Last weekend we went to Windsor Castle as an early birthday treat for my niece. We hadn’t been before and were looking forward to doing a bit of sightseeing and one of the Queen’s homes.
I’ve recently written a few posts about things you can do in the summer holidays with kids (London, beaches, bowling) and I was hoping to do a similar recommendation in my review of Windsor Castle – but instead I’m going to advise you NOT to go to Windsor Castle over the summer!
If you visit the Windsor Castle website you’ll see that you can buy tickets online, what a great idea to avoid having to queue with kids when you get there right? Wrong!
Even though the website says ‘For the best experience please book your tickets in advance‘ it actually makes no difference. When we arrived at the castle at 10 am we saw a very long queue and were pleased we’d bought our tickets the previous month. But then we headed up toward the front gate and were told it didn’t matter if you’ve bought tickets, you need to get in the same queue as everyone else.
We then queued in 25 degrees with 3 kids for 3 hours.
Our plan had been to get there early so that we could watch the changing of the guard at 10:30am but we only saw this from far away because of the queues. Luckily we saw the procession leave again by the time we’d gotten a bit further up the road. The kids enjoyed watching this and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.
In England, we’re well known for our queuing. Unfortunately, foreign tourists aren’t so good at it and we had several angry exchanges with people that brazenly pushed into the queue.
Note to anyone from abroad visiting tourist attractions in England – learn to flippin’ queue!
Eventually, we made it through the gates only to have to queue for another 30 minutes to get through the airport-style security checks.
By now it was way past lunchtime. We were hot and bothered with 3 very hangry and miserable children. The first task was to head to somewhere within the grounds where we could eat our picnic.
Except there isn’t anywhere. There isn’t a cafe either, just an ice cream kiosk with another mile-long queue. In fairness, it is nice ice cream though.
We managed to eat our lunch sitting on the edge of the path, only for an army of Spanish students to plant themselves next to us and proceed to blare Oasis out of a stereo. At the home of the Queen – one would not be amused!
Luckily after we’d been fed and got ourselves as far away from loud, rude foreign tourists as possible our day improved massively.
The grounds at Windsor Castle are much bigger than we expected, as is the castle itself. There’s plenty of places to wander and there are some great views. I’m not a fan of the Royal Family at all but I do like history so enjoyed wandering around the castle and grounds.
Facts about Windsor Castle:
- Windsor Castle is the Queen’s official residence and favourite weekend home
- It is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world
- The castle receives around 7 million visitors a year
You can go inside the State Rooms and apartments (no photography in here) and the kids were all fascinated by the Royal Collection treasures on display including swords, guns, armour, plates, paintings and much more.
We didn’t bother with the audio tour with young children but if you do then I’m sure you’ll learn a lot of interesting information!
You can also go into the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House but unfortunately this was closed on our visit.
Little H is 7 and her cousins are 6 and 3, I was impressed with how interested they were as we walked through the castle. I think they were most interested by the fact that the Queen lives here and had been here with Donald Trump the day before!
After we had finished walking around the State Rooms we got a Royal ice cream before heading to St George’s Chapel, where Harry and Megan recently got married.
We caught the changing of the guards again just outside St George’s chapel which was great to watch.
There are several gift shops around the castle and in the chapel but if you just want to get something for the kids I would recommend waiting until you get outside the castle as there are plenty of much cheaper gift shops there.
All in all, we had a great day out at Windsor Castle despite the rocky start to the day. I would highly recommend a visit, however, I would avoid Windsor at all costs over the summer.
For tickets bought online (not sure if it’s the same for tickets you buy on the gate) you can get them validated and return for free within a year. We plan to come back over the winter when hopefully it will be a bit quieter.
Have you been to Windsor Castle?