town, shows just why the position was chosen, on a natural high point in the surrounding, open countryside. The Keep is constructed on a man-made motte, making it even more intimidating.

The street follows the line of the curtain wall and leads us up towards the main gate of the Castle, past the shops and hotels which open out onto a wide open roadway. It wasn’t always like this, there used to be buildings nestled right up against some of the Castle walls but these were removed, reminding us that, what we are looking at, isn’t what it may appear to be. It is the product of nine hundred years of additions, renovations, demolitions, rebuildings and alterations. It is the biggest Castle in the world and has been continuously lived in for over nine centuries, so very little of the original medieval castle remains. That being the case, it doesn’t stop me continuing to visit it though, as it is an amazing and inspirational place.

As we get to the top of the hill, we see a statue of Queen Victoria, and turn left to have a look at the bridge and gate-house but we don’t go in that way, this is the way in for those who live there! We go in via the visitors’ entrance and, after all the security checks wend our way into the Castle Wards. (The word “Ward” is used here, as opposed to “Bailey” but they both mean the same. An enclosed area within the Castle walls.) 

The first thing I noticed, was the feeling of being “inside”, as opposed to being out there with the others. Within the Castle walls, there is a feeling of calm and safety, even though we are surrounded by people and they are the same people who were “out there”.   

  

The scale of the walls from the outside didn’t prepare me for the massive enclosed area which was inside. Walking into this area is like walking into a secret garden, with buildings as well as gardens. Massive stone walls, gateways, paths, shops, the Chapel, gigantic Gothic windows, views out over the surrounding countryside and the hustle and bustle of people, all go together to make the experience quite surreal. Add to this, the recognition of many of the buildings from pictures and films of the Royal family, remembering the many important occasions where this Castle formed the backdrop and what starts as just a visit to a Castle, turns into a trip down memory lane too.

  • Windsor Castle - the river
    Windsor Castle - the river

The limited inside areas open to the public are equally fascinating but I’ll leave you to explore them on the many websites available. Suffice to say, the rooms are what you would expect for one of the homes of the richest and famous families in the world. This is, after all, a home, as well as a tourist attraction and the royal family do spend a lot of the year living here, in their private quarters.

The views from the Castle grounds are fantastic and helps explain why this spot was chosen, as the site overlooks the river and for many miles over the surrounding countryside, with Eaton College Chapel, which was started by Henry VI, in the near distance.  

In the bottom Ward, we see St George’s Chapel, which was established by Edward III and is a spectacular edifice which, like the rest of the Castle, has undergone lots of changes over the centuries. Started in the C14th, redeveloped in the late C15th and completed in the early C16th, it is the final resting place of several of our Kings and Queens and many members of the Royal Family. It has also been the scene of many happy royal events too, including the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan.

Walking around the Castle, we encounter guards and police, reminding us that this is a very security conscious area. The entrance gate, which is the pedestrian exit, has massive   metal bollards and barriers, as well as armed officers, which, for us, is very unusual.

Out through the gate, we are back in the town. There are lots of little streets and lots of shops, cafes and pubs but it is important for me to find local shops and eateries, selling locally produced goods and real fresh food. It is always worth taking the time looking for these places because the rewards are so great. Real souvenirs from the place I’m in and food which doesn’t come out of a freezer and microwave.

Going back to the car, I always take a stroll by the river, as it is so peaceful and relaxing, even though we are only a short distance from London and within a few miles of Heathrow Airport.

Windsor, is a great place to visit!

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England where he provides customized, private tours and also helps his clients trace their English family history. If you are thinking about taking a vacation to England, visit www.Norfolk-Tours.co.uk.

One Hour Walk

 

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About the Author:

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England where he provides customized, private tours and also helps his clients trace their English family history.

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