Windsor is a 30 to 50 minute bus ride from London Heathrow Terminal 5 depending on which bus you take. Thames Valley #8 turned out to be the slow bus at 50 minutes, but it was enjoyable and informative when the British lady from Old Windsor started telling us stories about the area and local residents like Elton John. Apparently he sends out community invitations for local children to attend his kids’ birthday parties at his Woodside Old Windsor estate.
Old Windsor the village is 2 miles from Windsor the town and a few bus stops before we exited the #8 bus at Windsor Parish Church near Windsor Castle.
Clarion Collection Harte & Garter (link to my October 2018 hotel review) is one of the Choice Hotel gems I discovered on a one night stay in October when the weather was warm, the skies clear and a full moon rose over the castle as I sat in my top floor room gazing over Windsor’s walls and streets below.
Even better than October was the seasonal reward rate dropped from 16,000 points to 8,000 points on weekdays and 10,000 points for Fri-Sat nights over the Christmas holidays. I booked 4 nights in a castle view room for 36,000 Choice Privileges. Those points cost me $180 last April 2018 during the U.S. Travel Association Daily Getaways sales.
We did not even have to leave the comfort of our room and line up on the street to see the changing of the guard procession from Victoria Barracks along Windsor High Street to King Henry VIII gate of Windsor Castle.
Main advice for Windsor Castle is buy your tickets in advance, arrive early before castle opens or wait until afternoon to arrive or else be prepared to wait in a long line. On December 27 the line extended about 500 people down the High Street for those waiting to buy tickets and past the Royal Mews for those with tickets.
We went on Saturday, December 29 at 12:00 noon and it was about 12:50 by the time we had made it through the line outside for people with prepaid tickets (20 minutes), the ticket line inside (20 minutes) and security check (10 minutes). People without prepaid tickets were waiting as long as two hours to enter.
We toured the castle spending most of our time in the State Apartments going through every bit of the hand-held self-select audio tour guide with headset. Another tip is make sure your audio guide works before heading off into the castle. I had to go back after a few minutes and replace my improperly working headset with audio cutting in and out.
No photos allowed inside Windsor Castle buildings. I will put together a separate piece on Windsor Castle with some exterior photo shots and video.
The Long Walk and Deer Park
The Long Walk was originally created by Charles II in 1683-85. The king had four rows of 1,652 elm trees planted along the 2.5 mile path of the Long Walk and brought deer to the grounds to reestablish Windsor Great Park in the decades following the English Civil War. Elm disease resulted in the original trees being felled and new rows of trees replanted during and after World War Two.
One of my goals for this trip was walk The Long Walk from Windsor Castle South Wing gate 2.5 miles to the Copper Horse status of King George III on Snow Hill.
There are about 500 free-roaming deer in Deer Park. We saw two separate herds grouped together in the fields between the lodge house and the Copper Horse statue and one herd on Snow Hill on the other side of George III and his horse.
Signs warn visitors not to stray too close to the deer as to avoid upsetting the stags with their massive antlers.
I did not pack my telephoto lens for this trip.
Massive ancient oaks are still seen in the surrounding forest.
Windsor held enough attractions, shops and pubs to keep us engaged for four days of walking, shopping, dining and drinking. I have another article planned for pub interiors and reviews after spending time in a dozen pubs and restaurants across Windsor and Eton.