If you are looking to spend your weekend away from the crowded city then heading down to Windsor is a great choice. A town situated in southeast England on river Thames. Before leaving make sure to cross the bridge to Eton on the other side of the river. Depending on how much time you have this can be a day trip or extended with an extra day just wondering around the Great Windsor Park.
Not to worry if you don’t have a car as public transport is quick and frequent. Trains from either Waterloo or London Paddington go to Windsor & Eton Riverside pretty much all day. The fastest way is by GWR from Paddington via Slough and takes about 30 minutes with prices starting from £11 for off peak hours if bought in advance. To get the best out of your day I suggest an early train that arrives by 9 a.m. That will allow you to visit the town and be in front of the castle in time for the guard change. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. , four times a week, and can sometimes be cancelled, especially in wet weather. Be sure to check the calendar on their website prior to your visit.
Windsor Castle is just across the train station and is currently one of the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world as the Official Residence of the Queen. It’s quite astonishing and you will soon forget the £20.50 entry fare once you are in. The best part is you can get your ticket stamped and return for free within a year from your visit. Only some of the buildings and rooms are open to the public depending on the time of the year but one still needs 2-3 hours to fully explore it. Photography and video are not allowed inside the castle so unfortunately I can’t show you the interior. The last admission is at 4 p.m. with earlier hours during the winter season. I would advise you to buy the ticket online in order to skip the long queue.
Once in, head to the lower ward to see the St George’s Chapel, the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter founded in 1348 by Eduard III. Here rest some of England’s sovereigns including Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. A great example of Gothic architecture.
As you make your way to the middle ward, you can visit the Round Tower, only opened during the summer period. Therefore closed during my visit. From here walk along the North Terrace for a view over Windsor as you reach the State Apartments entrance. Words can not describe what lies between those walls. Fine China dinnerware collected from all over the world, silver furniture and paintings dating from the 16th century and a massive armoury collection.
If you ended your castle visit and looking to grab lunch there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from. Expect to pay London prices. You can’t go wrong with fish and chips, especially if they serve hake. The Duchess of Cambridge Pub has some great reviews on Tripadvisor and it was exactly as expected. It was almost fully booked, but the waiter manage to find me a table in the end – the struggle of eating alone. Good service, fantastic food and good local ale – £18 together with the tips. If you fancy desert of a second beer expect to pay £25 – 30 / person. I will definitely eat there again on my next visit.
For the next part of the day I head out to Great Windsor Park to visit Savill Garden. 15 minutes drive by car so if you don’t mind the £15 cab fare ( each way) I suggest you take one. The other option takes about 70 minutes and involves taking the bus no 8 from Parish Church stop ( £6.5 day ticket) and 45 minutes of walking from Middle Hill stop. At first on a clear path next to the main road that cuts the forest and then on the actual road meaning you have to avoid the incoming traffic. There are a few signs but Google maps it’s invaluable as otherwise you may take the wrong turn.
Another option would be to walk The Long Walk ( aprox. 5 miles) and cross the Deer Park until you reach the Cooper Horse Statue of King George III. From here walk the straight line that goes into the forest and join the road for another 20-30 minutes to reach the garden. Again Google Maps is your friend as there are no signs. Be aware of the warning sign and read it!
Great Windsor Park is huge and unless you are on a bike or by car then there is no chance of covering it all. Focus on the Valley Gardens and Savill Garden on you first visit. The first one being free. Check out the Obelisk pond and statue.
The Savill Garden has an entry fee of £10.5 which includes free parking. Divided in 8 sections, each with it’s own charm depending on the season, it’s well worth the money if you are a nature lover. Open in the ’30s this a place of relaxation where you can discover hundred of plant and tree species including a rose garden. A 2 hours visit should be enough for most of us. If you are a botanist then a full day would give you to cover most of the plants. When leaving don’t forget to stop by the shop if you plan buying some plants for your new apartment.
Return to Windsor by one of the ways mentioned above. Alternatively catch the bus to Heathrow T5 and from there the tube. You will have to walk a few miles to the bus stop though. I choose to walk and almost had to turn back when entering the Deer Park I found myself surrounded by thousands animals bellowing in the pitch black of the night. The rutting season makes them dangerous and one has to be careful. The short autumn day did not work in my advantage for sure. Should have did the walk on my way to the garden and return by bus not the other way around.
After a very long day and over 30 miles of walking I managed to catch the train back to London. A cloudy day, but warm and no wind made a pleasant getaway from the busy and polluted capital. The autumn colours added an extra wow factor to the trip. I will certainly return for a visit to the park in the spring.
Train ticket return : £11.30
Bus day pass: £6.50
Windsor Castle entrance: £20.50
Savill Garden entrance: £10.50
Lunch: £18 ( fish and chips – £11.45 / Pint of local ale – £4.65/ tips)
Snacks and water: £5