Five family-friendly activities in London fit for royalty

The Duchess of Sussex is three-months’ pregnant and expecting her first baby in spring 2019, Kensington Palace revealed today.

Announced this morning, as Prince Harry and Meghan began their first official tour to Australia and New Zealand, the world reacted excitedly to the news that the royal family will once again be expecting the patter-patter of tiny feet. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a round-up of five of our favourite family-friendly attractions in and around the capital, for a right royal day out.

Spitalfields City Farm

Hidden away in the heart of vibrant Shoreditch, Spitalfield’s City Farm is home to farm-yard favourites including rabbits, pigs, chickens, geese and cows. Kids can discover the wonderful world of creepy-crawlies at The Bug Hotel and harvest their own vegetables during Kids’ Kitchen cookery lessons. There’s even the Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race – held annually on the same day as the University boat race, when goats Oxford and Cambridge compete for that extra bale of hay. https://www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org/, cost: free

LEGOLAND Windsor

Located a short distance from Windsor Castle, this world-famous amusement park is a bucket-list activity for many families visiting the capital. Divided into fantasy-themed lands based on the iconic brands most famous collections, there are 55 different activities to choose from, including the Atlantis Submarine Voyage in Adventure Land and the Splash Safari water park at Duplo® Valley. https://www.legoland.co.uk/ cost: Tickets from £32, children under two go free.

V&A Museum of Childhood

The nearby V&A Museum of Childhood is a must-see for London-bound families with an interest in history. Home to a range of fascinating permanent displays including the UK’s largest collection of dolls, the museum also hosts a range of special exhibitions such as A Pirate’s Life for Me – exploring the legends of pirates in history, which runs from this month until April 2019. https://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/ , cost: free

The making of Harry Potter – Warner Brothers Studio Tour

This perennially-popular Warner Brothers Studio Tour gives kids the chance to delve behind the scenes and experience the magic of Harry Potter for themselves. They can wander creepy Diagon Alley, discover how the goblins of Gringotts were created and learn the secrets of the special effects behind the Whomping Willow and Harry’s invisibility cloak. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/, cost: Adults £45, Children £35, Children under five go free.

The Tower of London

A former palace and prison, The Tower of London is one of the city’s most intriguing spots. See the glittering Crown Jewels and meet the famous Yeoman Warders, known as Beefeaters, who have protected the Tower since the time of the Tudors. You can even hear its grisly history during a spooky twilight tour. https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/, cost: Adults from £22.70, Children from £10.75, Children under five go free.

Victoria 200

Prince Harry is days away from his wedding and a new little prince was born just last month to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – 2018 has, so far, shone a spotlight on all things royal. And, as we look ahead into the next 12 months it looks set to continue, with 2019 the year we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of William and Harry’s great-great-great-great grandmother – Queen Victoria. The second-longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Victoria’s legacy continues to thrive and there are some extraordinary sites to visit to mark this special anniversary.

 

If you’re in London…

A trip to Kensington Palace is a must. Princess Victoria was born here on 24 May 1819 and the palace was her childhood home (it’s also now the London residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). Explore the dazzling exhibition Victoria Revealed that opened earlier this year and will run until January 2020. Packed with intimate accounts of her intriguing reign, visitors will gain insights into her and Prince Albert’s characters, and can admire personal objects such as letters and journals. Stars of the show include tiaras from the collection of the Dukes of Fife, descendants of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise, such as her Emerald and Diamond Parure (tiara, necklace, earrings and brooch), a gift commissioned by Prince Albert.

Just a short stroll from the palace is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens – located directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, an exquisitely ornate monument that commemorates the death of Prince Albert. Follow a visit with an afternoon at the nearby V&A Museum – named after Victoria & Albert – the world’s largest museum of decorative art and where you’ll discover photographs of Victoria in its collections.

If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace – Victoria was the first monarch to rule from here – you’ll spot the resplendent Queen Victoria Memorial right in front. Comprising the magnificent white marble monument of Victoria that was built to commemorate her death in 1901, it’s also home to the Memorial Gardens and the Dominion Gates (Canada Gate, Australia Gate and South and West Africa Gates).

Famous London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and St James Palace also have strong links to Queen Victoria; the former, as she was crowned there in 1830 and the latter, because it was where she married Prince Albert (although the public cannot visit inside the palace).

 

If you’re in Windsor, Berkshire…
Just an hour from London is Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria resided for part of each year. Marvel at the splendid State Apartments within the walls of this largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, where you’ll discover thousands of objects and art collected during Queen Victoria’s reign. And both Victoria and Albert’s tombs are at rest in the private grounds of Windsor, at Frogmore House, in the Royal Mausoleum. There are rumours afoot that Queen Victoria’s tomb will be reopened to the public, although this has yet to be confirmed.

 

If you’re on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England…

A favourite holiday destination for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their large family of nine children, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight – a 20-minute ferry ride from Portsmouth, which itself is two hours by train from London – is a must-visit for any fan of Victoriana. It’s quite the palatial holiday home and visitors can walk among the opulent state rooms to admire the remarkable collections from the British Empire, which, by Victoria’s death in 1901, stretched across nearly a quarter of the globe. You may also recognise Osborne House from the recent film Victoria and Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench – it was used as a film location.

But it’s not just the lives of Victoria and Albert you’ll gain an insight into at Osborne House, but also the childhoods of the royal couple’s children, particularly in the impressive Swiss Cottage in the grounds of the house. And, next year, to mark the 200-year anniversary of Victoria’s birth, Osborne House will be hosting a special exhibition about both Victoria and Albert.

 

If you’re in Scotland…

Balmoral Castle remains the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family today – and was very much a favourite of Victoria and Albert’s. It was Albert who first brought his vision to the beautiful gardens here and visitors are welcome to tour Balmoral, usually between the end of March and end of July. Be sure to visit the spectacular Castle Ballroom and its fine works of art and artefacts. And imagining you are a royal yourself is well within your grasp as you can book to stay at the estate’s cottages, available when the Royal Family are not in residence.

The Highlands of Scotland also played an integral role in Victoria’s life; scenes in Victoria & Abdul were therefore filmed here, including the breathtaking landscapes of Glen Affric and Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms National Park. Queen Victoria was also known to have visited Ardverikie Estate as well as the magical Blair Castle. The area even has a Victorian Heritage Trail you can follow, taking in steam railways, country estates and distilleries.

London’s V&A is also opening a new outpost of the museum on 15 September in the city of Dundee, 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, the museum launches with the spectacular Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, and will also showcase world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.

48 hours in… A DIY Royal Tour

The British Royal family has captured the world’s imagination for centuries, and in more recent times, the likes of TV drama The Crown, and films such as The Queen and The King’s Speech, have endeared new generations to the royals.

With a third child on the way for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, plus the impending nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle, it’s set to be a seriously exciting royal summer. So why not plan your own royal tour of Britain?

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

In London’s affluent Belgravia neighbourhood, where Buckingham Palace is located, you will also find The Goring hotel, where the Duchess of Cambridge spent the night before her wedding to Prince William in 2011. The luxury hotel, built in 1910 by visionary Otto Goring, is said to be the last grand hotel of the Edwardian era with one of London’s largest private gardens. Goring also equipped the hotel with some alleged world firsts – en-suite bathrooms and central heating in every single room.

 

DAY ONE:

09:30 GET WEDDING-READY AT WINDSOR CASTLE

Catch a train from Paddington to Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Get there in time to see the Changing of the Guard, which happens on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week. Save time and buy your Windsor Castle tickets in advance.

Home to the monarchy since William the Conqueror discovered it in the 11th century, today it remains Queen Elizabeth II’s weekend home.

On 19 May 2018, the castle will become the setting for the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle; some 900 years after Henry I became the first royal to marry here. It will also play host to special events from 5 May to 3 June 2018, such as Saturday family art workshops, ‘The Wedding Bells of Windsor’, where children create everything from wedding tiaras to ceremonial swords to design their own royal wedding. You can also explore St George’s Chapel, the final resting place of ten monarchs including King Henry VIII alongside his third wife Jane Seymour.

 

11.30 LUNCH LIKE A BRIT

Grab a re-entry permit from the castle shops and head into town for a spot of lunch, or book afternoon tea at the Clarence Brasserie and Tea Room, a few minutes from Windsor Castle.

 

13:30 GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

Back in London, make a beeline for Buckingham Palace. For ten weeks in the summer and selected dates afterwards, the state rooms of Queen Elizabeth II's official residence are open to the public, so take advantage to see the striking Throne Room, the Grand Staircase, and paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt and others.

 

15:30 OFF WITH YOUR HEAD

The next stop on your royal tour will delight your inner magpie as you head to the Tower of London to see the world-famous Crown Jewels, a collection of 23,578 gemstones still used in ceremonies today — and always under armed guard.

Not all that glitters is gold though; this infamous former prison has held many famous guests, such as Guy Fawkes, Princess Elizabeth (to-be Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) and was the site of execution for three of King Henry VIII’s six wives.

 

20:00 DINE LIKE ROYALTY

After freshening up at your hotel, dine at celebrity favourite Beach Blanket Babylon where Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are all said to have partied in a private room.

 

DAY TWO:

10:00 BE A-MAZED

Catch a train from Waterloo to Hampton Court Palace, one of King Henry VIII’s former palaces. It’s home to an exquisite recreation of his crown, and other attractions such as the world-famous maze commissioned by King William III in around 1700.

You can enjoy a themed tour, Tudor cookery display and, of course, the maze, as part of your Hampton Court Palace ticket. Be sure to refuel at one of the Palace’s three cafés before you head back into central London.

 

13:00 TOUR THE PALACES

Although not open to the public, St James’s Palace — King Henry VIII's former residence in Westminster - is still a working royal residence, hosting charity receptions and state visits. As such, you can’t explore inside, but the beautiful architecture can be admired from outside.

Next, head to Clarence House, attached to St James's Palace on The Mall, and the official residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Admire the architecture and gardens of this stunning townhouse, which opens to the public every August.

Kensington Palace is probably the most exciting to visit, as it remains home to so many royals. The official residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, as well as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it was also Princess Margaret’s former home and the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria.

Explore the state rooms and get to know Princess Diana through her style in the acclaimed fashion exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story. Wander through the Palace Gardens and enjoy the fascinating Sunken Garden, a secluded oasis planted in 1908.

 

HOW TO GET HERE

  • Getting to Windsor Castle: Windsor and Eton Central station is approximately 30 minutes from London Paddington station, then it is a short taxi ride to the castle.
  • Getting to Hampton Court: Hampton Court train station is a ten-minute walk from the Palace and is served by London Waterloo, with stops at several London stations en route.

NB to editors: The Three Palaces Royal Pass includes admission to the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, saving 5% to 10% off individual adult and child tickets, and allowing visitors to skip the queues at each attraction.

Royal Windsor

Beautiful, regal and full of history, Windsor is the perfect short break destination. Find out when to see the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle and the best of what Windsor has to offer in 48 hours.

Day 1 – Arrive in Windsor

Windsor Castle and Changing of the Guard
If visiting Windsor CastIe, it is a good idea to get there early to find the best spot to watch the Changing of the Guard. The royal ceremony usually takes place at 11:00am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but the schedule does change.

After the ceremony, go and explore Windsor Castle and all its ancient grandeur. It’s the Queen’s official home and the oldest inhabited castle in the world.

 

St George’s Chapel
Open to visitors Monday to Saturday and located within the walls of Windsor Castle, St George’s Chapel is a sight of uniquely English Gothic architecture. Considered one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in Britain, construction of the chapel began over 500 years ago under the reign of Edward IV. The chapel is the final resting place of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and Charles I.

Eton College
Eton has schooled some of the brightest and most famous minds, including both Prince Harry and Prince William, Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston. Guided tours of Eton College are available from 2 pm – 4 pm every Friday between 4 May and 7 September.

 

Frogmore House
Frogmore House has been a favourite royal retreat since George III’s reign. Located in Home Park of Windsor Castle, it’s open to visitors for three days in the June and to pre-booked groups of 15 people or more throughout August. 

Please note, both Eton College and Frogmore House have limited viewing opportunities.

 

Food and drink
The town has plenty of eateries to suit all budgets. For a quintessential English experience, go to the Michelin-starred Coworth Park. Its elegant Drawing Room offers scenic views of the surrounding countryside and the drinks menu has more than 20 varieties of tea.

 

Day 2 – See Windsor’s wild side and its racecourse

Windsor Great Park
The historic parkland is a vast green space teeming with monuments, ancient forests, spectacular garden displays, rare wildlife and colourful flora.

 

The River Thames.

Stroll the riverside pathway and stop by coffee shops, bars and brasseries that line the waterfront. While riverside, see more of Windsor with a drink at hand on a riverboat that takes you to the private jetty of Windsor Racecourse.

 

Windsor Racecourse

Close to Windsor Castle, this is the ultimate racing destination. From the town centre, you can hop aboard a riverboat to the famous racecourse. Between April and October, the racecourse is packed with exciting events such as Monday Night Racing, the Best of British Festival, and Ladies Day. For everything you need to know about events and days at the Racecourse, see their website.

 

How to get there?

By train: Direct trains from London Paddington and Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Central Station take about 40 minutes. Trains to Windsor & Eton Riverside take an extra 10 minutes but both stations are a short walk to Windsor Castle.

By coach: Travel by coach from London Victoria with Greenline or National Express. Coach travel takes just over 1 hour.

 

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Explore Royal Britain

Britain just oozes with royalty with its roots dipped in rich history. Discover the UK’s castles, palaces, yachts and more. Explore our interactive map to discover royal attractions across Britain.

Royal things to do in Scotland

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Castle tells of Scottish history like no other, built in 1856 it served as the Queen’s countryside getaway in Aberdeenshire. This stately castle was also the setting for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s honeymoon – romance is in the air!

 

Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona

This sacred site situated on the Isle of Iona traces all the way back to AD 563 and was a regular destination for Christian pilgrimages. Take the chance to soak in this spiritual haven first-hand.
 

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

It’s most famous resident monarch was Mary, Queen of Scots whose secretary and confident was assassinated on the premises. Visit the home of Scottish royal history and the Queen’s office residence in Scotland.

 

The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh

With the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, you’ll wonder which British royal hasn’t graced its elegant deck. From Her Majesty The Queen and Winston Churchill to Nelson Mandela and Rajiv Gandhi, notable figures have boarded this majestic vessel. All aboard the deck for stunning exhibitions!

 

Royal things to do in England

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Indulge your inner artist with one of the UK’s largest private art collection and follow the footsteps of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Located in heart of the Peak District, you could roam the stunning greenery and lavish rooms at Chatsworth House for days.

 

Sandringham, Norfolk

Housing four generations of British monarchs Sandringham is the Queen’s countryside retreat! From coastal wetlands to beautiful woodlands, find out what makes it the perfect escape.

 

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Previously used as a medieval fortress, Warwick Castle has a long and varied history. Visit the well-preserved castle where Earl of Warwick enjoyed his leisure time in style.

 

The Althorp, Northampton

Once the home of the late Princess Diana, Althorp House is now her resting place. Roam around the tranquil cottages, beautiful woodland and farms surrounding the estate.

 

King’s College, Cambridge

Feel like royalty as you gaze up at the stunning architecture of Cambridge’s King’s College. Founded by Henry VI, pop in to see its chapel that took a whole century to complete.

 

Longdole Polo Club, Gloucester

Enter the depth of rural tranquillity in Gloucester and learn to play Polo with the best of them. Even Prince Charles, William and Harry made an appearance on the grounds.

 

Kensington Palace, London

Did you know that original Leonardo da Vinci drawings were found in the palace with no clues as to how they got there? Get the royal insight by visiting the London home of Queen Victoria, Princess Diana and Will and Kate.

 

Buckingham Palace, London

You can’t get much more royal than Buckingham Palace. With one of the best known balconies in the world, it’s where the Royal Family appear to the public after royal or national celebrations. Inside you’ll find stunning interiors and the finest art collection to marvel at.

 

Windsor Castle, Windsor

The largest inhabited castle in the world, this building is simply breathtaking. Soak up the history of the artefacts, staterooms and grounds of one of the Queen’s favourite palaces.

 

Highgrove House, Gloucestershire

For the finest greenery in all the land, Highgrove garden in Gloucestershire will supply you with more than just a spring walk. Indulge in your luxury tastes with the kind of fine living suitable for a prince and a duchess.

 

Osborne House, Isle of White

Queen Victoria spent her holidays on the Isle of White in the palatial Osborne House. Marvel at its ornate terrace gardens or take a dip in the sea at Osborne beach.

 

Wimbledon, London

The Royal Family have had their own box at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships since 1922. If tennis isn’t your thing, there’s a charming village, an 1140 acres common (with windmill) and classy boutiques to explore nearby.

 

Royal Pavilion, Brigthton

Inspired by lavish Indian, Chinese and Islamic architecture King George IV ordered its construction in 1787. From a royal residence and seaside getaway to a hospital for Indian soldiers – the enchanting Royal Pavilion stands tall to this day.

 

Royal things to do in Wales

Conwy Castle, Conwy

Did you know that Conwy Castle was part of Edward I’s plan to build an ‘iron ring of castles’ around Wales? Its grandiosity is not to be underrated. Venture to the battlements and immerse yourself in the conquest.

 

Anglesey

Pursue some romance on the captivating north coast of Wales where Kate and Prince William found their perfect hideaway residence. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Anglesey is the perfect place to fall in love.

 

Caerphilly Castle

Wales’ largest castle is a revolutionary masterpiece in its strategic military defence. It’s one of the first castles in Britain to have a concentric design (it has a surrounding wall) and has a rich and thrilling medieval history.

 

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Surprising spots to tie the knot

The world will be watching when Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry this spring at Windsor Castle. But while Windsor’s historic St George’s Chapel is reserved for the nuptials of a very select few, the UK has many unusual options for adventurous brides and grooms-to-be.

 

Going underground

How deep is your love? About 300 metres deep if you get married in the Wookey Hole Caves, in Somerset. These subterranean limestone caves were carved out over millennia by the River Axe. Choose from three caverns where you can tie the knot, surrounded by flickering candles and crystal-clear pools.

 

Reach for the stars

If you want your wedding day to be out of this world, marry at Flamsteed House, the historic house of the Astronomers Royal in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London. Take your wedding photos either side of the Prime Meridian, then dance the night away under the digital stars inside the famous Peter Harrison Planetarium (where they can also arrange private wedding proposals).

 

Under the sea

Your marriage could be in deep water, in the best possible way, if you hold your ceremony at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Devon. Exchange your vows against a glowing blue aquatic backdrop as fish, stingrays and tiger sharks glide gracefully past.

 

Woodland wonderful

Shout your love from the treetops – literally – by marrying in the wooden wonderland of The Treehouse at The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland. Tie the knot under a canopy of lime trees, before having your photos taken on the rustic walkways and rope bridges. Continue the woodland theme in the treetop restaurant, where furniture has been crafted from chunky logs and fallen branches.

 

High society

Embrace your inner ‘Lady of the Manor’ with a Downton Abbey-inspired wedding.

Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire, was the real-life setting for the award-winning period drama. Follow in Lady Edith’s footsteps by descending the same great oak staircase she walked down en route to her wedding, before exchanging your own vows in the castle’s majestic saloon.

 

Islands in the stream

Originally built in the 1860s to guard against a French naval invasion, the Solent Forts off the coast of Portsmouth in Hampshire eventually became an important line of defence during the Second World War. After laying unused for several decades, Spitbank and No Man’s Forts were transformed into luxury boutique hotels where weddings can be booked. The third – Horse Sand Fort – is a museum. Arrive by speedboat on this man-made island and enjoy endless views across The Solent and the English Channel.

 

Training day

You can make sure your marriage is going places, when you exchange vows at the historic Llangollen Railway Station in Denbighshire, North Wales. Then travel by steam train through the lush, green Dee Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 

Scandi-Chic

Create your own Sami-style celebration with PapaKåta Teepees. These spacious, traditional tents come with lots of magical add-ons, including wood-burning fires, giant mirror balls and even a handcrafted circular oak bar. Pitch your teepee at lakeside venue Aldourie Castle, near Inverness, Scotland, and you can also squeeze in some monster spotting at the world-famous Loch Ness. Based in Henley-on-Thames, York and Scotland, they can set up tents across the UK.

 

Fit for a princess

Why stop at a castle when you can get married on your own island? Belle Isle is a 17th-century castle that sits on its own private island in Lough Erne Lake among 470 acres of countryside in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. After celebrating your nuptials, you can go fishing, shooting or explore the eight islands that make up this impressive estate.

48 hours in… Windsor

An official residence of the British Royal Family, Windsor Castle will play a starring role in the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they marry in St George’s Chapel in the castle grounds this May. But you don’t need a new hat, or an invite, to visit this historic market town in Berkshire.

 

On the River Thames just west of London, Windsor is seven miles from the town of Maidenhead and just over 20 miles from Reading. Small enough to walk around in, you’ll get a real sense of the town’s history and royal connections in 48 hours and you’ll most likely leave wanting more…perhaps you should come back for the wedding of the year?     

 

Time to check in:

The obvious place to stay is the castle. No, not that castle (unless you are royalty). But you will get a view of Windsor Castle if you book a suite at the nearby Castle Hotel. This Grade II-listed hotel has royal-themed art and maps, ideal for a quick history lesson.

Or check in to Legoland’s version of the castle. You won’t meet Queen Elizabeth II here either, but you will encounter 2.1 million bricks and a royal flush of wizarding characters including a knight made of 160,000 Lego pieces at this hotel.

Alternatively, go for gothic at The Oakley Court set in a grand Victorian Mansion overlooking the River Thames. If you’re a Rocky Horror Show fan, you’ll recognise it as the home of Frank-N-Furter.

 

Day one:

10:00 A royal appointment

Head straight up to Windsor Castle, in time to watch the Changing of the Guard.

This usually happens at 11am on selected days — check the website for days and times. You need a ticket to see the handover ceremony, but you can watch the Guards march to and from Windsor Castle for free. You’ll get good views anywhere on the route but one of the best spots is outside the Guildhall building. After, take a tour of Windsor Castle itself, home to the Sovereign for 900 years. Her Majesty The Queen is often in residence at weekends.   

 

13:00 Picnic pit stop

Buy a picnic made up of delicious products from the Royal Estates and The Great Park at Windsor Farm Shop. Feeling flush? Treat yourself to a Windsor Hamper

 

14:00 A stroll in the park

After a picnic lunch, take a long walk – literally. The three-mile Long Walk takes you to the Copper Horse memorial statue depicting King George III at Snow Hill. Remember to look back for impressive views of the castle and keep an eye out for some of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s red deer peering through the trees. Walk on to Virginia Water, once a royal playground, with its lake and 100-metre totem pole. 

Make sure you reach The Savill Garden Kitchen in time for tea on the terrace. The café dishes up great British puddings including Eton Mess. For a small fee (free in February), you can also wander the 35 acres of rare plants in The Savill Garden.

 

18.00 Meze o’clock

Head into town for some early evening meze specialties at Turkish restaurant, Marmara.

 

19:30 Take in the drama

Stroll to Theatre Royal Windsor, an impressive Edwardian theatre between the castle and the river, with a year-round repertoire ranging from classics to pantomimes. Feeling special after your royal themed day? Then book the royal stalls.

 

DAY TWO:

10:00 Family fun, a mooch down the river or make for the races

Families will love Windsor’s Legoland Resort. New additions for 2018 include new themed Miniland locations and a digital Lego reef where kids can select a digital fish and watch it interact. Or catch a riverboat ride down the Thames before heading to Eton, famous for its public school which offers guided tours in summer

Alternatively, attend the races at the Royal Windsor Racecourse. There are 27 fixtures from April to October including the Best of British Festival and Ladies Day.

 

19:30 Push the boat out for dinner at Bray

The nearby village of Bray is known for its culinary offerings which includes the three Michelin-starred Waterside Inn, plus Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck and The Crown at Bray. A foodie paradise and a charming little place to finish up your final hours in Windsor. 

 

How to get there:

Trains run from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central station in the town, with a journey time of approximately half an hour. There is also a direct train from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside, a short walk from the castle, that takes closer to an  hour. There are regular buses from London Victoria, with several drop off points in the town, and there’s a service to Heathrow Terminal 5. Buses also run to and from Slough.  

Preparing for the big day - royal wedding traditions and etiquette

A huge amount of time and effort goes into planning a wedding. So spare a thought for Meghan Markle, who also has centuries of traditions and royal etiquette to learn before tying the knot with Prince Harry this spring.

 

A Royal Convert

Firstly, Meghan will be baptised and confirmed into the Church of England, in a private ceremony at Kensington Palace, in London. This is a mark of respect to the head of the church, Queen Elizabeth II. It is also a way for Meghan to publicly declare her religion.

 

Floral Homage

When Victoria, the Princess Royal, married in 1858 her bouquet contained myrtle from her mother Queen Victoria’s own garden. Since then every royal bride – including the Duchess of Cambridge has included a sprig from the exact same plant – which still grows in the grounds of Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, the former private home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This as-yet-unbroken tradition suggests Meghan will do the same.

 

Golden Gifts

In 1923 The Queen Mother started another royal tradition by using rare Welsh gold. Tucked into the lush green landscape of the stunning Snowdonia National Park in Wales, is the Clogau St David mine, from which the finest quality gold was extracted and used to create her wedding band. Though the gold veins have since run dry Clogau, now a family-run jewellery company, has a small, carefully rationed supply. Queen Elizabeth II also has her own modest reserves, so we imagine there would be enough for at least two more bands.

Whether Prince Harry would wear his ring after the big day, however, would also remain to be seen, as it’s also traditional for upper-class men to eschew all jewellery – including wedding bands.

 

A Royal Feast

After the ceremony, Meghan and Prince Harry will treat their guests to a lavish feast, known as a ‘wedding breakfast’, regardless of the time of day it’s eaten. Queen Elizabeth II and The Queen Mother both opted for menus with a formal French influence, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose to champion locally grown cuisine.

If Meghan and Prince Harry follow suit, perhaps they'll also serve Jersey Royal potatoes and Hebridean langoustines. They could choose to serve flavoursome Gressingham duck, from family-run farms in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Otherwise, the Windsor Farm Shop conveniently sells beef, pork and lamb reared on the Royal Farms. Mimic the monarch by visiting the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, where the farm shop is also open to the public. Or trace the procession route Megan and Prince Harry will take on their wedding day, ending with the picturesque Long Walk and a visit to Windsor Castle.

To complete the fine-dining experience, Megan and Prince Harry may turn to iconic cheesemongers Paxton & Whitfield for a selection of British cheeses. Pick up a hamper from their original Jermyn Street store in London - opened in 1797 - and you could enjoy a picnic in one of the nearby Royal Parks, such as St James’ Park or Green Park, while live-streaming their televised wedding day. 

 

Playing By The Rules

In addition, Meghan will need to learn the rules surrounding a traditional Royal wedding. “As the newly-married couple begins to walk down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, they will pause so Prince Harry can bow and Meghan will curtsy in front of Her Majesty the Queen,” explained former royal butler and etiquette expert, Grant Harrold.

Normally, the bride and groom are first to eat at a wedding reception. However, royal etiquette insists nobody starts eating before Her Majesty the Queen. Similarly, when she finishes, everyone else stops eating too. “The Queen, being an excellent hostess, will, of course, make sure guests within her eyesight are finished before she stops eating,” added Mr Harrold.

With news that members of the public will also be invited to join the wedding celebrations, there may well be a rush of bookings at Mr Harrold’s Royal Etiquette workshop, where participants are taught appropriate protocols when interacting with royals, aristocrats and VIP families.  

We’re sure like all brides, Meghan will be radiant on the day, and fully immersed in royal traditions as she marries her prince. 

60 minutes to Royal

Central London is packed with attractions that celebrate all things royal. But hop on a train and within an hour, you could be enjoying a fabulously royal day out. Here are some of the ways you can spend a day soaking up royal history and events, from past to present.

 

Richmond Park, Richmond upon Thames

Richmond Park, a former hunting ground of Henry VIII, is still home to red and fallow deer, as well as some 2,500 acres of hills, woodland and grassland. A walker’s paradise, the protected Royal Park is the perfect place to escape the hustle of central London and is just 45 minutes away.

 

Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames

Gone are the days of musty museums and dull exhibits, as visitors will find at Hampton Court Palace. The Palace’s Time Explorers digital app allows you to step back in time via an interactive adventure that keeps everyone engaged, from the young to the young-at-heart. Discover fascinating stories of life in the Tudor court and keep your eyes peeled for haunted sightings of two of Henry VIII’s wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.

 

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

A place with significant historical significance, Hatfield House is an unmissable royal attraction, 20 minutes by train from central London; it was here in 1558, in the Old Palace, that Elizabeth I learned she would become Queen. From 31st March 2018, you can tour the halls, gallery, library and chapel; the Grand Staircase is particularly impressive.

 

The Chalybeate Springs, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells received its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1909, when King Edward VII realised how popular Tunbridge Wells was with royal ‘holidaymakers’ including his mother, Queen Victoria. Members of the aristocracy would take the short journey from London to experience the curative waters at the Chalybeate Spring. Follow in their footsteps for some hydro-healing before wandering the colonnaded walkways of The Pantiles and its independent shops, galleries and restaurants.

 

Opera House, Royal Tunbridge Wells

For pre-dinner drinks, visit the Opera House pub. Originally built as an opera house in 1902 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, it became a cinema in 1931 before it was transformed into a bingo hall then a pub. You can still see the stage, grand balcony and original stalls and the pub even returns to its theatrical beginnings with opera performances twice a year.

 

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Even today, Queen Elizabeth often spends weekends at Windsor Castle while the county of Berkshire was the childhood stomping ground of the Duchess of Cambridge. Tour the castle’s state rooms and grounds — you’ll see more of this area when the location plays host to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding this May.

 

Eton College, Berkshire

Eton College is where Princes William and Harry were educated, but the jury is out on whether Prince George will be enrolled here too. On Sunday afternoons, the college opens up its exhibition spaces — the Natural History Museum, Eton Museum of Antiquities and Museum of Eton Life — with collections of rare books, art, manuscripts and specimens. Start with the Museum of Eton Life which presents the college’s history and traditions across six centuries.

 

Royal Ascot, Berkshire

Visitors who like the odd flutter should book tickets for one of the race meetings at Royal Ascot, one of Great Britain’s leading horse-racing courses and just six miles from Windsor Castle. The course maintains a close association with the Royals, frequented by the Queen each year for the Royal race days in June and July.

 

See also:

Book a VIP Gondola on the Royal Windsor Wheel for aerial views of Windsor Castle.

Visit Windsor Great Park, the Royal Park home to award-winning gardens, ancient forest and woodland walks.

Explore the 14th-century Penshurst Place and Gardens, Kent once used as a hunting lodge by King Henry VIII.

Discover the beautifully located Leeds Castle in Kent, once used by King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the private home of six of England’s medieval queens.

Must-See Spots, Less Than An Hour From London

London is one of the most fascinating cities on Earth. However, if you don’t venture just a little further out of the centre of the city you could be seriously missing out, as there are a huge range of activities and attractions, all located less than 60 minutes from central London.

 

Windsor Castle is the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II, and the venue of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming nuptials. Tour the 11th-century castle and grounds, and admire the lavish State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms – faithfully restored after the 1992 fire. Catch a 40-minute mainline train from Paddington Station to Windsor & Eton Central, then walk five minutes to Windsor Castle.

 

Kew Gardens are just 30 minutes south of central London, on the District line to Richmond. A UNESCO World Heritage site, highlights include the iconic Palm House glasshouse, Kew Palace - where King George III sought refuge during his bouts of ‘madness’ - a treetop walkway and an arboretum containing 14,000 trees.

 

Jump on a train at London’s Charing Cross and you can be in Royal Tunbridge Wells in just 50 minutes. This Kentish spa town first found fame 400 years ago, when an iron-rich spring was discovered and the gentry flocked to ‘cure’ ailments from infertility to hangovers. Today you can still taste the healing waters, served to you by a traditionally-dressed dipper.

 

Immerse yourself in the wizarding world with an enchanting visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter. When the final Harry Potter movie wrapped, a magical trove of treasures were left behind. Two soundstages and a back lot were reassembled and opened to adoring fans. Catch the train or tube from London Euston to Watford Junction, then a shuttle bus, and you could be knocking at Hogwarts’ door within 40 minutes.

 

Catch the fast train from Kings Cross and you could be outside Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, in just 20 minutes. The Old Palace was owned by Henry VIII and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I, while the newer Jacobean Hatfield House was built in 1611. You can tour both homes and the grounds, including the very spot where Elizabeth I discovered she’d become Queen of England.

 

You might also like:

  • Visit one of the Go Ape outdoor adventure parks for high rope courses, zip wires and Segway safaris.
  • Enjoy a spot of tea in a stately home, such as Strawberry Hill House.
  • Visit the William Morris Gallery, devoted to the life of the famous designer, craftsman and socialist.
  • Travel to Epsom, home to the greatest flat horse race in the world - the Epsom Derby. It is also where suffragette Emily Davison died to further women's rights by throwing herself under the king's horse.
  • Richmond Park is the largest of the Royal Parks and has remained almost unchanged since the 1600's when King Charles I turned it into a nature reserve and deer sanctuary.
  • LEGOLAND lets you bring out your inner child with rides, shows and Miniland - cities and landmarks famously recreated with Lego bricks.
  • Jump on a train and discover the stunning nature reserves and wetlands that ring London, including Surrey Hills, Epping Forest and the Chilterns.