Looking for a touch of royalty when in London? Don’t want to spend too much?
Yes, you know I had my own cavalcade. A free event. Look up the Royals’ calendar, here. You may be able to see them driving by or opening something or doing some such worthy task.
However, today’s post is all about property, royal property. We saw a lot. In fact, Mr S begged days off. He’d had enough history about their excesses while their people starved and died.
Before the account of my visits, a word about saving costs. Not all property are managed by the same group. Historic Royal Places manages Kensington, Tower of London, Hampton Court, the Banqueting House and Kew Palace. It may be worth getting an Historic Royal Places visitor’s card if you plan to visit several of these properties. The card will give you entry, and allow you to avoid queuing for tickets, at each venue. By just visiting Kensignton and the Tower, we saved over £13. We then went to two more sites. You also get 10% of gift shop and cafe purchases. You can buy membership at any place or online. We bought at Kensington one beautiful day when we were walking through the gardens and Hyde Park. Looked in and there were no queues, so it was an ideal time to buy. Two days later we went to the Tower. So glad we didn’t have to queue for ticket purchases.
So what and why to visit?
Simply stunning. Really only one room so no walking! You get to lie down on bean bags to look at the ceiling while you listen to the audio guide (which is a must do as it explains the history and symbolism). After all the walking around Westminster, this is a lovely break. If you had young kids, you probably couldn’t do this. But older ones can whip out their iThingies and sit quietly. Adults will love it. Think we spent about an hour in here. Mr S dozed off!!!
Tower of London
This is amazing. And has so much to see, including the Crown Jewels, great towers and weaponry. I had to keep hurrying Mr S along, as he wanted to read every explanation on every item. We’d never get out! No trip to London is complete without a visit here. Abounds with stories of intrigue and skullduggery.
What an extraordinary pile! Castle upon castle upon castle. Successive monarchs have added their bit, after Henry stole it from Cardinal Wolsey. Even in winter (OK, we were here in spring but early spring so the gardens were not planted out) the grounds are breathtaking. The maze is a bit of fun too. Do the audio tour of the palace. It really helps to point out so much. As is our way, we looked at everything (but rushed through the young Henry exhibit – it was our last bit and we’d had enough history, plus we were running out of time and I wanted to walk around the gardens). The audio tours give a choice when doing Henry’s apartments. We chose the one that was spoken by a person of the time of one of Henry’s marriage. We combined our trip with a few pints at the White Swan across the road and then an early dinner (quite nice sausages and mash) before we headed back to London, thus missing much of peak hour in the Tube. Would have liked to walk along the Thames but it was freezing and we spent hours in the palace. With travel time (Tube and train, and if you have an Oystercard you can use it) make a day of it.
Great displays. You’ll learn a lot about Victoria. The dresses of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Diana were beautiful. As you’d expect. Combine this with a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park via the Albert Memorial. We spent a couple of hours in Kensington. But you could go through more quickly.
I know everyone expects you to see this but really it’s a five minute thing. Hang out with the crowds at the gate, snap a few shots and then dodge the traffic while making your way down St James Park and pass St James Palace. I hate crowds and we didn’t particularly want to see soldiers who don’t look old enough to be out of school march around, so we didn’t hang around to see the changing of the guards. Anyway, you can see a much smaller changing at the Horse Guards, where Mr S nearly got trampled by the massive horse. See, they knew he was a republican.
Buckingham Palace Mews
Looking at the carriages was interesting but if time and money are short, don’t feel bad about skipping this, unless you really love all things horses. (We only saw two real horses and they were behind high stable walls.) It’s not covered by the Historic Royal Places visitor’s card so you have to part with more money.
This was my favourite castle and palace. It stands majestically over the town of Windsor-Eton, atop of a hill, giving it the presence of a real castle, which it is. The state and semi-state rooms are amazing – you can see why Prince Charles says it is his favourite residence. If you go in summer, the semi-state rooms are closed. I’m glad we got to see them. The Chapel of St George is impressive too. So many of the kings and queens are buried there. Wish we’d been outside at 3pm because the bell tower chimes.
We travelled on the Green Line coach from Victoria station. (Not that easy to find as the signs identifying bus stops were pretty poor.) Pearched on the front of the upper deck of the bus, we had a great trip out of London to Windsor. Seated up high gives you a different view of the buildings and you can peer over the back fence of Buckingham Palace. (Nothing to see except lots of overgrown shrubbery. Still it was kinda voyeristic.)
Buy a return ticket – cheaper than two singles. (We paid £15 each,) The bus has wifi so you can pop online while admiring the sights. If you do go out to Windsor Castle, walk over to Eton College. It was nice getting away from the crowds of London. The streets around Eton were actually deserted and the bus was practically empty – more reasons to go in the off season. I wished we’d looked at The Long Walk and Runnymede but the bus was there and we were ready to go home.
Maybe next time? It would be lovely to come at a different time of the year and see the gardens. Or we might just stop off to see The Long Walk and Runnymede when we fly into Heathrow and drive out of London!!!