The events in this post occurred on July 22nd, 2009.
We were fortunate to be staying with friends in the Chiswick area of London so our trip to Windsor Castle took approximately 50 minutes.
Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle and the official residence of the Queen of England!
Getting to Windsor Castle
We had to take the Underground from Turnham Green, on the District Line, to Paddington, a 20 minute ride. At Paddington we jumped on a First Great Western train (8 pounds per person, as of 2009) to Windsor after transfering through Slough.
Windsor Castle was well worth the fifty minutes it took to get there. Admission was £14 for students, £15.50 for adults. There are family packages as well. Here is a list of all the features and exhibits currently on display there.
Summer vs. Winter Visits
One fun aspect of the castle is that if you visit in the winter, you get access to five “Semi-State Rooms” that you don’t get to see in the summer (since the Queen will be living there). Since we hadn’t consulted with the Queen as to the best timing of our visit, we didn’t get to see those Semi-State Rooms but the rest of the interior was amazing.
We recommend consulting the official website before your visit to make sure you get the maximum value. From time to time the castle or parts of it are closed for official business.
The Guided Tour
The guided tour took approximately fifteen minutes and very entertaining. It was one of the rare times the photo of the tour guide on the placard was actually the person giving the tour! The tour is free and only covers the grounds of the castle, for the interior you will want to get the free audio tours available near the entrance.
The audio tour is free so there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t want to take it. It’s almost required if you want to get any of the history for the interior of the castle because there are no interior tours and very few, if any, plaques explaining the rooms.
Inside the Castle
There were two parts of the interior that stood out for us. The first was Queen Mary’s Dolls House and second was St. George’s Hall.
Queen Mary’s Dolls House is absolutely amazing. It was never designed to be a child’s plaything, but a way for the craftsmen of the time to showcase their skills in miniature.
I wish we were allowed to take pictures inside the state rooms so I could show you what we saw, but instead here are a collection of photos that Google has found on the internet.
Our second favorite area was St. Georges Hall because it was this huge hallway with the crests of all the knights all along the walls and ceiling. Disgraced knights had their shields replaced with completely white shields and there’s even a roll listing which knight was which crest (available upon request).
Overall, we thought going to Windsor Castle was well worth the trip!
If you want to learn a little more, the Wikipedia entry on Windsor Castle is very informative.