BERKSHIRE

Windsor Castle Flickr wallygLocated west of London, this historic county is one of the oldest in England.   The Royal County of Berkshire got its name from the word bearroc, a forest of box trees, and was first mentioned in history in 860.  It is most well-known for housing the Queen’s favorite abode, the Windsor Castle.  Once you’ve tried to digest the grandeur of the castle, though, you will learn that this antedeluvian county has more to offer. 

Windsor Castle - the Lower Ward and King George's ChapelHistoric Windsor (pop. 28,000) is located south of the River Thames, and 34 kilometers west of Charring Cross.  It is ancient, but well-equipped with facilities you can expect from a bigger city.  It has two railway stations: the Central Station (High Street), which is located directly opposite the Castle Hill, and the Riverside Station (Datchet Road), which is nearer the River Thames.  Courtney Coaches serve the local bus route.  It is a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly town, with bike lanes on main roads, and traffic-free alternative routes.€€

Sights
Windsor Castle (Castle Hill, +44 2077667304, £16).  Sitting atop an artificial hill is the imposing Round Tower, the very first structure in the fortress that will welcome you upon arrival.  This artificial hill or motte is at the centre of this 45,000 square metre royal estate, and this is not, in the least bit, random—after all, this is where William the Conqueror built the first wooden castle, later rebuilt in stone.  It is still the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.  

Windsor Castle guard Flickr wallygMuch of the castle is open for public viewing, such as the State Apartments, with walls that are lined with the greatest works of art that are part of the royal collection.  St. George’s Chapel, located at the Lower Ward of the castle, is another must-see.  Founded by King Edward III in 1348, it is the principal place of worship inside the fortress.  Its present architecture, though, owes a lot to the reign of Queen Victoria.

Some parts of the castle are open to the public only for a few days.  The Frogmore House, and the surrounding estate, is only open during some parts of the year.  At some times of the year, it is the venue of many royal parties, so it is doubtful you can gatecrash those.  Check in advance to know when you can visit.

One thing you must not miss is the Changing of the Guards.  Depending on the Weather, you can catch this military ritual at 11AM daily, during the months May till July.  During the rest of the year, it happens on alternate days, the weather permitting.  

Another notable sight here is Queen Mary’s Doll’s House.  Everything here is painstakingly made to a scale of 1:12 by Sir Edwin Lutyens and other topnotch artists.  The idea was first conceived by Princess Marie Louise, but the doll’s house was complete in 1924, for Queen Mary, the wife of King George V.  Every miniature in the doll’s house actually works.  It showcases the height of decadence of royal life at that time.

Windsor Parish Church (High Street).  Replacing the old church that used to stand on this very site, the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist dates back from 1822.  Each way you turn, you get a glimpse of the church’s colorful history.  At the right side of the main steps is the replica “Lion and Floriated Cross” dedicated to Audell , Abbess of Burnham.  The main glass doors commemorate the people lost during the 1939 war.  Memorials to historical figures Samuel Foote and John Woodruff also adorn the chapel.  Another draw here is the Last Supper painting by Francis Cleyn, which was restored in 2003 under Churchwarden Michael Harding.  After recovering from awe at this historic church, you must venture towards Guild Hall, located in the same street.  It is famous for its pillars that builder Sir Christopher Wren only included because of public demand, even though he thought them unnecessary.  

Fuscia Flickr wwarbyWindsor Great Park (The Great Park, +44 1753 860222).  More than just a 50,000 acre deer park, the Windsor Great Park used to be the principal royal hunting ground.  It has several lodges and statues honoring royal personalities.  Its distinguishing features include the vast deer lawn accented with old oak trees, a herd of deer, and many natural delights.

Savill Garden (Wick Lane, Windsor Great Park, +44 1753847518).  Created by Sir Eric Savill in 1930, the Savill Garden in the Windsor Great Park, is a delight for nature-lovers and horticulturalists, as well as anyone appreciate of peace, quiet, and beauty.  Every season gives visitors a different look, but with the changing look, also expect a changing price for admission.  

Windsor Farmers’ Market (St. Leonard’s Road, +44 7590255537).  Open during the first Saturday of every month, this farmers’ market is a good way to sample great fresh locally-grown produce and to meet the locals.

Royal Windsor Racecourse (Maidenhead Road, +44 1753498400, £6-£18) .  Located by the banks of the River Thames and accessible by boat (£5 for roundtrip), this thoroughbred race course traces its history (or at least the area on which it stands) from the time of King Henry VII.  This is strictly for horseracing enthusiasts.

Hotels 
Harte & Garter Hotel (High Street, +44 8448559131, £83) is the combination of two 14th century inns—the Garter Inn founded by King Edward III, and the White Harte, which takes its name from the Royal Emblem that King Richard II sported.  Its Jacobethan-style architecture dates back from the 19th century, but its facilities are conveniently modern.  There are rooms that afford one a great view of the Windsor Castle, while some rooms can fall victim to the noise caused by a bus stop directly facing them, especially during at midnight.  The rooms, though, are spotless, despite varying in size but not in price.  Another drawback here is the lack of A/C, so it’s not a good choice for summer.

Sir Christopher Wren’s House (52-54 Thames Street, +44 1753861354, £86-£164).  Built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1676, the house is commendable for being within the town proper and near to all the important sights.  It has a spa, a sauna, and a health club for those inclined that way.  However, the rooms are small, this being an old building, and what you’ll be paying for is to be inside a piece of architectural history, and its ambience.  

 Beautiful grounds and picturesque hotel structure—
Oakley Court Hotel (Windsor Road, Water Oakley, +44 1189714700, £99) is teeming with charm.  It is also teeming with unpredictability—some parts of the hotel feel old and smell old, while some parts are squeaky clean and very new.  It is near to Legoland, so it’s a good place to stay if you’re traveling with kids. 

Mercure Castle Hotel (18 High Street, +44 1753851577, £102) boasts of Georgian architecture and modern facilities.  It is a few steps away from everything you will want to see within the town proper of Windsor; in fact, even the Changing of the Guard procession passes by the front door of the hotel.  A bus to Legoland is just across the hotel.  Its rooms are spacious, comfortable, and very clean, with staff who go out of their way to make your stay comfortable.  It also houses award-winning restaurant, Thirteen.  




Eton College Chapel, WindsorWalk or cycle on the Windsor Bridge and you will find yourself in the quiet college town of Eton, home to England’s most famous public school, Eton College.  The college is not always open to the public, understandably, so be sure to check the website to know when the opening times are, and how much the entrance fee is, because both vary depending on the season.  

 Once inside the college, the school yard and the College Chapel should be of great interest to visitors.  The College Chapel is a great example of Gothic architecture, and was built in 1441.  

Legoland Flickr Karen Roe Around Eton, antique lovers will have a field day with all the antique shops that the town has to offer.  

Across the bridge, you will be afforded a great view of the Windsor Castle at the Brocas Meadows.  From Windsor, the Brocas is located on the first road to your left.  After walking to the end, you will reach a short alley, which is the edge of the meadows.  Plan to visit this during a late afternoon, for a stunning view of the castle and river bathed in late afternoon sunlight.  If you travel during the summer, you can be sure that there will be a fair in this side of Eton. 

Windsor may be full of classical architectural marvels, but that’s not all it has to offer. 
Legoland (Winkfield Road, +44 8712222001, £38) is a postmodern architectural treat for adults, and simply a blast for kids.  It is a wonderland of larger-than-life Lego  models of anything and everything, 3D cinema, live shows, and rides.  To save money, book online to score deals and packages.  Be prepared to queue as well, for it is bound to be packed.
      

 

Horse racing MorgueFile seriousfunAscot is a small village known for the Royal Ascot Racecourse.   This racecourse is one of the leading UK racecourses, and is historically important as well, having been founded by Queen Anne in 1771. Its main event, the Royal Ascot, still happens every year, and is one of Europe’s most famous race meetings.  It is a major event in the British Royal Family’s social calendar, and every year, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, along with some other family members, attend the meet, starting with a procession in a horse-drawn carriage. 

Located at the Old Windsor, south of the modern town,
Runnymede (Windsor Road, +44 1784 432891) is famous in history as the place wherein King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215.  It takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word “runieg” (regular meeting) and “mede” (meadow).  Aside from Runnymede Flickr Andy Pearcehistorical significance, Runnymede affords one a great view of the River Thames, and fantastic woodlands to stroll on.

As a tribute to its historical importance, there are several memorials in Runnymede.   There is the Air Forces Memorial, commemorating the brave men and women who fought and perished during the WWII.  It is for the airmen who have no known graves.  There is the Magna Carta Memorial, which is at the bottom of the Cooper Hill Slopes.  And lastly, the John F. Kennedy Memorial, which is halfway up the Cooper Hill Slopes, on a United States property.  The granite steps that lead to it are equal to Kennedy’s age a
 t the time of his death.