Thursday, 11 July 2019

9 Top Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle, Berkshire

External Windsor Castle view

Last week my Mum and I visited Windsor Castle, this is the second time I have visited and I thought I'd share some tips for visiting this super busy tourist attraction. Windsor Castle is a very grand example of one of the Queens official residences in the UK, and from what I understand she chooses to spend many of her private weekends there. So if you're then on a weekend check if the flag is flying! You never know, you might glimpse her riding her horse one morning if the weather is fine.

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, having been founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs and thus has a very good pedigree! It's also still used for many state occasions and ceremonies, so when you visit it does feel very special, as if you could have been at the wedding of Harry and Megan! lol

Windsor Castle garden view

When visiting somewhere like Windsor castle that has international appeal for Royal fans, it is best to be organised and plan your day in advance. Here are my top tips -

1.  Book your tickets in advance
We skipped a 40 minute queue when we visited last week, as we had our tickets and could join the short queue (6 people) at the booking office. The queue went right back to the end of the street by the Queen Victoria statue (this was at 11.30am). Make sure to check the website for any changes to opening hours and days, as they can change due to royal requirements, and you don't want to be disappointed on the day.


Mother and daughter at Windsor Castle

2.  Arrive by train
It's pretty expensive to park in Windsor and the M4 and M25 can become big traffic jam at times. We paid £13 for the day in the Alma Road car park, which is a pleasant walk along the river to the town. My parents tell me that if you get there after about 11am you can struggle for a space though. The train from London is under an hour and you can easily travel from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside.

3.  Visit in the afternoon
As I mentioned on this recent visit (Friday 5 July) there was a 40 minute queue at 11.30am, but the last time I visited was on a Monday in September 2018 and we arrived to the castle at 2pm and walked straight in without a moments wait.  Afternoons are definitely the quieter time and this makes for a much more pleasant trip.

You can look around in your own time but I did feel a bit herded with the crowd on the busier day as I went through the state apartments, and there are much better photos opportunities outside when not so many people are around.

St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle

4.  Avoid Sundays if you want to browse St Georges Chapel
The chapel is generally open until 4.15pm Monday - Saturday, but on a Sunday you can only go in if you wish to worship and attend a service. It is closed to visitors who wish to just look around. I'd seriously recommend a visit as it a stunning example of Gothic architecture and the stained glass windows are seriously amazing. It also houses 10 tombs including that of Henry XIII.

5.  Do pick up the free multi-media guide
I'm never quite sure if these kind of guides will be worth it, but I found this one excellent. It is included in the price of the ticket and you can use your own headphones or pick up a pair. I borrowed some of the supplied ones and they did a great job. The guide is available in nine languages.

I really liked that I was in control of the media and I could listen to as much or as little as I fancied. It was also very good that in each of the rooms they had a big sign to remind you where you were and you could tune in to the appropriate commentary.

Windsor Castle view

6.  Stay in the moment
Sadly you are not allowed to take photos or film within any of the indoor areas of the castle and chapel.  So put your phone or camera away and just indulge in the wonderful opulence you will see. It really is a feast for your eyes, and one that is best savoured slowly. There is so much to see and it is all immaculately preserved.

7.  Enjoy the gift shops
These are fabulous in their own right. OK, they're not cheap but the products are stunning and you might be lucky enough to find a sale area like we did. I was eyeing up a gorgeous applique Christmas tree decoration and it was only going to set me back £25! I couldn't quite manage it but I did love looking around. I also really appreciated that the shops were in areas I could choose to visit and I didn't have to pass through one on the way out.

8.  Leave the kids at home!
I had such a nice visit without the kids, that I'd advocate an adults only trip, as whilst I'm normally a big advocate of getting kids out to historic places, there isn't any exciting outdoor space for the kids at the castle, no fields, no play parks etc.

I see there are activities on for families on Saturdays  and during school holidays, so maybe they would make it more fun. We did see a couple of school groups there the day we visited, but I think of it as more educational than fun. You can get a family multimedia headset (for 7 - 11 years old) and there are various trail sheets you can download before you go. Check them out over here.

Welsh Guard at Windsor castle

9.  Watch the Changing of the Guard
This happens at 11am each day Monday - Saturday from April to end July and then alternate days for the rest of the year (weather permitting). Of course if you take my earlier advice and visit in the afternoon, you won't get to see the actual changing of the guard as you need to be in the castle grounds before 11am, by St Georges Chapel to watch it.

But if you are in Windsor town shopping or enjoying a coffee, head to the area by the Guild Hall or castle approach road and you'll see the band march through and up into the castle.

The Round Tower at Windsor castle

I hope I've whet your appetite for the visit to Windsor Castle, below is some practical information to help you plan your trip.

Address: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ
Telephone: +44 (0)303 123 7304
Website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle
Opening Hours: 1 March - 31October - 10am - 5.15pm (1 November - 28 February 10am - 4.15pm). Check online for any occasional closure dates/ time changes
Ticket Price: Adult £22.50, Over 60 / Student £20.30, Under 17 / Disabled £13.00, Under 5 Free and Family (2 adults and 3 under 17s) £58.00. A free companion ticket is available if you are visiting with a disabled guest
Are Discounts available: Aside from the normal concessions and family ticket, I haven't been able to find any further discounts.
Accessibility: There are a couple of manual wheelchairs that are available to borrow. There are accessible toilets located across the site, which can be accessed with a RADAR key, ask a warden if you don't have your own. A changing places toilet is currently being built as part of the Future Programme. You can see the full mobility information over here.
Family Friendly: Baby changing facilities are available in various places across the site. You can use your pushchair but it will have to be checked in the cloakroom at the start of the State Apartments, There are baby carriers and hip seats available to borrow.
Car parking: None on site, check out the Windsor Gov site for information

Inside the walls of Windsor Castle

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