A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE

Hello! Today we will be paying a visit to enchanting Windsor Castle. Sitting majestically atop a hill above the banks of the River Thames, Windsor Castle has been home to British Royalty for nearly one thousand years.

Getting To Windsor Castle

At the conclusion of our recent transatlantic cruise, Brad and I spent 3 days in London. Brad had not visited Windsor and wanted to do so on this trip. So I planned a day trip to Windsor, which is located a short 1 hour train ride away.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Waterloo Train Station, London | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I found it was easy to purchase roundtrip train tickets online at www.southwesternrailway.com. Our Off-Peak, Roundtrip tickets from London’s Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eaton Riverside Station cost £12.70 (British Pounds) each. I simply printed my booking confirmation at home and then collected my actual train ticket from the self-serve ticket machine at the station. It’s important to note that you also must have the original credit/debit card with you that you used to purchase the tickets online in order to retrieve your actual train ticket. 

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Waterloo Train Station, London | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

With tickets in hand we used them to gain access through gates to the numbered train track area.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Waterloo Train Station, London | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Trains to Windsor from London run about every hour, but because Windsor castle opens to the public at 10:00am, I purchased tickets on the train departing at 8:28am.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Waterloo Train Station, London | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Our train arrived in Windsor at 9:24am, giving us enough time to make the leisurely 10 minute walk up the hill to the castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Windsor & Eton Riverside Train Station | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Windsor & Eton Riverside Train Station | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Windsor & Eaton Riverside train station was clean and attractive, and there were helpful and friendly attendants who directed us toward the castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Windsor & Eton Riverside Train Station | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

In fact, we followed the Queen’s Walkway along a lovely cobbled street past picturesque buildings. This walking route marks the occasion of the Queen becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch. It was opened by The Queen on her 90th birthday on April 21, 2016. It’s 6.373km long, symbolizing the 63 years, 7 months and 3 days of her reign, one day more than Queen Victoria’s reign. It links 63 of Windsor’s best attractions, features and views.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Town of Windsor | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This lovely stone building seen along the way must have something to do with the Royal Family.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Town of Windsor | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I surmise this because it was decorated with a crown and the VR symbol for Queen Victoria.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Town of Windsor | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Town of Windsor | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Soon we arrived in the heart of Windsor town, which was alive and festive and already busy with tourists at ten in the morning.

An imposing statue of Queen Victoria greets visitors as they approach Windsor Castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Statue of Queen Victoria | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Purchasing Admission Tickets

Windsor Castle is open to the public all year round. It is highly advised to purchase tickets (as we did) in advance through the Royal Collection Website. As Windsor Castle is a working royal palace, sometimes opening times can change at short notice due to functions taking place at the castle, so do check before your visit. The line for those who did not purchase tickets in advance stretched for several blocks through town, as you can see in the photo below on the left. Because we had prepaid tickets in hand, we marched right in through the gate on the right, with no waiting at all except through the airport-style security check point.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Castle Entrance | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comA VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Castle Entrance | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Round Tower

As you enter the castle grounds the first thing you observe is the “Round Tower”. The ancient tower houses the Royal Archives and the Royal Photograph Collection. It is, on occasion, open to the public for tours when visitors climb 200 steps to the top. From a height of 214 feet they enjoy breathtaking views across the historic Windsor parkland and castle grounds, the Thames Valley, and even the London skyline 25 miles away.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Round Tower | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle, and in-fact, Her Majesty was in residence on the day of our visit, as her royal standard was flying high, as it does only when the sovereign is present. Our visit was the day before Easter Sunday, which happens to be when the Queen resides for one full month at Windsor Castle during what is called “Easter Court”. It’s when she hosts “Dine and Sleep” events at the castle for family and friends.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Round Tower | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Windsor Castle is part of what is called the “Occupied Royal Palaces Estate” and is owned by Queen Elizabeth II as a right of the Crown.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The day-to-day management and running of the castle is by the Royal Household. It also happens to be the largest inhabited castle in the world, and the longest-occupied palace in all of Europe.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Royal Collection Trust, one of the five departments of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection, and manages the public opening of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen. Her residences include Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Entering Windsor Castle

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As part of the entrance fee visitors receive headphones and an audio, self-guided castle tour. That’s Brad in the foreground trying to get his to work.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

William the Conqueror chose this site for Windsor Castle because of its strategic position high above the river Thames. It was also a day’s march from the Tower of London, so Windsor’s position was perfect for guarding the western approach to the capital city. The outer walls of today’s structure are in the same position as those of the original castle. So too is the central mound supporting the Round Tower.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | St. George's Gate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Of course today’s castle has been modernized while still retaining much of the original. And everything, right down to the light fixtures are royal, stately and topped off by golden crowns.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I have no idea where this modern-day door leads, but I’m kind of obsessed with doors, and I thought this one was lovely, so I’m sharing.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

But the original windows remain, designed to keep archers safe from enemy arrows.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Upper Ward

Our exploration took us to what is called the Upper Ward.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Middle Ward | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Upper Ward | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Statue of Charles II

Here in the Upper Ward successive monarchs have had their private apartments since the fourteenth century. The grassy area seen in the photo below is called the Quadrangle, and it is here that kings and queens held jousting tournaments on horseback.

This area was the scene of a devastating fire in 1992 that destroyed 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms.

The State Apartments can be seen in the background, and can be toured via access from the rear.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Upper Ward | State Apartments | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

From the Upper Ward you also get a nice closeup view of the Round Tower.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Round Tower | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Middle Ward

Continuing our tour we entered the Middle Ward. This area was built around the original Norman motte, and is crowned by the Round Tower.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Round Tower | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A Norman style motte is a fortification made of wood or stone that is situated on a raised earthwork called a motte. It’s enclosed by a courtyard and then surrounded by a protective ditch, just as you see here. Today the area is called the Moat Garden.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Middle Ward, built around the original Norman motte and crowned by the Round Tower | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

In this same area there is an educational center called “The Moat Room” that  features three bronze models of Windsor Castle. The models draw on the most recent research of how Windsor Castle looked in the past. They are designed to show visitors the evolution of the Castle through time from 1080 to 1216 to 1377. These dates are when the development of the castle expanded considerably.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Moat Room in the Middle Ward features bronze models of Windsor Castle| | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A photo timeline along the length of the room also illustrates important events in the history of Windsor Castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | St. George's Hall | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Military Guard

The Changing of the Guard is a colorful spectacle of British pageantry. The ceremony takes place several times a day at Windsor Castle, and you can find the schedule here online. The privilege of guarding the monarch traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as “the Guards”, who have carried out this duty since 1660.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Military Guard | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Changing of the Guard takes place regularly in the Castle Precincts. When the Queen is in official residence a parade takes place in the Quadrangle, which is in the Upper Ward area where the private apartments are located. We encountered the Guard making their way there for this ceremony. It was quite a sight!

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Military Guard | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The State Apartments

The State Apartments are open when the Castle is open, with a few exceptions throughout the year when official State events are taking place. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were devoted to Windsor, where they spent much of their time. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria that in 1845 the State Apartments were first opened to the public. King Charles II created the lavish apartments you see today, in a bid to rival his cousin King Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The State Apartments | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The State Apartments | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Here in the State Apartments are the rooms The Queen often uses when she welcomes guests to Windsor Castle for banquets and ceremonies. The magnificent St. George’s Hall, restored to its former glory after the devastating fire of 1992, houses the coats of arms of the 1,000 Knights of the Garter.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | St. George's Hall | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

It is the largest room in the castle and was the setting for the wedding reception of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | St. George's Hall | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

After visiting the State Apartments we made our way back down through the Norman Gate toward the Lower Ward.

The Norman Gate

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Norman Gate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Along this corridor we passed the residence of The Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle. He is the titular head of Windsor Castle on behalf of the sovereign. This is a ceremonial position of dignity without duties, functions, or responsibilities. The Constable receives no salary, but has this residence in the Castle. The day-to-day operations are handled by the Superintendent, who is an officer of the Master of the Household’s Department of the Royal Household.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Home of The Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Lower Ward

The one thing that you will be sure to notice during your visit to Windsor is the steady air traffic noisily flying overhead. The loud racket made from jets approaching nearby Heathrow airport is often deafening, and is one thing founder William the Conqueror would have never imagined. I’m sure the private living quarters of The Queen must have been sound-proofed. Get yourself a window seat when flying into Heathrow for a bird’s-eye view of the castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Lower Ward | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I recognized this section of Windsor castle from recent television scenes showing guests arriving at St. George’s Chapel for the recent Royal wedding. Does it look familiar to you too?

The Lower Ward holds St. George’s Chapel (on the left), which I will dedicate my next post to entirely.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | St. George's Chapel | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Most of the other buildings in the Lower Ward are associated with the a group of retired Military Knights who live and work at Windsor castle in the lovely buildings you see below. They participate in daily services in St. George’s Chapel, and in the Order of the Garter activities and processions, although they are not members of the Order. I’ll explain about the Order of the Garter in a minute.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Lower Ward | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lodgings of the Military Knights who represent the Order of the Garter | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lodgings of the Military Knights who represent the Order of the Garter | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lodgings of the Military Knights who represent the Order of the Garter | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The doors, windows, stonework and ironwork used in these buildings are just magnificent!

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lodgings of the Military Knights who represent the Order of the Garter | The Lower Ward |www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Below is the residence of the Governor of the Military Knights. The Governor is a retired senior military officer. I wouldn’t mind living in such a place in my retirement! Can you spot the dog who lives there too?

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lodgings of the Military Knights | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As I mentioned previously, the retired Military Knights who live in these buildings serve the Order of the Garter. The Order of the Garter are a band of knights that began at Windsor more than 660 years ago. Membership in the Order is strictly limited and includes the Monarch and not more than 24 companion members at one time. Currently, Prince William and his father Charles, Prince of Wales, are members, but Prince Harry has yet to join this exclusive club.

In addition to being in residence for Easter Court, The Queen is also in residence for a full week in June. This is when she attends the service of the Order of the Garter, which brings together members of this senior order of chivalry for a service in St. George’s Chapel.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Her Majesty The Queen Processing the Garter Service at St. George's Chapel | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Also located in the Lower Ward are the changing rooms and living quarters of the soldiers who mount a permanent military guard in the Castle.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Lower Ward | |www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

During our visit we watched them perform a changing of the guard ceremony outside the guardroom at the foot of Castle Hill. As I understand it, the ceremony for changing the Windsor Guard is broadly the same as that which takes place at Buckingham Palace.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Military Guard | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Military Guard | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Military Guard | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Shopping At Windsor Castle

Interestingly enough, in my opinion some of the best shopping in England can be done in the shops operated by The Royal Collection.  These shops provide a convenient way to shop for great souvenirs and gifts to bring home to friends and family. I love their fabulous tea towels, Christmas ornaments and commemorative chinaware.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lower Ward Shop | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As you can see I did some damage there.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lower Ward Shop | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I also loved the pretty doors and lovely potted plant adjacent to the shop.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | Lower Ward | The Lower Ward | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

There is also a shop located in the Upper Ward selling much the same merchandise.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | The Upper Ward Shop | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

It should be noted that as of today, other than drinks and ice cream, no food is currently sold inside Windsor Castle, although a cafeteria is currently under construction. So, after spending about 3 hours exploring Windsor Castle we made our way out of the King Henry VIII Gate into Windsor town where we found a fun pub for lunch.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | King Henry VIII Gate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This is the same gate from which Harry & Meghan emerged in their carriage after their wedding.

Image Via

We visited Windsor Castle on Easter weekend, a very busy time to do so. Windsor Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions, so you will encounter large crowds at most times throughout the year.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | King Henry VIII Gate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Security is also tight amid the throngs of people both inside the castle and in the town.

A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE | King Henry VIII Gate | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

There are a number of other things to see when visiting Windsor castle, including Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which was closed for restoration during our visit. There are fun family activities, exclusive evening tours and of course, entry into St. George’s Chapel. Because I have so much to share regarding the Chapel (where Prince Harry & Megan Markle were married), that I’m working on a blog post dedicated exclusively to the chapel. So please stay tuned for that. I will also dedicate a separate blog post to the charming town of Windsor.

So there you have it: A VISIT TO ENCHANTING WINDSOR CASTLE

Thanks so much for dropping in!

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No blog post is truly complete without a word from you. I’d be so delighted if you’d leave a comment below.

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission. 

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