Every child has a fascination with castles, knights and shiny armour…well at least I did. What better place to experience them all, than in the great land of the United Kingdom (UK). This is our first blog entry on a castle and it’s a special one too…Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest continuously occupied castle in the world! Yes it’s a royal residence and rumour has it that it’s the Queen’s favourite home. However, we did not have the opportunity to ask her that question on our visit 😉
As we arrived in the beautiful town of Windsor just outside of London one morning, we were greeted with pleasant smiles, unique shops, and charming cobbled streets. After a short walk through the market, we bumped into Windsor Castle. What a sight! If you love castles, this is a place to visit. Being our first trip to London, we choose a bus tour to visit Windsor Castle. The tour company Premium Tours arranged everything; including a very charming and entertaining tour guide named Steve, driver Geoff, and of course our tickets. As we passed the very long line to buy tickets onsite, we knew booking tickets in advance was the right decision!
Steve and his ‘twin brother’ were like an incredible body of knowledge…like a human Wikipedia with charming British manner and wit. As we entered the Castle’s exterior wall, Steve asked us to meet him on the other side. Once our group was on the inside of the exterior wall, Steve’s identical twin joined us. You’d be hard pressed to tell each one apart. He too was quite jolly and entertaining with fun facts about Windsor Castle. He stayed for a few minutes and then walked back through the entrance, seconds later Steve was back! Of course Steve and his ‘twin’ were the same person; with a quick hat and jacket wardrobe change! Quite funny; especially for the little ones in our group.
Did you know that Windsor Castle occupies an incredible 13 acres (five hectares) of land? It’s a large site, full of beauty and wonder. For this post, I’ll comment on the buildings, what’s inside and outside, and who currently lives there (not me, yet it would be cool place to stay the weekend!).
After reading this post (please do, it’ll make me very happy 🙂 ), additional details can be found at the Royal Collection on Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle: the Building and History
Rome was not built in a day nor was Windsor Castle. Construction began in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. Originally it was built with wood. Someone must have realized that wood easily burns during an uprising and rebellion, so the castle was rebuilt late in the same century in stone. Someone was smart in selecting the right type of stone: it contains silica. Silica sparkles in the sunshine and acts as a self-cleaning agent in the rain! Now that is cool!
Present day Windsor Castle is very different from its original design. Several monarchs added and modified various aspects to this magnificent site. Among the additions included; the State rooms, private apartments and St. George’s Chapel. Charles II and George IV in particular had significant influences (oversaw major restorations) on the character of Windsor Castle.
- Charles II: Created extravagant Baroque interiors including St. George’s Hall.
- George IV: State apartments arrived, along with rich, priceless furnishings of Baroque, Rococo and Gothic architectural styles.
Windsor Castle: Who lives there and who owns it
Tenants: This is one big pad, and naturally you’d expect a large team just for the upkeep. Approximately 500 people live and work in the castle. In addition to these folks, the most familiar of the tenants would be the Royal family, including The Queen. She is the 39th monarch to live in this Castle since the 11th Century!
Landlord: The Occupied Royal Palaces Estate (aka British Government -> tax payers of England). It was mentioned that each resident of England pays less than one pound per year to maintain all the Royal properties and related expenses. This does not seem like a large amount when compared to the tourist attraction and interest that is derived from it.
Windsor Castle: The Inside
As with most historical buildings, no photography was allowed inside, so you’ll have to paint an image in your mind of the beauty and elegance of Windsor Castle. Think rich colours, large handcrafted items, wall to ceiling tapestry, and enough relief wood panelling to cover, oh I don’t know, a soccer field or so.
Queen Mary’s Doll House
Included in our tour of the State Apartments was a visit to Queen Mary’s Doll House. As you walk inside, past very friendly staff, you step into a room and your eyes immediately focus on the intricate details of this doll house. This is not your ordinary doll house. This multi-floored house has running cold and hot water (if you look carefully, one of the taps is leaking) and electricity and we were told the toilets even flush! Remember the movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”…now imagine you were part of that movie and got shrunk to a scale of 1:12 as you were visiting the Queen Mary’s Doll house. Life would be a royal experience 😉 (Pun intended)
As we left the room, the highlight of the tour was about to begin:
The State Apartments
You may have seen images of the Queen entertaining from various State Rooms. These pale in comparison to walking through these glorious rooms in person. Each room has its own character and function. Everything from the decorative ornaments on the walls and ceilings, to the priceless paintings and artifacts, put us in a speechless mode! (which, if you knew us is hard to do) As I approached a particular wall to appreciate the fine marksmanship of the hand carvings and brush strokes of a painting, you could only imagine the history behind each of these. It would have been cool to be a fly on the wall when some of these were first placed in Windsor Castle. Two rooms in particular left me in awe: St. George’s Hall and the Grand Reception Room. From the vastness of the English dictionary, I’m sure there are words to describe what we saw, yet I have not come across the right word so, let’s close our eyes and begin painting a picture:
Grand Reception Room:
You’ll need plenty of glittering gold chandeliers and hand crafted reliefs on the ceiling, larger than life oil paintings depicting historical events and famous people, a gold covered clock and lamps on the mantle of the marble fireplace, gold coloured (lots of gold here) and I suspect quite comfortable chairs (I asked if they were comfy, yet everyone I spoke with had not had the opportunity/permission to sit on one). Finish off your vision with a colourful area rug that would cover the average home in square footage. Let’s not forget the wood flooring, which was damaged in the great fire of 1992. Someone was smart and suggested to turn the wood floor panels upside down and relay them…brilliant idea!
St. George’s Hall:
This is the room where The Queen has State dinners with important people (still waiting for my invitation). Think of a room 185 feet long and 30 feet wide. The dining table measures out to 175 feet long. The cook has got to be one busy person to feed a table that large!
One cool thing (there’s a lot) about this room are the shields that hang from the ceiling and wall. A shield from every Knight, displayed since day one. Some of the shields were painted white to symbolize the naughty Knights, in the eyes of the Monarch. If you look closely you may be able to see them from an earlier photo in the post.
Windsor Castle: The Outside
Finally, it was time to release the dogs – I mean the cameras. Every aspect of Windsor Castle is photographic. I’ve included several below each with a short story to tell.
Tourists not allowed on the fully manicured lawns facing the State Rooms and Apartments – boo! If you did venture onto them, the marching Guard would make your trip a short one.
The heavily fortified walls of Windsor Castle: Those thin cross shaped opening were used by archers. From the outside, the opening is a small target, yet for the archer, his area for aiming his weapon was vast.
If an intruder made it past the outer walls, they would soon face an entrance like this one. First, you’d need to get thru a thick wooden door. Then, avoid walking under those holes on the upper part of the entrance. Guards would shove nasty, hot stuff down these holes in an attempt to stop any intruder. Not pleasant and very effective!
Fortunately, the day we chose to visit had the Changing of the Guard. Hearing the sounds from the marching band, we hurried our way in that direction to catch a glimpse of the last five minutes of the ceremony. Watching the Queens Guards marching in unison dressed in their finest red tunics and bearskins put smiles on everyone’s face; including the smallest visitors that morning. Afterwards, we had a closer look at one of the guards, before some repulsive tourist thought it would be funny to poke him. He proudly and professionally stood guard; which I was very impressed to see. It would have been funny to see him poke that annoying tourist with the end of his rifle, for a taste of his own medicine. 🙂
So many places to see so little time. Our time was ticking away and we had other places to visit that day on our bus tour (future blog posts…stay tuned).
As we headed back to the bus, we came across a very unique phone booth decorated with the Royal family by artist @timmyMallett
This is not your ordinary phone booth. It was mentioned there are countless others through out England. Very cool and very creative!
Windsor Castle is a magical and remarkable place. Spending an entire day would only scratch the surface of discovering and reliving some of its history. Our short visit moistened our appetite for more. Next time we visit England we will return to continue our adventure of discovery within the walls of Windsor Castle; among other historical sites. Perhaps The Queen will be in attendance next time ~ Or not 🙂 . Either way, this is a “must visit” / “bucket list” location when travelling to England. We highly recommend it and it’s family friendly too.
Now before heading off for some Afternoon Tea, we would love to hear what you thought of our review -> Please share your feedback and comments…Thank you and happy travels!