I woke up early this morning because I was going to visit Windsor Castle today!
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. It is an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, whose standard flies from the Round Tower when she is in residence. (And as you can see from the picture on the left, The Queen was in the day I visited Windsor Castle! But she didn’t come by and say ‘Hi!’ though… Haha…)
Windsor is still very much a working royal palace. The Castle is used regularly for ceremonial and State occasions. It is here that The Queen often hosts State Visits from overseas monarchs and presidents. There are various sights to visit at Windsor Castle, including The State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, St George’s Chapel, The Drawing Gallery, The Semi-State Rooms, and the Changing of Guards.
There are 2 train services from Central London to Windsor Castle:
- Operated by First Great Western, one can take from London Paddington to Slough (1 station-17mins), and then from Slough to Windsor & Eton Central (1 station-6mins) with a total cost of £10.20 (valid for Off-Peak Return). Depending on the time needed to wait for the change in train in Slough, this is the faster option (total time is anywhere between 30mins to 45mins) and there are more frequent services.
- Operated by South West Trains, one can take from London Waterloo directly to Windsor & Eton Riverside (13 stations-54mins) with a total cost of £11.50 (valid for Off-Peak Return). This is a regular service that runs every 30mins.
Wifey and her colleagues went to Windsor Castle after visiting Borough Market using the direct train from London Waterloo because the rail station is near to Borough Market. Also there were 3 of them and hence there was a discount for train tickets using GroupSave (34% discount for groups of 3 to 9), and they bought the Combined Rail and Entry Ticket which cost them only £15.25 for an entry ticket to Windsor Castle, instead of the usual £18.50. But since I was travelling alone, and London Paddington was nearer to my hotel at that time, I took the faster route from Paddington to Windsor.
After buying my first UK rail ticket, I promptly looked at the train schedule and went to the platform to board the train. The train was scheduled to leave in 20mins time so I found a seat in the train and got myself comfortable. After a short while, I faintly heard the PA system announcing something about an emergency and urged everyone in the station to leave the station. Since I was already in the train waiting to set off, I ignored the announcement (partly also because everyone who were seated in the train didn’t move as well).
However, a station attendant came in shortly and started yelling for everyone to leave the train, and the station, immediately. Sensing something could be very wrong, I quickly grabbed my backpack and left the train. To my surprise (more like horror), the whole station was full of people streaming OUT! It was then did I hear the announcement clearly:
“Due to an emergency security situation, all personnel are requested to leave the station IMMEDIATELY”
Everyone, including the waiters and waitresses of the eateries and cafes in the station, station masters, train drivers were just streaming out of the station onto the driveway. Surprisingly there were looks of surprise, frustrations (maybe) but I did not see any looks of panic. Maybe they were used to it? I quickly called wifey and let her know, because we were supposed to meet in Paddington when she arrived later in the day from Gloucester. Lots of wild thoughts went through my mind, and I assured her I was ok and that we might need to make alternative arrangements, if their train later could not stop at Paddington.
Just when I was ending my last sentence, I saw people started walking back to the station! Apparently the “emergency security situation” was over and we were told to go back to our plans. To think that the “emergency” lasted for only 20mins! And of course my train was delayed, but not by a lot though. Haha…
With that adventure behind, I was back on the road to Windsor Castle!
Once I reached the Windsor & Eton Central station, directions were aplenty to direct everyone to the castle. It was a short walk from the Windsor town to the castle and the atmosphere around town was one of festivity, like the whole town is forever celebrating. A very joyous walk indeed, in the cool weather.
Because this was already considered winter, there was no Changing of Guards everyday, and unfortunately today was not a scheduled day for the popular ceremony. Nevertheless there were plenty of things to see (and listen to) at the Windsor Castle. I bought the entry ticket and went through a airport-style security check including X-ray machines, and collected my audio guide which was included in the entry ticket. The audio guide proved to be a wonderfully useful tool in helping one to fully appreciate the castle and its exhibits.
As I strolled along the castle grounds, I just needed to press the corresponding numbers on the audio guide and a commentary of the history and the functions of the various rooms, galleries was provided. This was like a personal friend walking and introducing to you about the place. At The Drawing Gallery, for example, the commentary even tried to explain some of the art pieces so that one can begin to appreciate the richness of the collection. It was a very fulfilling experience for me, and I truly enjoyed the slow walk through the history of the castle.
There is also a free guided tour where a guide will take you on a walking tour of the castle grounds and point out the interesting parts of the castle. I was not able to catch this 30min tour when I was there but wifey and colleagues managed to follow one, and they enjoyed it very much! I guess having a physical person talking does have its charms! 🙂
I spent close to 2.5 hours here walking and at the end of the it, my legs were sore! The little Windsor town just outside the castle was beaming with eateries and it happened that a weekend market was staged en-route to the station! I enjoyed strolling through the market and had a wonderful sausage sandwich for lunch before taking the train back to Paddington to wait for reuniting with wifey! 😉
- Windsor Castle Official Page – Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
- National Rail Enquiries – This is where you can search for train schedules and prices for all over UK.
- Days Out Guide – This is a website which has details on 2FOR1 Offers which allows you to combine train tickets with entry tickets at a discount.
- CityMapper London – This is a mobile app which we used to help us plan our journey in Central London. It has details of all buses, tubes, rails and even walking directions!