We love London, but there’s so much more to the UK to explore. If you hop on a train you can experience some of the UK’s most historic sites and beautiful landscapes.
Castles are perhaps the most iconic places to absorb the impressive history of the British monarchy. Windsor Castle has been the home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It’s an official residence of the Queen and is open to visitors year round. The Queen spends most of her private weekends at Windsor Castle, and has spent the past few months sequestering here during Covid-19
The town of Windsor is roughly 22 miles outside of London, making it a lovely day trip from London. Trains run regularly from Paddington and Waterloo stations, and upon arrival in Windsor it’s about a 10 minute walk to Windsor Castle.
We arrived at Windsor and it was simple to navigate since we could see the majestic Castle as we pulled into the station. Windsor is filled with lovely shops and restaurants, and we stopped at the Cinnamon Cafe for a quick breakfast. The location is perfect as it’s nestled next to the Royal Windsor Information Center in the Old Station, directly across from Windsor Castle. Their menu was extensive and we opted for their delicious flat white coffee, while Julian chose the most gigantic cinnamon mocha I’ve ever seen.
They have a marvelous display of cakes and pastries which of course we had to try. Their traditional organic porridge was the perfect start to my day. We felt completely safe with their large outdoor seating area, which their friendly staff cleaned after every person.
As we approached the Castle, it was impossible not to sense the immense history and majestic energy of this regal area. After clearing security, we picked up our audio tour, and began to explore. Due to Covid there is a one-way system in place that made it easy to navigate.
Attached to Windsor Castle is the breathtakingly beautiful St George’s Chapel.
St. George’s Chapel has captured the worlds attention since it was the venue for several royal weddings including that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, and most recently Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
The chapel, which was built in 1475 and took 53 years to complete, can hold around 800 guests. You are not permitted to take photographs in any indoor area of Windsor Castle, but I promise it was absolutely magnificent. As we wandered around, the sense of history was staggering. Among the royalty buried within the chapel are Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Charles I, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, is also buried there alongside her husband King George VI and their daughter HRH Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister.
After exiting St. George’s Chapel, we slowly wandered through the spotlessly clean and immaculately presented Castle grounds.
To see the Changing the Guard ceremony, you need to be sure you begin your visit early, and allow plenty of time to get into the Castle for the 11am ceremony.
Typically the new guards march from Victoria Barracks on Sheet Street at around 10.45am through the Town Centre and into Windsor Castle. The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place in the Lower Ward of the Castle, outside the Guardroom at 11am. The old guards then march back to the barracks at about 11:25am. It’s all very regal and rather grand to watch.
Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, the formal Changing the Windsor Castle Guard has been suspended. The Windsor Castle Guard still changes, but the handover takes place inside the Guardroom with no band or ceremony.
The State Apartments are used today by The Queen and members of the Royal Family for their personal celebrations. The Queen also hosts official visits by Heads of State from other countries among other events. After entering through the grand entrance, we walked the gilded hall filled with regal swords and and suits of armor. As we followed the ceremonial route, we were shown opulent and luxuriously decorated ceremonial rooms, filled with regal portraits and exquisite art. Like St. George’s Chapel, photographs are not permitted, which forced us to focus on the history and splendor of our surroundings.
A large part of the State Apartments were destroyed in 1992 by a devastating fire and have been restored virtually from scratch. The fire damaged 20% of the castle, including the ceilings of St George’s Hall, the Grand Reception Room, the State Dining Room and the Crimson Drawing Room. The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, and to experience actual history was incredible.
Princess Beatrice of York’s wedding dress, first worn by The Queen in the 1960s, is currently on display at Windsor Castle from 24 September – 22 November 2020.
The lovely display also features Princess Beatrice’s wedding shoes, made by Valentino and a replica of the bridal bouquet made from artificial flowers.
After spending the morning in such majestic surroundings, we felt it only fitting to stop for Afternoon Tea. Julian chose Dr. Choc’s Windsor Chocolate Factory. This is the PERFECT place to spend an afternoon with a teenager.
We were given the option of being able to select a wrap instead of being presented with finger sandwiches, as an entree to the delicious scones with jam and clotted cream, and cakes.
We were also able to select three choices of the delicious handmade chocolate created on site. The flavors were non-traditional and I opted for Bee Happy: Dark chocolate infused with honey and sprinkled with pollen, Jettsetter: White chocolate infused with matcha green tea, bergamot oil and wafer and Chaicolate: milk chocolate infused with chai spice and honey. We enjoyed their house specialty hot chocolate made with real chocolate, and appreciated our surroundings overlooking Windsor Castle.
After our Afternoon Tea, Juan shared with us his knowledge of the cocoa bean, it’s history, and how chocolate is made. We were able to see him work his magic in his factory and get a true sense of his passion for chocolate.
What a treat, we enjoyed every minute! The staff were friendly and welcoming and it felt very clean and Covid secure. I highly recommend you visit Juan when you are in Windsor.
Thoroughly refreshed, we wandered through this picturesque town, stopping at the famous crooked house of Windsor.
After walking through town we crossed the Thames into Eton. You may have heard of Eton College as it’s been described as the most prestigious high school in the world. The school is known for educating Prince Harry, Prince William, and several future Prime Ministers, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Windsor and Eton are the perfect places to spend a day filled with spectacular history, stunning architecture, and are a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of London.
I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.