Where do I start? The castle was a real treat. We aren’t particularly interested in ticking off tourist attractions on our travels but some things can not be missed. And looking at the crowds it felt like the whole world had the same idea.
We bought our tickets online, (more about that later) to help beat the queue
and also so that we could watch the changing of the guards inside.
As luck would have it, we chose to go on the day it rained so there was no band accompanying them And only the well protected stuck it out.
But although it didn’t last long it meant the day was cool, and it didn’t stop me posing for the iconic photo op
We did ask the guard if it was ok and he smiled and said yes but that was about the limit of his conversation. Eric preferred to pose with a castle backdrop.
There was quite a wait to get into the state rooms and we weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but oh boy was it magnificent. It felt like a privilege to be able to wander, (or shuffle due to the number of visitors) around these rooms. I’ve never yearned to receive an official honour, but I do now just for an invite to the presentation.
Windsor castle was originally built in the 11th century, when William the Conqueror, paid us a visit. Back then it was mainly a defensive structure, but it has since become the favoured place called home to many of our monarchs. Its the longest occupied castle in Europe and is the largest castle in the world. Its undergone many makeovers during its time, most recently in 1992 when many of the state rooms were destroyed in a fire.
When Queen Elizabeth II is at home the Royal Standard is flown from the round tower. But she’d gone to Scotland for the day when we visited.
When we arrived in Windsor we asked one of the assistants at the entrance, what the best way to see the changing of the guard was and the answer was to buy a ticket (online) to come into the castle and watch by the horseshoe cloister. Which we duly did. However I made the mistake of googling “watching changing of the guard”. Once we were inside the castle, we saw the notice offering to upgrade our tickets at NO Extra cost to an annual pass. Brilliant we thought, but oh no, it turns out I had bought our tickets through an agency not direct from the Royal Collection Trust site, (which is the charity organisation responsible for maintaining these treasures and opening the royal residences to the public.) At £26 each its not a cheap place to visit, so not somewhere we would pay to visit twice in quicksticks. But had we had annual passes, we would have been inside several times during our stay in Windsor. Don’t make the same mistake as us. It was worth the entrance fee, the staff were plentiful and helpful, and the audio tour was full of useful snippets of information, but it was a full on experience, and would have been even more enjoyable spread over two days.
But all was not lost. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place every day and during the summer months the guards are escorted to and from their barracks by a marching band. Several streets are closed for the half hour this takes, and it meant that for a few moments each day we could stand outside and watch
The guards and bandsmen might be fully trained soldiers whose primary function is to protect our Queen, but there is also a very visible presence protecting them.
Whilst we were in Windsor I also took the opportunity to attend Choral evensong in St Georges Chapel. Well worth doing as the choristers and organ are magnificent and I got to walk inside the castle grounds after closing time.