Monday, 19 September 2011

What I did on my holidays: Part 2

On Sunday I told you all about our trip to Alton Towers. Today I will tell you about our trip to Windsor!

My parents came over from Wales on Friday afternoon. I showed them around Reading (as they'd never been before), but didn't take my camera with me as it's not that exciting. However, on Saturday, we drove over to Windsor to see the Castle. Far more exciting, so of course I took my camera this time.

We arrived in perfect time to see the Changing of the Guard.

The guards march up from the Victoria Barracks to the castle at just before 11am every other day. Then there's a 30 minute Changing of the Guard ceremony inside the castle, before the old guards march back to the barracks.

First view of the castle
King Henry VIII gate. Where the guards march in, but where the tour ends.
First views of the main part of the castle. The yellow sandstone bit
is an extension built by Queen Mary I, using stone robbed from the
Reading Abbey site after it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.
The round tower which sits on the original Norman earthworks.
The flag flying is the Union flag, the Queen was not at home.
We timed it very well, and got in through the admission hall and security with five minutes to spare before the next guided tour set off. So we sat in the sun and waited, and in the end it was just the four of us plus an American couple who had the guided tour. Our guide was Helen, and she was lovely. Really knew her stuff, too.

There is so much history at Windsor Castle, it would be impossible to lay it all out for you here. So go check it out on Wikipedia, because it's mostly there.

Carving of St George slaying the Dragon on St George's Gate.
Norman Gate, complete with murder holes and still-functioning
portcullis. The scrape marks you can see on the curves of the gate
were caused by a fire engine, which got stuck here in the 80s.

Helen took us through the main points of interest in the three wards inside the castle, before leaving us on the North Terrace to queue for the inside tour.

The queue on the North Terrace
Queen Elizabeth I built this extension so she had somewhere to take
her daily exercise when the weather was inclement. It now houses
the Royal Windsor Library, which contains an amazing selection of works.
The guards have spent so long marching up and
down outside the castle that they've worn tracks into
the floor in front of their guard huts.

Sadly, photography was not allowed inside the castle, so I can't show you amazing pictures of Queen Mary's Doll House or the fabulous State Apartments. I'm not sure I can accurately describe the sheer scale of grandeur inside those apartments. It's insane! I particularly liked the military decoration on many of the walls - delicate arrangements of pistols, knives, swords, muskets and other medieval weaponry.

Image from
I had a few main highlights from the tour of the State Apartments. In St Georges Hall (beautifully restored after the fire in 1992), while the overall effect is pretty astonishing, the real treasure is hidden at the back, in the private chapel.

King Henry VIII's armour!
How awesome is that! The actual tilting armour worn by Henry VIII. It's surprising, actually, to see it in the flesh, because he really wasn't as tall as you'd think.

I was also impressed to see the originals of some famous paintings of the Tudor royals, including:

Elizabeth I, unknown artist
Edward VI, unknown artist
and this awesome painting of Charles I:

painted by Anthony van Dyke
my Dad has a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle of this, it's very difficult!

When we were done marvelling at the sheer opulence of the state rooms (a solid silver side table! with a pineapple on it!) we headed down to the Lower Ward to visit St George's Chapel.

St Georges Chapel, Windsor
The flying buttresses of St George's Chapel
Once again, photography was not allowed inside the chapel. If anything, this was even more of a shame than not being able to snap the State Apartments. The interior of the chapel is stunning.

image from the chapel's website
Not to mention the tombs and artefacts stored within. So many of our past monarchs are buried here. That black slab you can see in the middle of the aisle in the above photo? Marks the tomb of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I. There are tombs elsewhere for George V and Queen Mary, George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a huge memorial to Edward IV plus a few others.

The main highlight of the inside of the chapel though, is Edward III's broadsword. It hangs on the wall next to his portrait, on the opposite side of the altar to his memorial. It's enormous. This is the sword he wielded in battle. Battles like Crecy, at the start of the Hundred Years War.

image from the chapel website

You don't get a sense of scale from this photo, but the sword was taller than Jamie, and he's over six foot tall. It is also slightly bent at the tip, so clearly has been used a lot!

We finished up our tour of the Castle by checking out the Long Walk, the three mile long avenue that leads away from the South wing of the castle (where the Queen has her apartments).

image from here; we didn't walk down it far enough to get this view


  1. It's funny, on a clear day I can see Windsor Castle from my office, I have been to Windsor plenty of times and looked at the castle, but I've never done the tour or seen the changing of the guards (in fact, I don't remember ever even seeing the guards!)

  2. Such a great post--being an American, we just don't have all that old, old history and I love to read about Britain and the monarchy. Fascinating!


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