· Exploring the twin towns of Windsor and Eton ·
Have you ever been somewhere that completely overwhelms you with beauty and history? Windsor and Eton in Berkshire, England is one of those places. Straddling the River Thames, these two little towns are steeped in the history of England’s upper crust dating back to the 11th century when the Round Tower of Windsor Castle was first built. Since, the Castle has expanded to incorporate three expansive “wards” which include the State Apartments, an extensive outer wall, and St George’s Chapel. Outside the castle walls, Windsor offers shopping and royally-themed pubs. South of the Upper Ward, the Long Walk stretches straight out more than 2.5 miles, offering an impressive view to a horse statue at the end.
Head across the Thames to Eton and the bustle of tourists and shopping settles down the further you move through the town. Here, Henry VI set up his new Eton College in 1440 which has been educating the elitist of Britain’s elite ever since. Visit on a weekday and you’re sure to see at least one young boy decked out in a top hat and tails scurrying around the town. A quintessentially British high street leads to the college with its impressive brick architecture. It may not be the neighboring castle, but it is no less impressive.
Back in Windsor, a visit inside the castle walls is well worth the steep admission price. See the State Apartments with its priceless artwork and impressive decorations. Ancient armor and weapons decorate the walls as they lead you into St George’s Hall where the timber roof and walls are adorned with colorful shields: the Coat of Arms of all of the members of the Order of the Garter, the oldest chivalric order in Britain. With the association and design of the hall, you might be deceived into thinking this is one of the oldest rooms in the castle. However, the devastating 1992 fire broke out in the adjacent Lantern Lobby and St George’s Hall was left in ruins. Thus, it is only twenty-five or so years old; it is no less impressive for it.
Heading back outside and dating to the 14thcentury, St George’s Chapel inside the castle complex is absolutely not to be missed. This historic chapel serves as the Order of the Garter’s official chapel, and thus there are many more examples of members’ Coat of Arms. Uniquely, in the Choir, the impressively carved seats are marked with carved symbols of various high-ranking members. Eleven kings are buried here including Henry VIII (alongside his third wife Jane Seymour), Charles I, and the current Queen’s own father, George VI, along with her mother and sister. The site of the recent Royal Weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, this chapel breathes history ancient and recent.
A trip to Windsor and Eton on a sunny day is a well spent day. There is no end to the things to do and repeat visits are recommended. If you visit the castle, be sure to get your tickets stamped which will allow free re-entry for a year. Every time you come back, you’ll see something you missed.
Besides, who doesn’t want to live like the Queen for a day?