August 16 – 18
A visit to Mr and Mrs Windsor and their castle
We had booked to go to the Red Bull Air Race at Royal Ascot Racecourse on August 17. We loaded up the car and drove down to Slough (near Windsor and Heathrow). Its only 2 hours on the M1 but the M25 is always a risk for delays. We arrived at Slough pretty much on time and after identifying our hotel and parking the car for two days we went to the rail station at Slough and headed to Windsor. Surprisingly Slough has a dedicated line to Windsor and Eton as Queen Victoria decided she wanted one. She also decided she wanted another dedicated station Windsor Riverside which connects into the Staines line. This was to prove valuable in getting to Ascot.
We caught the train (photo attached) and arrived at Windsor to learn that Frogmore House was open.
This house is in the Great Windsor Park ((Frogmore estate about one half mile from Windsor Castle along the Long Walk) and is the house (as opposed to Castle or Palace) used by the Royal family and includes their crypt in the grounds. In 1790 Queen Charlotte decided she wanted a country home for her and her daughters and its been in use as a retreat or royal residence ever since and is a favourite of the present Queen (she has special little doors for the corgis – not dog flaps but proper little doors on all the doors leading to the verandah). It is only opened twice a year and we fluked one of those days.
After walking through Windsor from the station we came to the Long Walk which has been the ceremonial drive into the castle to the Royal and State Apartments. It is quite amazing a line of trees with a road in the middle going to the horizon. Some years ago when we caught up with Angus Innes in London he took us to Hampton Court and then a pub just off the Long Walk for lunch. So I was somewhat surprised to find the pub again. Great pub and beautiful location.
Our visit to Frogmore was quite strenuous as the estate is large and the house set well into the estate. We visited the mausoleum/crypt and noticed that Edward and Wallis are buried there side by side but quite apart from the other graves (and not inside the crypt). The house is something else. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. We spent a couple of hours there (mainly because of the distance to walk) and this meant we were destined to be caught up in the queue to get into the castle.
So after a spot of shopping for some new shoes (Kerry’s feet still giving her trouble) we lined up for 40 minutes to get in. NOTE TO ALL VISITING HERITAGE SITES AND MONUMENTS IN LONDON – you will be scanned for anti – terrorist reasons so leave your crocodile Dundee knives at home – the blade has to be less than 7cm so I got mine through when we visited the Shard some time ago but I just don’t take my knife with me to public buildings any more. Waiting while they measure the length of the knife can be a bit embarrassing.
After the scanning and collecting our free audio guide we set off to visit the castle and what a castle. Primarily now a residence it is a community within itself with formidable defences for its period. It started as a wooden keep under William the Conqueror. He got his soldiers to dig a large circular trench atop a hill and to throw the dirt and rubble into the centre and on top of the pile he built a wooden Keep (circular tower) and after 100 years (the time judged as necessary to let it compact) they built the present stone Keep and the other accoutrements like gatehouse and barbican (no longer standing) and over the centuries added all the rest. The last addition to the castle was another 10m added to the keep by George IV just to make it look more impressive.
We toured inside the castle and St. George’s Chapel (it is the size of a Cathedral) (no photos allowed) and most impressive was the hall of the knights of the garter. You may recall there was a fire at the castle well you would not know it now. But good old Phil (Prince Philip) made one alteration to connect the state apartments to the castle proper. It took a good couple of hours to see it all. It is a must see in my view.
There is quite a nice surprise at the end. You can extend your ticket for one year by having it stamped by one of the wardens which means you can return for free (avoid all the queues and still get your free audio guide).
We did go back the following day – Kerry to see Queen Mary’s doll house and me to climb the Keep. The doll house was not my cup of tea as the queue is always there and never shortens but Kerry tells me it is a miniature working house with running water and electricity silver table ware and working furniture. The Keep has over two hundred stairs to its top and at the end of the first flight is a canon looking straight at you to repel intruders. Once at the top you have an unrestricted view but no photographs allowed of the State and Royal Apartments (we don’t want to catch Fergie sucking toes on camera again).
I have included some photos of:
• The bus station at Slough (a pity the rest of Slough is not as modern)
• The train – actually a museum piece on show at the station
• The Long Walk and the entrance to the State Apartments form the Long Walk
• The crypt front and back (where the graves are)
• Frogmore House and Frogmore Estate gardens
• Flowers in the streets of Windsor
• The Keep (the Union Jack means the Queen is away – her own flag is flown when she is home), St Georges gate
• St Georges Chapel and the apartments of the clergy and some of the grotesques on the Chapel exterior (these are the little faces images featuring throughout gothic structures. I always thought them to be gargoyles until reading about them in the castle)
• The moat (never filled with water)
• The gate house to the Keep and the views from the Keep