All eyes are on Windsor with the Royal Wedding now confirmed for May 19, 2018. Windsor will likely top the list for most-visited destinations in 2018.
Rich in history and home to the longest-occupied palace in Europe, Windsor (and its surrounding areas) takes more than a weekend to explore and appreciate. Across the region is living history, complemented by experiences that showcase a unique and unexpected side of England.
No matter when you’re planning to visit, we have the go-to guide for how to see the sights and delightful surprises of South East England, all just 30 minutes from London by train.
1. WINDSOR CASTLE: Great History – and Even Greater Heights
The oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle, has been home to monarchs for nearly 1,000 years. Containing fabulous treasures, including a large portion of the Royal Collection and the extravagant architecture of St George’s Chapel (where Prince Harry and Meghan will hold their ceremony), the Castle also offers public access to the State Apartments, The Drawings Gallery, and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has since been home to 39 monarchs and is where The Queen now spends most of her private weekends.
Did You Know? You can climb to one of the highest points of Windsor Castle.
The Conquer the Tower Tour lets you climb the 200 steps to the top of Windsor Castle's iconic Round Tower. From the top, enjoy breathtaking views across the historic Windsor parkland, the Thames Valley, London skyline as well as the extent of Windsor Castle’s 13 acres.
The tour also gives you an up-close view of the Castle’s 50-foot flagpole, which flies the Royal Standard when The Queen is in residence and the Union Flag when Her Majesty is away from Windsor.
2. ETON COLLEGE: Education, Ancient Artefacts and Eats
Visit one of the oldest (and most famous) schools in the world, originally founded in 1440 by Henry VI to provide free education for poor scholars and now boasting a lengthy connection with the Royal Family, the aristocracy and famous statesmen. Noteworthy alums include Princes William and Harry, former Prime Minister David Cameron, among others.
Tours showcasing the imposing architecture and hallowed halls are available to the public, as well as access to the campus’ National History Museum, with more than 16,000 specimens and displays with donations dating back to the 19th century.
Did You Know? Eton College was the birthplace of Eton Mess!
Rumour has it, the English dessert was created when the strawberry, meringue and cream dessert was dropped at Eton’s annual cricket match against Harrow School and scooped into bowls to eat, despite being smashed to bits from its original form.
3. WINDSOR GREAT PARK: A Walk Among Wildlife (and Wine)
With nearly 5,000 acres to explore at Windsor Great Park, there is always something to do if adventure and activity are high on your list. With a Royal history spanning over 1,000 years, the grounds feature everything from historical monuments, ancient forests and horticultural displays to rare wildlife and plants. Seasonal activities range from walking and cycling to horseback riding, fishing and mountain biking.
Did You Know? The Queen’s very own royal bubbly, Windsor Vineyard Sparkling Wine, comes from a vineyard located on the sweeping, historic parkland grounds!
In 2011, The Queen granted permission to Laithwaite’s (the UK’s largest wine retailer) to build Windsor Great Park Vineyard. The first harvest in 2013 saw at least 3,000 bottles of classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier produced.
4. THE BERKSHIRE: Memorable Patrons and Modern Polo
The Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club (RCBPC), commonly known as The Berkshire, is one of the UK’s top-tier polo clubs and the home of modern polo, sitting on a 220-acre estate of British countryside. Founded by music mogul Bryan Morrison, The Berkshire has been at the forefront of high society since founding member HRH The Prince of Wales officially opened the club in 1985.
In addition to the legendary members’ clubhouse, a center of convergence for Hollywood superstars and rock and roll royalty, The Berkshire boasts world-class sporting facilities, six pristine polo fields and stabling to accommodate over 200 horses.
Did You Know? Playing polo on the same grounds as Prince Harry is possible!
The club’s founding member was HRH The Prince of Wales, with both Prince William and Prince Harry as players. Home to the highly-coveted Prince of Wales tournament, The Berkshire attracts the world’s best teams and players.
For a unique Royal experience, take a Cool Hooves Polo Lesson, where you’ll be coached through the basics of polo in the UK’s first all-weather polo arena before graduating to the grass game. The “safety first” polo ponies help make learning to play easy and ensure a fun introduction to the sport as you experience your first chukka (periods of the game).
5. CLIVEDEN HOUSE: An Estate of Royal Britain’s Scandalous Secrets
Bordering Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, Cliveden House is a historic hotel and estate, offering five-star accommodation
s and public access to its elaborate gardens of floral displays, statues and topiaries, and ancient woodlands with panoramic views.
Cliveden House’s history spans more than 350 years of power and politics, a home to dukes, earls, kings and queens – and scandal. In 1961, the scandal that shook the British parliament played out on these very grounds. Today, 376 acres of Grade I listed formal gardens and woodlands still stand upon the chalk cliffs which lend the house its name, offering stunning views over the Berkshire countryside.
Did You Know? Cliveden House’s “The Butler Did It” reveals the inside scoop on the scandals and stories of Britain.
The experience includes not only luxe meals at the estate’s restaurant from Chef André Garrett but also a private Butler’s talk, which reveals political secrets and revelations from across Cliveden’s history. Walk away with stories you didn’t know were true and a copy of the “Mistresses of Cliveden,” written by the current owner of Cliveden, Natalie Livingstone.
6. THE RIVER THAMES: Roam the Royal River, by Water or Walking
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead embraces some of the loveliest countryside and the finest reaches of the River Thames. Flowing through the whole of the Royal Borough, it is along or near the river that many historic and attractive towns and villages can be found including Bray, Eton and Maidenhead.
Perhaps the most historic, the River Thames offers easy strolls along the Thames Path and the chance to visit many attractions and Thames-side towns and villages or to explore by boat. Traditional river cruises are available, as well as more active options such as rowing, kayaking or sailing.
Did You Know? Seasonal cruising with a classic cocktail in hand is available in November, February and March.
Take a gin tasting experience while cruising along the Thames on the Hobbs of Henley’s flagship vessel, “The New Orleans.” The Gin To My Tonic builds a tailored gin tasting menu of five courses, including Hobbs of Henley’s very own gin “Mr Hobbs,” newly launched in May 2017. Each gin will be distinctly unique, introduced and presented with its backstory, botanical make up and tasting notes.
7. FROGMORE HOUSE:
Just half a mile from Windsor Castle, the gardens at Frogmore House have been an enduring attraction for monarchs and their families since the house was bought for Queen Charlotte by her husband George III. Queen Charlotte introduced over 4,000 trees and shrubs to create a picturesque landscape, the historic plantings to this day still providing a rich setting for the garden’s seasonal variations.
Frogmore House was used regularly until the 19th century, after which it was only used intermittently. No members of the royal family lives at Frogmore, the house is still used for entertaining and events such as weddings.
Did You Know? Visitors have a 0.8% chance of seeing the Gardens at Frogmore House.
Frogmore House is only open to visitors for three days in the Spring, during which all proceeds are donated to charity.
8. DESTINATION DINING: Michelin Stars and More
Windsor has a wealth of world class cuisine and is home to half of the United Kingdom’s triple-starred Michelin restaurants. Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Windsor was awarded its third Michelin star in 2016, adding it to the globe's list of world class dining.
Blumenthal’s other Michelin-starred pub The Hinds Head features fine fare and is located in a 15th century building, while the Roux family owned Waterside Inn remains the first restaurant outside of France to maintain 3 Michelin stars for 25 years in a row.
Did You Know? Boats aren’t just for sailing, they’re for sumptuous dining.
In Spring 2017, Bateaux Windsor introduced The Melody, a new floating restaurant featuring the perfect backdrop to enjoy your choice of three-course lunches, afternoon tea or five-course dinners.
Enjoy seasonal fare, a superior restaurant experience and scenic views of the Royal Castle as you cruise the calm waters of Windsor.
9. ROYAL SPORTING TRADITIONS: Racing, Rowing and Rural Adventures.
Home to the Royal Ascot, a pinnacle five-day event in the Summer social calendar and a must-attend event dating back to 1711, Ascot Racecourse boasts a long and storied royal history – a benefit of being just six miles from Windsor Castle. In fact, The Queen has attended every Royal Meeting during her reign, and the Royal Procession is the iconic moment that heralds the start of every race day.
While thoroughbred racing has long been associated with Royal tradition, so have sporting events such as the Henley Royal Regatta (named as such only after HRH Prince Albert became the first Royal Patron in 1851), Guards Polo Club events (the Cartier Queen's Cup attract 30,000 people to the club) and even the royal family’s annual Boxing Day pheasant hunt.
Did You Know? The Queen is a known sportswoman when it comes to shooting – and you can be, too.
A visit to E.J. Churchill Shooting Ground offers the chance to hone your skills at the traditional English sport. Set amidst 40 acres of West Wycombe Estate woodlands, the shooting ground comprises over 150 clay shooting stands and 6 clay shooting disciplines offering varied and extensive practice and tuition opportunities.
10. STOKE PARK: Gorgeous Grounds, Golf & Glamour.
Founded in 1908, Stoke Park Club is the epitome of English country club class. The historic estate offers five-star luxury accommodations in Buckinghamshire countryside and a Harry Colt-designed golf course. Luxe on-site activities include a day at the glamorous spa, which features an indoor heated swimming pool, Italian marble steam rooms, relaxation rooms, nail bar and boutique.
Stoke Park combines the traditions of an exclusive club and the best of today's sporting, leisure, entertaining and hotel facilities in one of the most convenient locations in Britain.
Did You Know? Stoke Park is one of the hottest filming locations for Hollywood mega-movies.
In addition to two James Bond movies (Goldfinger, Tomorrow Never Dies), Stoke Park is also where some of the most unforgettable scenes were filmed for Bridget Jones’ Diary, Layer Cake and RocknRolla, among others.
For more ideas on how to holiday in The Royal Borough, visit media.visitbritain.com/ca/en.
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com