A tour of Windsor Castle was on our list of activities for our three full days staying directly across the street from the castle at Clarion Collection Harte & Garter Hotel during the post-Christmas week. The view from our room provided a couple of days for viewing visitor lines on the streets below for Windsor Castle tours. Our tour date was on our third full day staying in town.
The focus of this article is the buying a ticket and actual self-guided tour logistics of Windsor Castle more than a description of the sights at Windsor Castle.
My main piece of advice is book your ticket online before arrival.
When I checked the website on Dec 27 to buy Windsor Castle tour tickets I found tickets unavailable for Dec 27 or Dec 28. I bought two tickets for Dec 29.
Tickets are valid for the date with no specific time of arrival. Castle admission seasonal hours Nov 1-Feb 28 are 10:00-15:00 with castle closure at 16:15. Mar 1-Oct 31 hours are extended one hour to 16:00 last admission and 17:15 castle closure to visitors. We stayed a little over 3 hours and listened to every piece of the self-selected audio guide tour.
The castle is busiest in the morning. Afternoon arrivals tend to be a shorter line according to the website and my own observations.
Lines were long every morning starting around 9am and extended down the street by the time of the 10am visitor center opening. Both sides of the street were packed by 10am on Thursday and Saturday mornings during our stay in town with 11am ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremonies. A band marched from Windsor’s Victoria Barracks along High Street and through King Henry VIII gate shortly before 11am and then exited King Henry VIII gate around 11:15am.
Kelley got a kick out of the band playing the Star Wars theme, along with a variety of Christmas holiday songs.
Windsor Castle tours begin at the visitor entrance on Castle Hill to the right of the street gate barricade. The arrow on the YouTube video points to the location of the entrance gate.
We had tickets for December 29, 2018. Not knowing which side of the street we needed to join the line, I asked a police officer who directed us to join the line on the right side of Castle Hill road at the visitor entrance rather than the line winding around the castle and down the hill.
Apparently the really long line we saw winding around Windsor Castle each day is for people who do not have tickets specifically for the date. From my own observations and web comments, it appeared you might wait for two hours to be admitted on a standby basis. One morning I estimated about 300 to 400 people in line and it looked like every 5 minutes the police allowed 15 visitors to cross the street to the castle entrance line.
We were in a much shorter line across the street from Windsor Castle that wound around the sidewalk behind Windsor Parish Church. The Royal Mews are also along this street. From the mews gates it probably takes about 30-40 minutes to reach the ticket counter inside the castle entrance.
- Adult £21.20
- Senior (60+, student, disabled) £19.30
- Under 17 £12.30
- Under 5 Free
- Family (2 adults + 3 under 17s) £54.70
We reached the doorway to the visitor entrance building after about 20 minutes wait in line from where we started behind Windsor Parish Church. Another 10 minutes to reach one of six registers and exchange our mobile online ticket order confirmation number for paper tickets to Windsor Castle.
Then, another 10 minutes in line to pass through security and bag check screening, similar to an airport security line.
After about 40 minutes in all to get inside Windsor Castle, we were outside again beside a small parking lot with toilet facilities.
At booths up the road we picked up the audio guide device and headphones. These are included in the ticket price for a self-guided tour experience.
Windsor Castle Tour Tip: Check your audio guide and headphones before walking through the castle wall gate. I realized after a minute or two that my setup was not functioning properly with scratchy sound and audio going in and out. I returned to the station to change audio device and then realized it was the headphones that were crap. After a delay of 5 minutes, since there were no headphones remaining, new boxes of headphones were delivered and I was good to go back through the castle gate.
North Terrace is a high point with views of Windsor, Eton and Thames River Valley.
Suffice to say that the State Apartments of Windsor Castle offer some splendid rooms and objects to admire. Woodwork and decor are impressive. A painting by Titian is one that impressed me with a memory of seeing a very special piece of art. There was a Rembrandt too. Lots of armor and beautiful furniture. Kelley and I listened to every audio link on the guide for every room we visited.
A Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
One of the highlights of the State Apartments tour was a special exhibit for ‘A Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’.
No photography is allowed inside Windsor Castle buildings.
A hallway inside the State Rooms that normally displays some of the china collection was lined with large prints from the June 2018 Royal Wedding of Harry & Meghan leading into the Grand Reception room where her Givenchy wedding dress displaying the full train in a long glass case allowed visitors to walk nearly 360-degrees around the room and admire the spectacular lacework. Kelley pointed out California poppies to me among the different flower designs along the edge of the train. Photos of her wedding dress can be seen in Town & Country. Prince Harry’s uniform and the Meghan’s dress were so well displayed that the only missing aspect were real bodies inside the clothes.
After the Windsor Castle State Apartments tour of the castle interior inside the Upper Ward, we exited past the gift shop and outside onto another gated viewing point of the Upper Ward. The photo below is taken from the opposite side of the Upper Ward near the Charles II statue with a view to the private residence part of Windsor Castle.
After the tour we exited through Norman Gate back into the Middle Ward walled garden beneath the Round Tower.
St. George’s Chapel
One more gift shop by Henry VIII Gate visitor exit to Windsor Castle gave Kelley one more chance to shop. Then we were out of the castle a few minutes before 4:15 closing.
Outside Windsor Castle in the King Henry VIII gate entrance I snapped one last photo of a December sunset in Windsor with a view to the Clarion Collection Harte & Garter Hotel. The second and third windows on the top floor on right side of photo shows our room #405 with white towels seen in the open window.
Afternoon tea at Clarence’s followed by a pub crawl around Windsor and Eton made for a perfect winter day in Windsor.