An insider's guide: the best of Windsor
Because we love Windsor so much, we wanted to help customers get the most out of their experience to the royal borough. There's so much more to do and see once you've visited Windsor Castle, so we asked Michelle Heywood, owner of The Best of Windsor, to give us some top tips.
Having lived there from childhood, she knows the area like the back of her hand, and since The London Pass has now teamed up with a handful of great deals and discounts in Windsor & Eton - we've got all you need for a fun day out!
London Pass: How long have you lived in Windsor & Eton for?
Michelle Heywood: I’ve pretty much been in Windsor & Eton since I was 7. I went to the Brigidene Convent School in Windsor until I was 16 years old and because I actually lived some miles away in Crowthorne, I spent a lot of time staying with friends in Windsor at the weekend. I fell in love with the town and moved first to Old Windsor and then Windsor when I graduated.
London Pass: Which is your favourite part of Windsor & Eton?
Michelle Heywood: It has to be the Long Walk and Windsor Great Park where we walk our dog Sidney every day, and which we also run in. It looks beautiful in every season and due to its size never feels crowded. The totem pole in the park, carved from Western Red Cedar and erected in 1958, was a gift from native peoples from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. I love the carvings on this.
London Pass: Where is the best place in Windsor & Eton to enjoy views of the castle?
Michelle Heywood: The castle is pretty big so you can see different views from a few places. My favourite views are from the top of Peascod Street where you can see the entrance, round tower and Queen Victoria’s statue; from the bridge between Windsor and Eton; and from the Long Walk where you see another part of the castle entirely, surrounded by parkland. You get a great view from the river too, so if you get a chance take a French Brothers River Cruise or a take a trip with London Kayak Tours and see the Castle from a kayak!
London Pass: What else would you recommend that tourists see, other than Windsor Castle, while they are in the area?
Michelle Heywood: If you are just in Windsor for the day and have come by train, then I would recommend that you don’t miss a visit to Eton. Here you can see the following highlights:
An original mid-19th century red ‘pillar box’ half way down Eton High Street which has a vertical letter slot Eton College, originally founded as a charity school in 1440 by King Henry VI to provide free education to 70 poor boys.
It is now the prestigious Public School for 1,300 13-18 year old boys whose uniform of tailcoats and colourful waistcoats (worn by members of the Eton Society who are Prefects) still attracts much interest. 70 boys are still chosen as King’s Scholars. Prince William and Harry both attended Eton College.
The Edge II bronze sculpture of a naked man can be found in Common Lane – look up high for this! The sculpture was produced by British artist Antony Gormley who is best known for Britain’s largest sculpture situated near Gateshead called The Angel of the North.
Of course on your way down to these sights you can pop into the many independent shops which include The Eton Fudge Shop where Hazel makes many flavours of home-made fudge from a traditional English recipe, right there in the shop!
London Pass: Like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle also has its own changing of the guard ceremony, right?
Michelle Heywood: Since 1660 the duty of the guards has been to protect the monarch. The Windsor Castle Guards, often accompanied by pipes and drums, march from Victoria Barracks to the castle to change guard all year round (depending on the weather). The best place to watch them is along the High Street and just outside the Castle entrance from about 10.45am and again at 11.25am as the old guard return to the Barracks. If you actually want to see the ceremony you will need to pay to go into the Castle. They march every day from April to July (but never march on a Sunday) and on alternate days from August to March. Days and times may vary, especially by season so you should always check beforehand on The Royal Collection’s website. The Changing of the Guard is one of the highlights of a visit to Windsor. A band usually accompanies the Guards, although this is subject to weather conditions.
London Pass: How do Windsor & Eton differ as visitor destinations? Are they close to one another?
Michelle Heywood: Eton can be found across the bridge just at the bottom of Castle Hill so is really, really close to Windsor. Both towns should be explored when visiting Windsor Castle because there’s lots to see, and you can stop on the way to Eton to walk down by the river and feed the ducks and swans. A local shop sells bags of bread just for this purpose!
London Pass: Are there any local haunts or ‘off the beaten track’ destinations that we should know about?
Michelle Heywood: Windsor and Eton is quite a small area, so if you follow the walking tour you will see a lot of the hidden gems! Take a look at our 2 minute video ‘The hidden treasures of Windsor and Eton’ for some highlights: The hidden treasures of Windsor and Eton
London Pass: What is the best place in Windsor & Eton for a coffee and a cake to finish off a day of sightseeing?
Michelle Heywood: The best afternoon tea in my opinion can be found at Macdonald Windsor hotel which is situated behind the pedestrian crossing in front of the castle in the High Street. Their hasty bites menu is useful for a quick but delicious lunch and they have a full and impressive dinner menu. For a coffee and cake, the red velvet cake is my favourite which can be found at Gigney’s artisan cafe, just down from Windsor and Eton Riverside station and near the King George V Memorial. Delicious!
London Pass: What is the most typically English part of Windsor & Eton?
Michelle Heywood: We love our pubs, bars and restaurants and we have many really old establishments like the Carpenters Arms, the Two Brewers and The Watermans Arms in Eton which is the oldest pub in the area. We also have some special products made right here in the town, such as British beer brewed at The Windsor & Eton Brewery and teas from Darvilles of Windsor (who have a royal warrant) who have been blending and supplying teas for over 140 years.
There you have it, a comprehensive insider's guide to exploring the charm and beauty of Windsor & Eton. From the historic Windsor Castle to the quaint attractions of Eton, there's much more Beyond the castle, there's history, culture, food and natural beauty around every corner.
You'll have fun deciding how to fill your time. Do you want to immerse in royal heritage at the castle? Wander quaint streets taking in gorgeous architecture? Stop for coffee and cake at a charming cafe? Sample ales at a historic pub?
Be sure to leave time simply taking in stunning Thames views and countryside scenery. You may even spot deer!
Wherever your interests, you won't run out of ways to spend days soaking up everything. The history and beauty are waiting - enjoy discovering it for yourself!