When planning our trip through London, I was set on a doing a few things and visiting Windsor Castle was near the top of the list. I was lucky enough to visit here “back in ’98”…turns out I’m older than I thought. At that time I was a freshman on a high school trip. I was less focused on the history back then and was excited to fill in the gaps this time around. Whitney on the other hand wanted to visit one of the historic towns outside London (which I guess would have included Windsor, but as usual we wanted a little more) and Stonehenge since it is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. With these in mind, we compared taking public transportation as well as the entry prices and decided on a 12hr bus tour package that included Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge for 87pounds each through Premium Tours.
We loaded into a double decker bus, maybe 70 people total and took off from Victoria Coach Station at 8:30am for Windsor Castle, the Royal Residence of Queen Elizabeth II. We enter the town of Windsor with the castle standing tall in the center, the walls towering above the surrounding buildings. Our guide led us to the entrance and handed out our tickets making it all very easy and convenient. He offered to give everyone a walking tour after we entered the front gates, but we chose to move ahead using the free audio tour provided at the entrance (no need to get caught up in the large group…makes taking photos that much harder, especially selfies). The gardens surrounding the castle were gorgeous. We snapped a few pictures and continued around to the north side of the castle.
As we approach the main tourist entrance to the castle there was a long line long line to see the Queen’s doll houses, so we skipped this part and headed straight into the state rooms. As it turns out, there is no photography inside the state rooms anyway, so with cameras tucked away we wandered through with our audio tour guiding the way. The tour gave a brief history of the rooms, the paintings, and the types of activities that were held in each area in the past. It was exciting to see that this castle remains active as there was a crew setting up for an upcoming event to be hosted in the state rooms July 12th. My favorite space in the castle was St George’s Hall, rebuilt after the fire in 1992 and displaying the coat of arms of various knights. It’s able to host a State Banquet for a party of 162 guests.
We exited the castle at the Upper Ward just as a group of the Queens Guards came marching through. It appeared they were preparing for the upcoming guard change. Knowing we still had about 15minutes to explore, we entered St. Georges Chapel for a quick look. We expected to see a number of churches and cathedrals and didn’t linger long. After a quick walk-through the chapel, we scrambled down to the curb to watch the action. It’s impressive to see the discipline in these men as they perform their duties.
As soon as the show was over we boarded the bus for Bath a 2hr drive. Nearing Bath, we began to see the town tucked away between a few rolling hills. We unloaded in the center of downtown and followed the tour group to the Roman Baths. This exhibit dates back to the 1890s and is built over natural hot springs. It wasn’t much to see in my opinion, but was included in the tour so why not. Afterward, we grabbed a quick snack from the Cornish Bakery. This on the other hand was well worth the stop, highly recommended (Thanks Prue). We spent the next couple hours touring the small town on our own. There seemed to be a main avenue for shopping that led up to The Circus (a huge round-a-bout with a circle of buildings surrounding it) and the Royal Crescent that overlooks a park. On the walk back toward the downtown area came across a secret little Georgian Garden. It was a nice town for escaping the busy streets of London.
The final destination on this tour was Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument which seems to have been built in the middle of nowhere. Placed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, we wanted to make sure we saw it with our own eyes. The numerous pictures we have seen and the many we took ourselves do not do this justice. Some of the stones are the size of cars and the type of rock comes from far away. It’s very hard to understand the purpose and how it was created, so we are left with the myths that make it so intriguing.
Overall, we do recommend at making one day trip out of London if you have the chance. It was a little pricy for us to book the entire tour, but it would have been similar cost if we put it together ourselves with public transportation and entry tickets. Some other options would include Oxford or Stratford-Upon-Avon, but we will have to come back for those. Personally, I would at least make the trip to Windsor Castle and possibly try to come during the months of September to March when the Semi-State Rooms are open as well.