Peter Morrell and his wife take their two grand children to retrace the steps of the Royal Wedding
It’s that time of the year again when the long summer holiday from school stretches ahead leaving parents and grand parents with the task of finding things to keep their enquiring and energetic offspring amused and entertained.
We were faced with just that task when were were asked to look after our two delightful charming grand children, Maia aged seven and Millie who is three, during the first week of the holiday.
They are obsessed with the Disney Princesses and went into overdrive during the time of the Royal Wedding earlier this year. So it seemed logical for one of their days out to take them to Windsor and visit the places highlighted on the Wedding Day.
Rather than face the jams on the M25 we decided to travel to Windsor by train. There is a direct service from London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside that takes less than an hour. The ticket was also great value, £25 return for two adults and one child over 5.
We had arranged our schedule to arrive in time for the changing of the guard (every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). It’s just a few minutes walk up to Windsor Castle from the station, about half way is a bus stop where the amphibious ‘Duck Tour’ and the shuttle to Legoland leave. It’s also the starting point for The Original Tour open top bus that we would be riding on later.
As the day went on we appreciated how compact Windsor is, which is particularly important when you are with small children.
We arrived for the changing ceremony in plenty of time and the children took their places at the kerbside. At about 10:45am the sound of a military band heralded the arrival of the guards. They were an impressive sight, resplendent in bright red tunics with brass buttons, highly polished boots and wearing their iconic bearskin hats. The excitement on Millie and Maia’s faces was quite magical.
Windsor Castle has a long and illustrious history, built in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror, it has survived sieges and the English Civil War. In many ways the castle is emblematic of a millennium of unbroken sovereign rule.
I would strongly advise that you avoid the lengthy ticket office queues and book tickets for the castle in advance. Once inside and before the girls got tired we went straight to St George’s Chapel. We went into the choir to see exactly where Harry and Meghan were married. The girls were very impressed particularly as Princess Eugenie will be marrying in the same spot on 12th October.
It was then on to the State Apartments. This was the first ‘Stately Home’ our grandchildren had visited and they were fascinated by the sheer size and splendour of the rooms. My wife and I were equally as absorbed but for us it was the ceramics, furniture and paintings.
Making our way to the castle exit we had the opportunity to see the sentry being changed which is like a mini guard change. The girls were enthralled to see more soldiers marching, although Millie was a little disappointed that the sentry guard didn’t return her friendly waves.
By now it was lunchtime so we wandered down to the Thames for lunch at The Boatman, the only pub in Windsor on the banks of the river.
The Boatman is in a prime position, the Thames at this point is very picturesque with views over Eton Bridge. The al fresco terrace and adjoining conservatory are ideal for watching the river boats cruise lazily up and down the river. The food was excellent, and the hamburger listed on the children menu was just the thing to refuel the kids after a morning’s sightseeing.
The adult menu offers some very sophisticated fare with a good range of starters, Italian or vegetarian sharing plates and a tempting range of mains, including a selection of 28 day aged steaks. There were light bites of salad and pasta and the regular mains offered something for every taste.
My wife’s sea bass fillet, with roasted new potatoes and spinach, was excellent. The fish was packed with flavour. I had the traditional fish and chips; the beer batter on the fish was light and crunchy and the chunky chips were crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. For the adults there was a good range of craft beers from the local Windsor and Eton Brewery as well as wines and spirits. We didn’t have pudding but The Boatman’s Eton Mess is rated as one of the best in the country.
To continue our Royal footsteps we got on the Original Tour Bus we had seen earlier. The company also run tours in central London and in Bath. Our excursion took us around Windsor and the surrounding area. This is a great service, the buses run every 30 minutes and you can hop on and off at any one of eleven stops. The ticket lasts for 24 hours so there’s lots of scope to get off in places like Eton by the college and spend a couple of hours exploring.
Every passenger gets their own earphones for the commentary which is available in eleven languages. The excitement for the kids started when we boarded. They had never been on an open topped bus so this was a real novelty. We started in the centre passing the castle and Windsor Guildhall where Charles and Camilla married in 2005. The route continued into Windsor Great Park and as the bus slowed to show us The Long Walk, our three year old commented “Oh, this was where Harry and Meghan went on a carriage ride”. She was obviously paying attention.
The bus went into Eton which is dominated by the college and the residential accommodation for the pupils. Along the way we heard about the Eton Wall Game, a cross between rugby union and football. The rules are complex and the fixture played on St Andrews Day has not seen a goal scored since 1909. The commentary also described the history of the bridges over the Thames and the activities of the Queen’s Swan Markers, scarlet blazered officials who undertake the annual swan census.
The bus takes about an hour and we arrived back at about 4:00pm, the temperature had been around 35c all day and we felt that our little charges were flagging. We wandered back to the train station thankful that the carriages were air conditioned. Again our three year old confounded us by saying “Well that was a good day out wasn’t it?” My wife and I were in full agreement.
Visit Windsor – https://www.windsor.gov.uk/
Windsor Castle – https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle
The Boatman – http://boatmanwindsor.com/
The Original Tour Bus – https://www.theoriginaltour.com/p/attractions/the-original-tour-windsor/