Windsor Castle Review

We’ve just finished half term and I’m behind on my review write ups but I have bumped Windsor Castle up to the top of the list because IT. IS. AWESOME. So awesome! If you follow the blog on Facebook then you’ve probably picked up that I’m a bit of a history geek. It’s been several decades (which in itself is terrifying) since I last visited here but we will be back, particularly given that we have free entry for a year! And because it was raining on this visit so much of our time outside involved dashing around.

This review of Windsor Castle has been written whilst social distancing measures are in place. Some areas of the castle were closed. Annoyingly that includes Queen Anne’s doll’s house which is incredible and I’m genuinely sad we couldn’t see it.

Make sure that you get one of the free audio guides. Recently I’ve become a real convert to a decent audio guide, and this one is good. We did have to queue for a fair old time to get ours though, but it was worth it.

Windsor Castle Review, Berkshire | Free Time with the Kids | Family days out in the UK

Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard at Windsor Castle is legendary. And currently not happening because of stupid covid. They’re hoping to re-start the ceremony again in the near future. Typically the ceremony takes place at 11:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, although this is subject to change. When it does restart then it is definitely worth a watch. You get a better version within the castle grounds than out on the streets of Windsor, but a lot of the ceremony is just the band playing.

What is taking place currently is that the individual sentries are still within the grounds (only a couple are visible though) and they swap over with a little routine every few hours or so. I think it’s every 2 hours because, quite frankly, who wants to be stared and and goaded into laughing for more than 2 hours at a time? Given that the kids had never seen anything like it, even this was enough to captivate them.

Windsor Castle Review, Berkshire | Free Time with the Kids | Family days out in the UK

St George’s Chapel

Thanks to Prince Harry & Meghan’s wedding and the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral we’ve seen a lot of St George’s Chapel on TV over the past few years. I can honestly say that none of what we’ve seen on TV does this place justice. It’s just breathtaking in terms of scale and beauty. Realistically a church, no matter how big, is unlikely to interest a 3 year old but actually she was captivated by it. The West Window is on an unbelievable scale, and she really liked it. There are also various trails and activities that you can download from the St. George’s Chapel website before visiting.

Windsor Castle Review, Berkshire | Free Time with the Kids | Family days out in the UK

You’ll probably notice that this review of Windsor Castle doesn’t include any interior photos. That’s because no photography is allowed anywhere inside the castle grounds. Understandable, but also a real shame as I can’t share how beautiful this place is.

The Quire itself is just beautiful, and probably the part of St George’s Chapel we have all seen the most. It’s here where Harry and Meghan were married, and where that poignant photograph of Queen Elizabeth sat waiting on her own at Prince Phillip’s funeral was taken.

Random fact about St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle

One of the main points of interest in St George’s Chapel is the numerous vaults, chapels and memorials to members of the royal family. Here you’ll find the beautiful (and massive) memorial to Princess Charlotte, who would have become queen if she hadn’t died in childbirth. There are loads of kings and queens buried here including Henry VIII, Charles I and Prince Phillip.

When George III was having the Royal Vault built they discovered the vault containing the remains of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Charles I and a baby of Queen Anne. Instead of doing what most of us would do, leaving it alone, King George opened up Charles’ coffin. He cut off some and knocked one of his back bones. Somehow Prince Albert ended up with it and Queen Victoria made him put it back! It’s all a bit gross really.

The State Rooms

Windsor Castle is a working castle, and it’s also where the Queen now spends most of her time. It’s also home to loads of other people in the various houses and apartments. Seriously, how do we get one of those?? All of this means that there are relatively few rooms open. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to see, because there are over 1,000 rooms to Windsor Castle. Some of them are probably quite boring, but not a single one of the state rooms at Windsor Castle is boring. They’re breathtaking (haven’t I already said that?).

The state rooms are also home to some of the Royal Collection. I was so excited and properly geeking out about all of these paintings that I know so well but were right there on the walls in front of me. The fact that so many of these rooms were destroyed in the 1992 fire and had to be restored to what you see today is amazing.

Whilst I was happily being wow’d by everything, the kids were having (almost) as much fun. Whenever we visit a historic house we play spot the animals with Smallest Child to keep her occupied. Windsor Castle provided plenty of opportunities for that. For older children there are also free trails they can do. TBH you don’t necessarily need them though. The State Rooms at Windsor Castle are jam packed with stuff to look at.

The Semi-State Rooms

When I’m writing up a review of somewhere like Windsor Castle I always do a bit a of research in case I missed anything. AND I DID HERE! Turns out there’s a whole set of Semi-State Rooms that we didn’t get to look around. For some (I’m going to assume probably good) reason, these are only open from Autumn to Spring each year so they weren’t actually open when we visited. All the more reason to go back!

If you’re wondering where the Queen actually lives, it’s along this back wall where the trucks are. Her lounge is the bay window. Probably just a little bit bigger than mine.

The grounds

The grounds at Windsor Castle are actually surprisingly small. What used to be the moat is now a beautiful garden, but us mere peasants (according to Biggest Child) are not allowed access to it. The Upper Ward is probably the largest space within the grounds, but it is closed because it’s effectively the Queen’s front garden.

Windsor Castle Review, Berkshire | Free Time with the Kids | Family days out in the UK

The Lower Ward is where the changing of the guards ceremony takes place. Other than that, and looking at all the cute houses, there isn’t a lot to do here. Because the weather was so pants when we visited Windsor Castle to do this review we didn’t actually go round to The Horseshoe Cloisters (the front of St George’s Chapel). I don’t know if there’s more to do around there.

Whenever you look at Windsor Castle you cannot miss the Round Tower. It’s the oldest part of the castle (although now rebuilt in stone rather than the Norman wood) and it’s just ginormous. Admission doesn’t include entrance to the Round Tower BUT you can, in normal times, do a special tour of the tower. There’s over 200 steps to clamber up. It costs an extra £23.90 for a family to take part.

Our Windsor Castle review

I was like a kid in a candy shop here! I love, love, loved Windsor Castle. Even the loos are impressive (see below). I had assumed there would be a bit more outside stuff than there actually is, but it’s not really a problem. I know this review is not just about what I, as an adult, think of Windsor Castle. It’s also about what the kids think. I was a bit worried that Smallest Child might not enjoy it but she did. There was so much to see, and so much glitz and glamour that she was captivated for the whole time we were there. The boys really enjoyed it, and I think it helped to bring various bits of Horrible Histories to life. Middle Child was less keen when I told him that he’d just walked over the bones of Henry VIII.

They suggest that a visit will last for about 2 hours – we were there for 3! And we didn’t even have the chance to watch the changing of the guard, doll’s house or loiter in the grounds. There are still bits that we need to go back and see because they were closed.

Is Windsor Castle worth the cost?

At over £60 for a family ticket, even if it’s valid for a year, it certainly goes above my £25 for a family ticket cheap family days out limit. But is Windsor Castle worth the cost? Well, I suppose Blenheim Palace is a close comparison. Both offer free annual passes and both are similar buildings BUT Blenheim has vast grounds and much of your time will be spent exploring those, whereas Windsor has hardly any grounds. There is a £15 difference in ticket price though, and you do still have access to those vast grounds, it’s just that everyone else gets to visit them for free as well. Personally, I do think it’s worth it.


Admission cost

A family ticket (2A + 3C) is £60.50. If you validate your ticket on entry then you can convert it to a FREE annual pass. Local residents can also visit for FREE.

Because Windsor Castle is a working castle it can be closed at certain times such as when the Obama’s visited and for weddings and funerals. Make sure you check the website before visiting.


Parking / How to get there

Parking – None on-site. The town centre car parks can be quite expensive. We parked in the Romney Lock car park which is about 5 minutes walk away from the Castle but is £4.80 for up to 3 hours (other time options are available). There’s also a little playground here as well.

Address – Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire. SL4 1NJ


Toilets

On-site and suitably glamorous given the location. Near the State Apartments and cafe there’s a family room which is brilliant. There’s a separate toilet (why is it rare to find a loo in a baby change unless it’s also the disabled toilet??), unisex baby change and a curtained off feeding area. Oh and a water fountain / water bottle tap. Even the curtains were luxurious and lined with a fabric that I totally want for my house! Honestly, who knew I would be jealous of the Queen’s loo!


Food

I was slightly surprised (and nearly caught out by this) but you’re not allowed to take your own food to Windsor Castle. For some reason it was really hard to find out if you could or couldn’t take a picnic to Windsor Castle. There is a cafe on-site but we didn’t try it. I can’t imagine it’s cheap though.


What else is there to do nearby?

We spent quite a lot of time in and around Windsor during this half term! The town itself is really pretty to wander around and there’s the River Thames to wander along. Windsor Great Park borders Windsor Castle but it’s absolutely massive so you cannot do it all in one day. There’s also The Savill Garden on the edge of Windsor Great Park. Black Park Country Park and Langley Park Country Park are both nearby.

Windsor Castle Review, Berkshire | Free Time with the Kids | Family days out in the UK

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Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch contact@freetimewiththekids.com or get in touch via Facebook

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