Get Your Thousand-Year-Old Castle On

One sunny Friday a few weeks ago I was off to Berkshire and visit Windsor Castle. I was there on my first trip to England back in October of 2005 and had been wanting to revisit for a while. Now that the weather is oh so lovely and I have some time off, it seemed the perfect time to visit the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.

So off I went, but not without being hit by the travel fail domino affect.  My bus to the rail station in Cambridge was running late, so then I missed the 11:15 express train to King’s Cross, which meant I missed the 12:22 from Paddington to Slough and subsequently the 12:50 from glorious Slough to Windsor.  In the end I got to Windsor just before 14:30, an hour and change later than I had hoped.  I grabbed a quick bite to eat at a McDonald’s that used to be a Burger King.  Oh how the place has changed! Well, I had hoped it would be quick. It was the slowest queue I think I had ever been in.

Right, to the castle! There were a lot more tourists around this time. Makes sense as it’s not October. They also do audio guides now which on one hand is good I suppose for people to learn about what they are seeing, but it also turns them into lumbering audio guide drones. I got the last guided tour at 3pm with a warden who was a bit crazy but knew her stuff. It was just me and two Dutch chaps on the tour. The warden and I would be talking about Charles II’s mistresses and another history bits while the Dutch gave each other puzzling looks and the warden would explain. She pointed out that tucked away in the leaflet you get with your ticket is a section you can get filled out to validate your ticket for a year. I forgot to do it, d’oh.

When she was talking about validating your ticket to come back to the castle as there’s always something different going on, I asked about how one gets to see the ceremony at the castle on Garter Day.  It is open to the public (which I wasn’t sure of) but in order to be there, you have to write to St. George’s chapel in January. Boo, oh well something for next year I suppose as it would be rather impressive to see a ceremony that dates back to the 14th century. It was discontinued in 1805 in the reign of King George III and wasn’t resumed until 1948 by King George VI.

It was a somewhat hasty visit as the state rooms and St. George’s chapel were closing rather soonish after the guided tour finished.  The warden actually cut it a bit short to give us more time to see them before they closed.  I made it to both the chapel and state rooms in good time to have a good mooch around. There’s still so much in St. George’s Chapel that you really could take a few hours just to notices as many little things as possible. Lots of royal history buried in that building, literally.

There were a few state rooms that I saw a few years ago that weren’t open this time of year.  I wasn’t too worried as the more interesting ones were still walk around-able including St. George’s Hall and the Garter Throne Room.  St. George’s Hall had been pretty well gutted during the fire at the castle in 1992 and the restoration work is impeccable.  Early news reports said that that the government would pay the repair costs to the castle. Instead the state rooms at Buckingham Palace were opened to the public for the first time and revenue from that was used to pay for the bulk of the repairs, which were completed in 1997.

My full set of photos are up on Flickr, but here are a few that I quite liked…

And let’s have a look-see at the tracks I made that day, just because we can…


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Author: andrea

A Londoner from eastern Canada. City of London Guide, fixer of Macs, collector of old video games, appreciative of synths.

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