AN EASY DAYTRIP FROM LONDON...even before getting over jet lag.
This is one of the most popular chapters from my first guidebook, Daytrips London. Originally written in 1982, it has been updated several times and is currently in its 7th edition. I've updated the factual information for this blog entry to Spring 2006, and added color photos as well as color to the map.
Windsor and Eton is just about the easiest one-day excursion that you can make from London, so easy in fact that you can try it even before getting over jet lag! Enjoy!
Windsor and Eton
Windsor, like Stratford, Oxford, and the Tower of London, is one of England's greatest tourist attractions. It has just the right combination of elements to make it an ideal daytrip for first-time visitors and seasoned travelers alike. To begin with, it is very close to the capital and easy to reach. Second, it contains within a small area much of what is considered to be typically English. There is the Royal Castle, still in use after 850 years, a picturesque riverside location on the Thames, a colorful Victorian town, and in Eton one of the great public schools that have molded British character since the Middle Ages. Add these together and you have a carefree and thoroughly delightful day ahead of you.
Trains operated by Thames depart London's Paddington Station frequently for Slough, where you change to a shuttle train for Windsor & Eton Central. The total journey takes about 40 minutes, with returns until late evening. Service is reduced on Sundays and holidays. There is also direct service, operated by South West, from London's Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside, taking about 50 minutes and running twice an hour, less frequently on Sundays and holidays. Most travelers will find the route via Paddington to be more convenient.
By Car, Windsor is 28 miles west of London via the M4 motorway. Get off at Junction 6.
The castle grounds and most attractions are open daily except for special events. If in doubt, check with the Tourist Information Centre, 25 High Street, opposite the castle, T: (01789) 743-900.
Guide Friday operates a hop-on, hop-off open-top, double-decker bus service from late March through October, running at frequent intervals on a continuous loop through Windsor and Eton. A running commentary is provided. Buy tickets from the driver or the tourist centre. T: (01789) 294-466.
Windsor is on the county of Berkshire, and has a population of about 30,000.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Some good restaurants and pubs are:
Stroks Restaurant (Thames St., near the bridge) English and French cuisine at an inn, once the home of Sir Christopher Wren. T: (01753) 861-354. X: Sat. lunch. £££
Punters Wine Bar (50 Thames St., near the bridge) Light lunches, dinners, and drinks, with outdoor tables beneath the castle. T: (01753) 865-565. ££
Red Rose (69 Victoria St., west of the Home Park) Excellent Indian cuisine. T: (01753) 620-180. £ and ££
Carpenters Arms (Market St., behind the Guildhall) A comfortable pub with lunches. X for meals: Sun. T: (01753) 863-695. £
Crooked Tea House (52 High St., near the Guildhall) Light lunches and teas. T: (01753) 857-534. X: Sun. £
The Cockpit (47 High St.) Enjoy Italian and other cuisines in this historic inn. X: Mon., Tues. lunch. T: (01753) 860-944. ££
Waterman's Arms (Brocas St., a block northwest of the bridge) This tiny pub has been a favorite for both its ale and pub grub. T: (01753) 861-006. £
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
CLICK ON THE MAP FOR LARGE PRINTABLE IMAGE.
Start your walk at the Royal Windsor Information Centre (1) at 24 High Street, opposite the castle and close to Central Station. Here you can check out the latest information and perhaps visit their small Town & Crown Exhibition, depicting the town's development and its relationship to the monarchy. Open daily. Free.
Cross the main street, passing the statue of Queen Victoria, and enter the grounds of:
*WINDSOR CASTLE (2-4), T: (01753) 868-286. Open daily except certain days; check first. Open March-Oct. 9:45-5:15 (last admission at 4); Nov.-Feb. 9:45-4:15 (last admission at 3). State apartments closed much of June, parts of Oct., and parts of Nov. St. George's Chapel is closed on Sun. ££££. Family tickets are available. Reduced prices when parts of the castle are closed.
Begun by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has been altered by nearly every succeeding monarch. It is the largest inhabited castle in the world and remains a chief residence for the sovereigns of England. Photo. left: Queen Victoria guards the castle.
Enter through Henry VIII's Gateway and visit *St. George's Chapel (2), one of the most beautiful churches in England and the home of the oldest order of chivalry, the Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348 by Edward III. Continue on past the massive Round Tower (3) and go out on the North Terrace, which has magnificent views up and down the River Thames. The entrance to the State Apartments (4) is nearby. Another appealing attraction is *Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature 20th-century palace in exquisite detail, also entered from the North Terrace. The rest of your tour of the castle can be spent just poking about any area that is not off limits.
Leave the castle and stroll down Church Street, perhaps stopping at the Parish Church and Brass Rubbing Centre. Walk through the graveyard to St. Alban's Street. You might want to go down Park Street for a view of the Long Walk (5) in the Home Park.
The elegant Guildhall (6) on High Street was completed in 1689 by Sir Christopher Wren. Step onto its porch and note that the center columns do not quite reach the ceiling they allegedly support, a trick played by the architect to prove the soundness of his design. Interior rooms open Mon. only, 10-2. Free.
Continue down High Street and Thames Street, making a left at the footpath to the river. Along the way you'll pass a bowling green, tennis courts, and a lovely waterside park. Boat trips operated by French Brothers Ltd., some as short as 35 minutes, are available here. T: (017353) 851-900. Fares from £££, family tickets available.
The old Cast-Iron Bridge (7) to Eton is reserved for pedestrians. Once across it, follow High Street past numerous shops and pubs to the Cock Pit (8), a 15th-century timbered inn where cockfighting was once patronized by Charles II, the Merry Monarch. Outside it are the town stocks and an unusual Victorian mailbox.
Eton College (9) was founded in 1440 by Henry VI, himself a teenager at the time. It is the most famous of England's public (meaning very private) schools and has educated many of the nation's greatest leaders. As you walk around you will notice the peculiar traditional garb of students, which makes them look a little like penguins. Parts of the school are open to visitors, including the schoolyard, cloisters, and the chapel. The Upper and Lower schools may also be seen, and guided tours are available. Be sure to visit the Museum of Eton Life, which re-creates life among the students in bygone times and is located in the cellars of the original 15th-century buildings. T: (01753) 671-177. Open late March to late April and early July to early Sept, 10:30-4:30; late April to early July and early Sept. to early Oct., 2-4:30. Guided tours at 2:15 and 3:15. The chapel is closed on weekdays from 1-2, and on Sun. from 12:30-2. The entire college is closed on two days in May and June. ££.
Return to the bridge. If you have any strength or time left you may want to take a pleasant walk along the Thames to the Romney Lock (10), or visit a pub before returning to London.
If you have a kid in tow, or even if you're just a big kid yourself, and especially if you're staying overnight, consider a visit to nearby:
LEGOLAND WINDSOR (11), Windsor-Ascor Rd. (B3022), 2 miles south of Windsor, T: (0990) 040404. Frequent bus service from outside the Parish Church or opposite the Theatre Royal in Windsor. Open mid-March through Oct., daily 10-6 or dusk if earlier, remaining open until 8 from mid-July to early Sept. ££££. Restaurants. Picnic facilities. Shops.
A British version of the Danish original, Legoland is a fun-packed theme park where children 2-12 can have a great time while learning all the while. There's a variety of rides for different age groups, challenging workshops, and a mini-Europe constructed from over 20 million Lego bricks.
Copyright © 2003 Earl Steinbicker
CAUTION: This information is from 2003 and is outdated. My up-to-the-minute version is available as an app for iPad, iPhone, i-PodTouch, and some Android devices, at VERY LOW COST.
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