London Drum

Windsor Castle – State Apartments & Chapel

Windsor Castle
Where? Windsor Castle, Windsor · Web: rct.uk Opening times? 10 AM to 5.15 PM (Mon & Thu-Sun, Mar-Oct); 10 AM to 4.15 PM (Mon & Thu-Sun, Nov-Feb); Last entry to the grounds 1¼ hours before closing; Last entry to the State Apartments 30 mins before closing; Last entry to St. George’s Chapel at 4 PM Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £26.50; Children £14.50 (5-17); Infants free entry (under-5) Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 5 hours (including travel time to/from london) Trains: Windsor Central, Windsor & Eton Riverside Train fares

Craig’s review… You’ll get your first good look at the castle as you’re coming into the station and it’s huge! It looks a lot like Camelot with its turrets and fluttering flags and crenelated battlements. It will straight away become your favourite place to visit before you’ve even got off the train.

When you exit the station you have to walk along a winding path through the old town to get up to the castle gates. It’s a very picturesque place full of ye olde shops and cobbles and country-style pubs and you’ll probably want to set aside some time to explore it. Eventually you’ll come to the gun cops on the gate and stump up your money to get in. Then once you’re through the security scanners you can pick up an audio-guide and stroll around at your own leisure.

The medieval Round Tower

The big difference between Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace is that the palace is just one building, whereas in here you get the entire castle precinct plus the chapel, park and gardens. The most iconic part is the Round Tower on top of the motte, and one entire side of that hill has been decorated like a garden rockery with crooked stone steps and babbling little rivers running down it. It’s as if they’ve brought in Disney to design the fortifications… it’s the kind of castle you read about in fairytales. It still has all of the usual thick brick walls and arrow slits, but the moat has been drained away and filled with daffodils and cherry blossom.

As you make your way to the State Apartments you have to walk around the curtain wall at the very top of the castle, and that’s when you really start to appreciate how high up you are. The view must stretch for twenty miles at least. It’s just miles and miles of washed-out hills as they go hazy in the bright light. If you peek over the curtain wall then you’ll be surprised to find that you are actually above the tree line, looking down on their canopies as they climb up the hill.

The Royal State Apartments

You enter the State Apartments through a grand staircase that’s bristling with swords and silver-suited knights on horseback, all set up to defend the King against the tourist hordes pouring through the door. There must be a thousand swords on show, plus another couple of hundred guns and rifles pinned up in spiral patterns.

The Waterloo Chamber is the famous one with chestnut walls and honey-coloured carvings on the roof, decorated with pictures of Wellington and his generals.

The next room contains some very famous portraits of Richard III, Edward IV and Henry V. Then you walk through the next-door and see Henry VIII, Edward VI, James I and a young Elizabeth I. You will recognise all of these paintings because they’re the iconic ones you find in history books. Then you have paintings from the Royal Collection by the likes of Raphael, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Holbein – this place is better than the National Gallery!

St. George’s Hall and St. George’s Chapel

St. George’s Hall is where they hold all of the big banquets for visiting Heads of State. Silver suits of medieval armour are holding iron pikes over the diners’ heads whilst the roof is covered in hundreds of heraldic shields. Once again it looks just like a Disney castle – this is real history in the guise of Arthur’s Camelot.

St. George’s Chapel is absolutely fantastic with an altar all peach-coloured marble and gold. It’s decorated with some of the brightest stained glass window I have ever seen and the golden plaques and banners of chivalrous knights dating back to the reign of Edward III.

George V and VI are both buried in the chapel, and Charles I and Henry VIII lie under a big black slab in the floor. So here are two of the most infamous English kings of all, lying quietly without fanfare, whilst half of the tourists walk over them without even realising.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Buckingham Palace; Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

H&M I was wondering what the thinking was for trying to fit in a visit to Windsor Castle during our three day stay in London. We have purchased a London Pass and Oyster Card in advance. We are first timers to London. Any suggestions are welcome.

Craig Hi H&M. You can certainly do it. I recommend at least 5 hours in total for a trip to Windsor Castle (which includes the journey there and back on the train), so if you start early then you can still be back in London in plenty of time to do something else in the evening. But bear in mind that last entry for most places is around 4 or 4:30 PM, so if you are planning to get back to London by late afternoon then maybe you should save something that stays open late for that day (like the London Eye perhaps? Or a show?) And remember that an Oyster card won't get you out as far as Windsor - you will need to buy a separate ticket for that.

Logie What are your thoughts about trying to get to Windsor when it opens at 10am and then trying to fit in the Tower of London later in the day. I am working on an itinerary with this as a possibility. On Monday, we would concentrate on Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Churchill War Rooms and Kensington Palace. Thank You

Craig Well, it's doable... but I don't think I'd recommend it. I normally suggest five hours for Windsor (including the train journey there and back), so if you leave at 9 AM you could be in the castle by 10 AM and then back in London by 2 PM. Then you've got to get the tube over to the Tower. Let's say you're in the Tower by 3 PM. That will give you maybe two hours inside (depending on what day you're going). I'd normally recommend at least three hours. But the main reason I wouldn't fancy it is because of all the walking. You're going to be sitting on a train for two hours, walking around hilly windsor castle (which is a lot of walking), and then another two hours walking around the tower (which is also a lot of walking). I would imagine that you would be totally knackered by the end of it. But it's only one day of being knackered, so maybe it's worth it. Both of those places are definitely worth visiting.

Eta We would love some help in planning a day trip to Windsor Castle leaving from the Trafalgar Square area. We have a London Pass and Oyster Card, thank you!

Craig Hi Eta, It's definitely worth seeing but it's too far away for an Oyster card, unfortunately, because it's outside the zones. You'll have to buy a seperate train ticket. You can get a train to Windsor from Waterloo, which is walkable from Trafalgar Square - just head down Northumberland Avenue and then across Hungerford Bridge. It only takes 15 mins to walk it. Or you can get the Bakerloo line from Charing Cross if you prefer

Eta Thank you for that help. Can I use the Oyster card for just part of the train journey?

Craig You can't get any money knocked off your National Rail ticket if you travel from Waterloo (unless you have a travelcard on your Oyster card), but you could use your Oyster card to travel on the tube to Richmond, and then get a National Rail train from there. But you'd have to pay for the underground journey as well so you'd only save about 10p (literally!)

Owj I have noticed there are two options for trains to Windsor. As we have tickets for the Hop on Hop off Bus in Windsor we were wondering are we better off getting off at Windsor & Eton Riverside or Windsor Central?

Craig Hi Owj. There are hop-on hop-off bus stops all over town, so it doesn't make much difference which one you arrive into. Both train stations are a short walk from the castle. Windsor Central is about a 5 mins walk, and Windsor & Eton Riverside just a couple of minutes more, so there's not a lot in it. But you also have to walk up a hill if you arrive into Windsor & Eton Riverside. If it was me I would just choose the station that gives you the quickest journey from London, because some trains stop at a lot more places along the way and take 30 mins longer.

trevor Hello. Are you allowed to just walk around the outside of the buildings for free, i mean around the grounds, if you don't want to go inside?

Craig Hi Trevor. No, you have to pay to get inside the castle (inside the castle wall). But there's a big huge park to the south which you can walk around, and get good views of the castle

said Which is the best one to see out of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace?

Craig Hi Said, I think they're both well-worth seeing, but if I had to plump for just one then I'd probably go for Buckingham Palace. There's definitely a lot more to see at Windsor Caste, but it's more of a day trip, so if you've got limited time then you'll have more time to squeeze in other attractions if you just spend a couple of hours at Buckingham Palace. But that's assuming you come during the summer when the State Rooms are open. If you come at any other time of year then Windsor Castle is better, because that stays open all year round

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