Merry Vibes in Windsor; GILL MARTIN Takes a Whistlestop Tour of Windsor and Stays in Style near Its Famous Castle

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), May 26, 2019 | Go to article overview

Merry Vibes in Windsor; GILL MARTIN Takes a Whistlestop Tour of Windsor and Stays in Style near Its Famous Castle


Byline: GILL MARTIN

T'S ON every tourists' top 10 must-visit attractions along with the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

IAnd, since the wedding of Harry and Meghan at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle has echoed with a thunder of visitor footsteps, foreign and home-grown.

Somewhat shame-faced, I admit to never having visited the castle's state apartments or chapel where Prince H plighted his troth to an American actress, and whose nuptials were swiftly followed by the wedding of his cousin Eugenie to a rich young man.

I arranged a 24-hour visit, choosing a luxury serviced apartment within saluting distance of the castle wall. The third floor apartment commanded great views of the grey ramparts and the flag. When we arrived on a Thursday morning the Union Jack was flying. By the afternoon they'd run up the yellow and red Royal Ensign to signify HM was in residence, as on most long weekends when she leaves London. This is the home where she has hosted former US president Obama, presided over state banquets and conducted investitures.

Across the road, our charming accommodation, with its wrought iron French balconies, floor to ceiling windows, airy rooms, comfy sofas and stylish decor might not match the ornate splendour of Her Indoors' but it ticked our boxes. Wi-fi; living room with a dining table; one of the two spacious bedrooms en-suite; and a galley kitchen, which included a chilled bottle of Prosecco to toast our ideal location for visiting the castle, Ascot, Windsor Races and the Thames riverside.

It's also handy for Henley Regatta, Legoland or Windsor Theatre a few doors away.

With impeccable timing we synchronised our arrival to the castle with the changing of the guards, drilled into impressive clockwork precision, shiny black boots marching in unison, soles clattering on cobblestones like a fusillade of rifle shots.

The state apartments are, in the words of one American visitor, awesome. She's not far wrong. Windsor Castle, the world's oldest and largest occupied royal residence, is magnificent with artworks worth billions displayed in 1,000 rooms and a history dating back to the 11th Century when it was founded by William the Conqueror as a fortress.

It's been the Queen's home for 80 years, as a child during World War Two and as the 39th monarch to occupy the castle. She was devastated when a disastrous fire raged through the building for 15 hours - precisely as in Notre Dame - in 1992 (her Annus Horribilis), gutting nine rooms, damaging 100 and needing 1.5 million gallons of water to extinguish it. Restoration has cost PS37m, mostly funded by ticket money from visitors to Buckingham Palace.

Windsor remains the hub of the House of Windsor where royals have been hatched (Edward III was born here in 1360), matched (Harry & Meghan; Eugenie & Jack); and dispatched (10 British monarchs, including Henry VIII and the executed Charles I are buried in St George's Chapel). …

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