On Saturday we continued our tours with a visit to Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, also with a quick stop at Harrods for lunch. (I will tell you about Harrods later.) Windsor Castle is west of London and close to where we live. It is very near Heathrow Airport so planes taking off fly right overhead. It is hard to look around the castle grounds when you want to keep looking up at a 747!
Queen Elizabeth has said that Windsor Castle is truly her home. The family has strong connections to the castle; Prince Philip’s mother was born there. Buckingham Palace, which is right in the heart of London, she calls the office. Windsor is in a beautiful location on top of a hill with great views on a clear day. A little more than half the castle is open for public tours. The other portion is the royal family’s private residence.
The tour is self guided with audio handsets taking you through the State Apartments, the Drawings Gallery, Queen Mary’s Doll House and St. George’s Chapel. Sometimes the garden and the kitchen are also open to tour.
The State Apartments are the large meeting rooms where people would come to visit the kings and queens of year’s past. There is an enormous dining room where special events are still held. Everything is decorated with the finest art, famous portraits, and more gold than you can imagine. The collection is incredible and very interesting. There are also rooms filled with armor, shields and swords.
Queen Mary’s Doll House was a gift to Queen Mary in the 1920s. It is brand new compared to most items in the castle. It is about 6 feet tall and wide. What is amazing is everything in the doll house actually works; water runs, the lights turn on, the vacuum runs. All of the artwork on the walls was painted by the original artist in miniature and craftsmen made the tiny furniture and fabrics. It is very interesting to see.
We really enjoyed the castle. Grant did admit that the portraits of all the old kings was getting a little boring… well there were hundreds. We ran out of time to see everything and had to hurry to catch our bus back into London.
The little town around Windsor caters to the castle and tourists but has great shopping and dining options. There is a train station walking distance from the castle entrance, so when you come to visit we will take you here.
What we didn’t realize when we headed off to Tower of London in the afternoon was visiting just one castle can be a full day event and we were going for two. The Tower of London is located right in London, next to the Thames River and the famous Tower of London Bridge.
The Tower’s history is much more lively than Windsor Castle. This was the sight of many beheadings and the likely killing of two young princes by their uncle who wanted to ascend to the throne. Sounds like a movie!
It was often a prison for both men and women whom the king or queen did not like. One of the most famous was Sir Walter Raleigh who married a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I. She was not happy about this and imprisoned him with his family in the Tower off and on for most of his life. Eventually he was executed there.
The crown jewels are kept here and they are breathtaking. They have the largest diamonds in the world and ornate crowns worn by royalty hundreds of years ago. There is also a large display of armaments from daggers and swords to spears and guns. Many very ornate themselves. The armor suits of many kings are on display here.
It can be a little bit of history overload, but well worth the effort.