CASTLES, Cathedrals, Abbeys and Stately Homes
WINDSOR CASTLE, Windsor, EnglandWindsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world. It is the Queen's official residence and was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 after his victory at the battle of Hastings. The castle was revamped by Edward the III, building new apartments, the great round tower and the enormous Norman edifice that looms majestically above the town, which surrounds one side of the castle, the other is surrounded by 4,800 acres of park-land. Almost every monarch since as added new buildings or improved existing ones, transforming a medieval castle into a luxurious royal palace.
Approaching the structure itself is like entering a magical children's storybook to a fairy tale castle walking on a curving cobblestone street passing quaint shops and pubs before entering via Henry VIII's Gateway.
The castle is open daily, and the public is not allowed in the Royal Family's apartments, but may visit the State Apartments, which are decorated with magnificent paintings from the Queen's art collection, including works by Rubens, Van Dyke and Holbein, drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci, elaborate Gobelin tapestries, and many other beautiful treasures, furniture and rugs.
Other highlights include St. George's Chapel, one of the most noble buildings in England, more than 230 feet long, on the outside one sees hundreds of gargoyles, pinnacles and buttresses, and on the inside, two tiers of great windows, with banners, swords, and helmets from the Knights of the Order of the Garter, the most senior Order of Chivalry. Among the monarchs buried there are Henry VIII, Queen Victoria and her husband Albert and George VI, father of the present queen.
Queen Mary's Dolls' House was designed in 1921 by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Queen Mother, has every detail complete, along with running water, electricity, and miniature books in the library.
Taking a walk away from the castle across the river brings you to Elton, Windsor Castle's equally historic neighbor, which is home to the exclusive boys' school founded by Henry IV in 1440, where classes still take place in the red brick Tudor style buildings.
To get to Windsor Castle and Elton, take the train from Waterloo Station, which conveniently stops right in the center of town, takes approximately 40 minutes. The is also a Green Line coach from Victoria Station that takes approximately 90 minutes.
The Changing of the Guard is, strictly speaking, called Guard Mounting where the new guard exchanges duty with the old guard. The Guard is provided by the resident regiment of Foot Guards in their full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins, although in cold or wet weather they may be dressed in their 'great coats' too. They are stationed at Victoria Barracks and march up to and from the Castle accompanied by the Guards Band playing traditional military marches as well as popular songs.
The route is from the barracks, up Sheet Street, left into the High Street, past the Parish Church and the Guildhall, then turning right onto Castle Hill by Queen Victoria's Statue and into the Castle. A little while later the old guard return to the barracks with the band following the same route. The Guildhall is a good viewing point being slightly raised, although good views are available throughout the route.
The Guard Mounting takes place at 11.00am on the days/dates listed below, according to month,
NB There is no Guard Mounting on Sundays at any time of year.
Perched atop a rocky crag and accessible over a causeway at low tide only, the castle presents an exciting and alluring aspect. Originally a Tudor fort, it was converted into a private house in 1903 by a young Edwin Lutyens. The small rooms are full of intimate decoration and design, the windows looking down upon the charming walled garden, planned by Gertrude Jekyll.
Note: It is impossible to cross to the island between the 2hrs before high tide and the 3hrs after. Tide tables are printed in local newspapers, and displayed at the causeway. To avoid disappointment check that safe crossing times coincide with castle opening times before making a long/special journey
Essential conservation work may be in progress, and could affect visitors' access to the castle.
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