Felicity Glover recommends Windsor, UK.
There’s no better time than the present to visit the historical town of Windsor, especially with the many celebrations planned over the next few months to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday. Of course, Windsor also lays claim as the Queen’s preferred weekend getaway – Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world that has provided a roof over the heads of the British royal family for more than 1,000 years.
Just 32 kilometres from London, it’s easily accessible by both public transport and private car, and is well worth a visit, either as a day trip or weekend breaK. While the castle is the central focus of the town, it’s not all about royalty – well, almost!
Experts recommend setting aside two to three hours to explore Windsor Castle, from its beautiful gardens to state apartments and other seasonal exhibitions.But even if you are only there for a day, this should still leave you with plenty of time to explore other places, such as the hallowed grounds of nearby Eton College or even entertain the kids at Legoland Windsor Resort.
Then again, if you are into horseracing, Royal Windsor Racecourse and Royal Ascot are sure to get you on the edge of your seat on race day. You can take boat tours on the River Thames or explore one of the many wonderful parks in the town. But what is a must is the kooky Crooked House of Windsor, which was built in 1552. It’s impossible to miss on the High Street, especially with its distinctive black and white façade.
If you happen to be in Windsor from this May 12 to May 15, then try to get a ticket to the Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration, which will be held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle. According to www.hmq90.co.uk, a “spectacular programme of music, song, dance and equestrian displays” will be held over four nights, culminating with the Queen attending the final evening’s performance. And with performers coming from as far afield as Oman, Chile, New Zealand, Canada and Australia, it promises to be magical celebration.
My favourite place
This would have to be Windsor Castle. While a fire in November 1992 caused extensive damage to nine rooms, this has been fully repaired. That said, there is so much to explore, from a behind-the-scenes visit to the Great Kitchen, where you’ll learn about the culinary history of the royals, to visiting the lavish state apartments packed with priceless antiques and paintings. But make sure you also take time to walk around the beautiful gardens and parkland.
As mentioned above, there’s a lot to see and do in Windsor. If you are visiting with children, then letting them loose in the magical, miniature world of Legoland, on the outskirts of the town, will be a definite highlight, as will the colourful changing of the guard in the grounds of the castle. If romance is your thing, then why not take a horse and carriage ride in Windsor Great Park? The friendly drivers are also a font of knowledge about the history of the area.
The last time we visited Windsor, it was in the middle of winter. It was a dour, freezing day, especially when the sun went down. Like many popular tourist areas, the usual precautions also apply: take care of your belongings and don’t become a victim of pickpockets.
The Royal Collection Trust Shop at Windsor Castle is a great place to pick up quality mementoes, from T-shirts to tea sets to children’s books and other royal-branded goods. There’s also many other souvenir shops dotted about town, most of them offering cheaper “keepsakes”.
Where to stay
There’s a range of accommodation options in Windsor, from local B&Bs to historic boutique hotels and five-star properties. Windsor is a walker’s paradise, so staying as close as possible to the centre of the action is highly recommended.
1. Visit Windsor Castle
2. Head over to Eton College
3. Take a boat tour of the Thames
4. Drop by the Crooked House of Windsor
5. Explore the miniature world of Legoland