The A-Z of Windsor
PUBLISHED: 14:29 09 November 2007 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013
From actors to Zimbabwean art, this historic town has it all...
Windsor Castle was last year the 14th most popular paid attraction in the UK, but it certainly isn't the only one in the town itself. Here we list just a few of Windsor's highly recommended charms. For the full list of attractions see our November issue...
A is for Alexandra Gardens
This is a good place to begin your visit to Windsor as it offers spectacular views of the castle on the hill. The gardens were laid out in the early 1900s and they still retain a Victorian charm, which adds to the regal atmosphere of the town. From here you can walk along the promenade that takes you along the river and into Windsor's centre. During the summer, the gardens are home to the Royal Windsor Wheel, (see above), and very often added attractions, like a bungee trampoline. There is also a skate park, and a café offering light refreshments.
B is for Blue Badge Tours
Walking is a great way to explore Windsor and you'll see and learn so much more if you go on one of the regular guided tours that usually start at Royal Windsor Information Centre, Windsor Royal Station. They run all year round, with the next weekend tours on Sunday, November 4 at 11.30am when you can discover Georgian Windsor and on Sunday December 2 at 11.30am when Tudor Windsor will be explored. Walks need to be booked in advance. Call Debbie, tel: 01628 828279 or Bobbie, tel: 07770 933117. More information www.rendezvous.freeuk.com
C is for Castle and Changing of the Guard
The Castle is, of course far, Windsor's biggest tourist attraction ( in fact last year it was the 14th most popular paid attraction in the UK) and with good reason. It's the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world and is, of course, one of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen. The Castle's dramatic site encapsulates 900 years of British history and covers an area of 26 acres. Even if you've visited it before, it never fails to throw up something new. For more information visit www.windsor.gov.uk. Entry is free to Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Advantage Card holders. The Changing of the Guard is one of the highlights of a visit to Windsor. Accompanied by a band, the Guards march on alternate days from August to March and daily during April, May, June and July, but never on a Sunday. The best place to watch them is on junction of the High Street and Peascod Street.
D is for Dorney Court
Dorney is the ancient word for 'island of bees' and the estate is famous for its honey, which you can still buy today. The very first pineapple to be raised in England was grown at Dorney Court and presented to Charles II in 1661. From late April until the end of May you can buy Dorney's own homegrown asparagus from the back entrance of the house. This is picked first thing every morning and has usually sold out by early afternoon! For orders and further information tel: 01628 604147. Opening is usually limited to Bank Holiday weekends and August afternoons.
E is for Eton and Eating out
Eton is, of course, famous for its college, which is open to visitors for limited periods until the end of October. But Eton's also well worth a visit for its specialist shops that include art galleries, antique shops and gift shops. Windsor boasts the very best eating-houses and restaurants - there are no less than 16 different types of cuisine all within a half hour walk of the Castle.
F is for Frogmore House
This was Queen Victoria's favourite family retreat, far away from the prying eyes of tourists who flocked to Windsor Castle - yes, even 150 years ago! Set amidst the extensive Home Park of Windsor Castle, Frogmore House is surrounded by fine and picturesque gardens. The house dates from the 1680s and was purchased for Queen Charlotte in 1792. Here the Queen was able to indulge her love of botany and laid out the garden with many rare and unusual plants. At one time the house belonged to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. After her death, her son-in-law, Prince Albert, commissioned the building of an elegant mausoleum to hold her remains.
Queen Victoria was particularly fond of Frogmore's peaceful ambience and it became her favourite retreat. Victoria and Albert's love of Frogmore led them to break with tradition and build a much larger and grander mausoleum for themselves. It's only open to the public on limited dates throughout the year, usually for a few days in May and over August Bank Holiday weekend. Tel: 0207 766 7305
G is for Guildhall
Recently the venue for two very high profile weddings - Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles and Sir Elton John to David Furnish, this is a Grade I listed building that's over 300 years old. It was designed by Sir Thomas Fitz and after his death completed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, whose father was Dean of Windsor, in 1689. On close inspection you will notice that the central columns do not touch the ceiling and tradition has it that the councillors of the time, against Wren's wishes, insisted on adding the columns in the interest of safety. Wren, not to be outdone and to prove that his original plans were safe, left the columns an inch short of the ceiling. The Guildhall is open most Mondays, between 10am-12 noon.
H Horse drawn carriage rides
This is a lovely way to see the town. Orchard Poyle has been running these rides for many years now. They take you along the High Street, into Park Street then down the Long Walk into Windsor Great Park. Rides are available for either 30 minutes or one hour. Visit www.orchardpoyle.co.uk for more information.
I is for ice rink
This is a temporary rink in Alexandra Gardens over the Christmas holidays, opening this year on December 8. It's a hugely popular attraction that runs until the first week in January. Hot drinks and festive goodies are available in the large marquee on site. For more information visit: www.royalwindsoricerink.com
J is for John
The present parish church of St John dates from 1822 when it replaced an ancient building which had Saxon arches and Norman work. It is home to a national treasure called The Last Supper - a painting donated to the church by George III. It was beautifully restored in 2003.
K is for King Edward Court
This is one of the town's main pedestrianised shopping areas and it's just been made substantially bigger with the opening of four major new stores in the last few weeks. As well as being home to the family-run department store Daniel's, and Fenwicks, you'll now find Waitrose's new flagship store here, alongside H&M, Zara and New Look.
L is for Legoland and Long Walk
The theme park is a real magnet for families. With over 50 interactive rides, live shows, building workshops, driving schools and attractions and set in 150 acres of beautiful parkland, it's no wonder it's so popular.
The Long Walk stretches more than two miles from Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse - a statue of George III on horseback on Snow Hill. Rumour has it that the sculptor hanged himself after realising he had forgotten the stirrups, but as he lived to a ripe old age it's highly unlikely! Before it reached it's destination, the statue was, however, damaged in transit and a furnace was set up on the spot and repairs made.
M is for Magna Carta
Just three miles outside Windsor is Runnymede - the spot where King John 'signed' Magna Carta - in 1215. Today the area is owned by the National Trust and is a pleasant walk from the car park, which is also home to the cosy Magna Carta Tea Rooms, where you can enjoy hot meals as well as gorgeous homemade cakes. During the summer one of the Lutyen's-designed lodges at the entrance to the area opens as an art gallery.
N is for nightlife
The Theatre Royal has attracted some of the greatest names since it opened in 1910 and still hosts many pre West End plays with stars such as Christopher Timothy and Jenny Agutter. Windsor Arts Centre, in St Leonard's Road, is also home to some great drama, comedy and music. There are also regular film screenings.
O is for open top bus tours
This is an ideal way to begin your visit to Windsor. Leaving from outside the Castle, the red double decker travels through Windsor, Old Windsor, Datchet and Eton. The circular tour route lasts for an hour, although tickets are valid all day allowing visitors to get on and off the bus at as many places along the route that are of interest. Buses run at weekends only between January 6 and March 11, daily from March 17 to November 11 and weekends only from November 17 to December 30. For more information call 01708 866000 or visit: www.www.city-sightseeing.com
P is for polo
The Guards Polo Club, founded by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, is based in Windsor Great Park, and during the summer hosts polo matches which make for a great sporting spectacle. Park your car for £20, pack a picnic and watch the sporting action in style. For more information visit www.guardspolo.com
Q is for Queen Mary's doll's house
Made for Queen Mary of Tec as a present to the Royal Family following the First World War, this fabulous work of art was actually designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the greatest architect of his day. It first went on show at the 1925 Ideal Home Exhibition and then at Windsor Castle where, it remains today.
R is for racing
Windsor Racecourse has to be one of the most charming in England. Skirted by the Thames, it's particularly lovely on summer's evenings, when racing takes place on Monday evenings. Visit www. windsorracecourse.co.uk
S is for shopping and Savill Garden Visitor Centre
Windsor is a shopper's paradise. Here it means variety, choice and quality. You'll find lots of individual and independent shops, backed up by top High Street names and international brands. For fashion Windsor Royal Shopping is a must with names such as Hobbs, Phase Eight, FCUK and East.
The Savill Garden Visitor Centre, opened last year, is the gateway to the renowned Savill Garden, with its internationally famous plant collections. The café and gift shop are also well worth a visit. See www.theroyallandscape.co.uk for more information.
T is for Thames
Feeding the swans by Eton Bridge is a popular past time with many, but a boat trip is an even better way to experience the sights and sounds of the river. French Brothers run regular round-trip passenger cruises from the river on Barry Avenue to Windsor Racecourse. From October 29 to December 10 trips run at weekends only, hourly between 11am and 4pm. Two-hour trips run in the summer. For more information visit: www.boat-trips.co.uk
U is for Upping
Swan Upping is the annual ceremony which takes place in the third week in July each year and which dates back to the 12th century. Dressed in scarlet uniforms, The Queen's Swan Marker and Swan Uppers take the annual census of young cygnets from Sunbury to Abingdon, passing through Windsor on the way in a colourful procession of boats.
V is for Valley Gardens
These are to be found in Windsor Great Park, adjoining Savill Gardens and are an absolute delight, especially in spring when they are a riot of colour. Admission is free.
W is for Wheel
During the summer months the Royal Windsor Wheel, in Alexandra Gardens, shares the skyline with the Castle. Forty observation pods, each carrying a maximum of six people, take visitors on a 20-minute 'experience' with spectacular views over the battlements of Windsor Castle, the River Thames and the Thames Valley.
X is for Extreme Motion - (spelt with an e, but we're stuck!)
Its the place in Alexandra Gardens where you can hire bikes, play mini golf and test your nerve on the bungee trampoline.
Y is for Yuletide
There's so much going on in Windsor over the Christmas holidays. Turn to page 18 to see what's on offer during the festive season.
Z is for Zimbabwean sculpture, to be found at the Contemporary Fine Art Gallery in Eton
OK, so we cheated a little at the end, but you have to agree there really is something to interest everyone in Windsor! Visit www.windsor.gov.uk for a full list of attractions and events.