Windsor is very easy to get to. Trains run every half an hour from Waterloo in central London to Windsor & Eton Riverside and I can get on the train at Twickenham, from where it’s just a 30-minute journey. When you arrive at the Windsor station and come out of the exit, Windsor Castle is right in front of you (photo below), so only a short walk away, up a steep road and through the town.
As you can see from the photos, the weather wasn’t great today – grey and raining some of the time. But I’d promised 3¾-year-old Freddie we would go and I was looking forward to an outing with my grandson. It all came about from a visit to Windsor only a week ago to meet up with a friend for lunch. While there I took some photos of the castle to show Freddie, telling him it was the Queen’s castle, and he wanted to go. So we did!
Windsor Castle dates from Norman times and the original castle was actually built by William the Conqueror after the invasion in 1066. It’s been added to and bits rebuilt since then but nevertheless is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It’s well known here in UK that it is one of the Queen’s favourite residences and she chooses to spend her private weekends here; Buckingham Palace is considered ‘the office’.
It cost me £21.20 to go in and Freddie – being under 5 – was free. It seemed a lot considering that I knew we’d not spend a long time there; there’s only so much ‘historical building visiting’ a 3¾ year old can manage, even though he was very excited to go into the Queen’s castle. Then I was delighted to discover that the ticket was actually a One-year Pass and I can go back as many times as I want for a whole year with it and not pay again (you have to be sure to get it stamped each time on the way out so it remains valid). There was no choice; this was the only ticket but of course for someone who is fairly local, like me, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to use it again over the next 12 months.
From the moment we arrived and bought the ticket, everyone we encountered was wonderfully friendly. At the ticket desk people talked to Freddie and gave him his own leaflet, which contained a map. Freddie was so delighted he insisted on leading the way (even though he can’t actually read yet!).
The route round is well marked so you can’t get lost and just follow the roped off walkways. But every so often a guard would point you in the right direction or offer to help out.
Sadly no one was allowed to take photos inside so I can’t show you how beautiful and sumptuous it was. Because we’re close to Christmas now, there were three huge, decorated trees inside, which Freddie was very impressed by. As we passed through one room into another, a security woman talked to us and I told her how excited Freddie was to see the Queen’s castle. She then leaned down towards him and said, Come with me. It was only a few feet and still close to me. She lifted up a rope so he could get a little closer to a window. She pointed to a flag flying on top of a nearby tower. Do you see the flag? she asked Freddie. When that’s flying it means the Queen is here; you’ve come on a day when she’s home.
It was such a nice touch and quite delightful to have security people so friendly. As we moved on, Freddie asked me: Do you think the Queen knows I’m here? I had to say that I thought she was probably very busy but if she knew he was there, she’d be very pleased that he’d visited her castle.
I’d hoped to show him +Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which was built in the early 1920s, and I remember showing Freddie’s dad when he was a young boy and we went to Windsor. However, that display room is closed at the moment until some time next year.
We followed the path back down towards the entrance as we made our way out. Then stopped to go into St George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan were married in May (we saw the wedding dress and Harry’s outfit in the castle). I told Freddie it was the Queen’s church; the simplest explanation to a toddler. It’s a very beautiful chapel and definitely shouldn’t be missed if you visit the castle.
Then we were through an archway and back into Windsor town again.
We made our way to the nearby Windsor Royal Station shopping centre. There is actually still a station there too – Windsor & Eton Central Station – with services to Paddington Station in central London.
We headed to Carluccio’s, which is familiar to me as it’s where I usually meet my friend Nina – as I did last week – and I knew they had a good Kids’ Menu.
The Kids’ Menu has a great choice and is just £6.25 for 2 courses; £7.50 for 3, including a drink. A little booklet with crayons was brought straight away for Freddie.
Freddie chose Spaghetti and Meatballs with apple juice to drink. This was a really good portion and he liked it.
I had Penne Giardiniera (£9.95) which is one of my favourite dishes in Carluccio’s – pasta with courgettes, spinach balls, chilli, garlic and cheese.
Freddie chose Apple & Blackcurrant Ice Lolly for his dessert and I had a cappuccino (admittedly bad form in an Italian restaurant; Italians would never drink a white coffee after a meal!).
It was a perfect place to go after our castle visit. When we came out, Freddie wanted to go back into the castle but I had to say no, but we would go again soon. A woman in a shop told us we should go on a day when we can see the Changing of the Guard – at 10.45am three days a week in the winter and every day from April over the summer. So that is the plan. Meanwhile we walked back to the station to get a train home. We were a little early so made a minor diversion down a street by the station to look at the River Thames.
Windsor is a great place for a day out. Visiting the castle is a must, but the shopping centre is great and there are loads of bars, cafes and restaurants. And if you have more time and the weather is kinder, take a walk in Windsor Great Park or along the River Thames Path.