16 unmissable days out in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 13:57 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:58 02 September 2020
The Royal Borough’s visitor manager picks her top attractions from Duck Tours to the Magic Portal Escape Experience
“I bet you there are many people living locally that have never been to see the visitor attractions right on their doorstep or maybe they haven’t been for a long time,” says Julia White, visitor manager for the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. “My message to them is that right now is a fantastic time to rediscover the Royal Borough, while there are fewer people about and new things to see and enjoy.
“We have beautiful parks and open spaces for walks and cycling, and are fortunate to have so many independent shops and restaurants for relaxing. Fun things to do include garden trails, boat trips on the Thames, afternoon teas in unusual venues, walking tours of interesting and astonishing things so often overlooked, and of course, a visit to Windsor Castle to see some of the new features introduced as part of the Future Programme.”
Tourism in the Borough has, of course, been massively affected just like in the rest of the UK. “We don’t expect to see the high- spending visitors from the US or China this year, and business visits and events have stopped in their entirety,” adds Julia. “There’s no denying it’s been a terrible year for the sector and there are still many challenges ahead but we are starting to see small signs of recovery. Businesses are up and running again, though operating timed ticketing and at reduced capacities to enable social distancing. Over 80 have the national We’re Good To Go quality standard, which shows how committed the destination is to keeping our visitors, residents and workers safe and happy.”
Pre-booking is essential at some places so it’s best to check in advance. “In our hotels, cafés and restaurants, distancing is key and there are enhanced cleaning regimes in place,” Julia adds.
“Our goal, of course, is to grow business over time to pre- Covid levels. Everyone in the industry is taking a very cautious approach, with people’s health and wellbeing at the heart of everything they’re doing. “But local people are happy to be out and about, able to meet up with friends and family and getting back to a version of normality. There’s a buzz about the town centres again, with people enjoying al fresco dining, getting out on the river, and I’m seeing lots of shopping bags so there’s clearly a desire to grab a bargain or two. We have a challenging time ahead but I’m certain this remarkable destination has what it takes to bounce back.”
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN BERKSHIRE
As ever, Windsor Castle tops the list, especially with the opening of the East Terrace Garden for the first time in over 40 years, and inside the Waterloo Chamber you can see the wartime pantomime pictures. “You can just imagine the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, performing there during World War II, entertaining a delighted audience,” says Julia.
There’s reduced capacities to facilitate social distancing, so purchase timed tickets in advance. The café, toilets and shop are open with social distancing measures. Open Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visitors are not required to wear a face covering during a visit to the Castle and Chapel but are encouraged to do so. St George’s Chapel is open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.
Windsor Escape Experience
For something completely different and great fun to do with friends and family, Windsor Escape Experience has created a brand-new outdoor escape called Magic Portal. It’s an immersive treasure hunt around the centre of Windsor solving puzzles along the way.
The Savill Garden & Windsor Great Park
A treat for the senses at this time of year, and the Art in the Garden Exhibition runs from 23 September to 3 November. The plant centre, gift shop and toilets are open. The children’s play area is closed in the Great Park.
Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham
The Gallery’s summer exhibition is Love, Art, Loss: The Wives of Stanley Spencer. Spencer’s work was dominated by his relationships with his two wives, Hilda Carline and Patricia Preece. Their joint lives form a compelling art historical and human story. Add to this Spencer’s passion for his home village of Cookham and his spiritual and physical need for all three inspirations of his art, and this exhibition is unmissable.
French Brothers, Windsor
You can still get out on the water for a boat trip, with more frequent sailings on a greater number of boats and a reduced number of passengers. There are distancing markers, closure of inside areas and vessels running with side screens open at all times, creating a consistent outdoor area.
Legoland Windsor Resort
Legoland is always a fun day out for all the family. There’s limited capacity to comply with social distancing and advance purchase of tickets is necessary, as are temperature checks on arrival. There are different seating arrangements on rides and a modified way to meet the characters.
Fantastic tours of the Long Walk and Windsor Great Park. Dates released on the website for booking. New perspex screens have been fitted to carriages. Only one household per carriage, no individual bookings. Unable to supply rugs, picnics or umbrellas at this time, nor to assist getting into the carriage.
National Trust Cliveden Gardens
The gardens and woodland are open at Cliveden, but not the maze. Advance purchase of timed tickets is necessary. The refreshments kiosk in the Walled Garden is open, as are the toilets. Venture out on the water with a self-hire boat, and the Hotel offers private river cruises and picnic hampers.
Windsor Duck Tours
You’ll love these amphibious vehicle tours by road and river. At the moment there’s reduced capacity on the vehicles and side screens will remain open to maximise airflow. Face masks must be worn.
Tours around the Great Park start from the Savill Building. Pre-booking only, and one household only per carriage.
Maidenhead Heritage Centre
Grandma Flew Spitfires – Air Transport Auxiliary is a permanent exhibition of the forgotten stories of WWII and local history. Not to be missed!
Dr Choc’s Windsor Chocolate Factory
Have fun making organic chocolate truffles. Face coverings are required in the shop and mandatory for the reduced capacity chocolate workshops.
John Logie Motorboats, Windsor
Hire a self-drive motorboat on the River Thames in the heart of Windsor.
Great Fosters Sculpture Exhibition
Peruse this sculpture exhibition by renowned artist David Harber in the glorious 50-acre Great Fosters Hotel estate. Each piece has been positioned to take guests to new corners of the gardens. Runs until 30 September.
The Oakley Court Hotel, Windsor
The Oakley Court riverside location is perfect for al fresco dining options and there are complimentary bicycles available to explore the 33-acre estate. There are Great British Staycation offers of 10-25% available for room stays.
Runnymede On Thames Hotel
Take a stroll from the hotel towards Old Windsor along the riverside towpath. The Magna Carta memorials are reachable on foot too. Grab an ice cream from the airstream van, enjoy a riverside picnic or set sail on a boat, available to hire.