12 Best Things to Do in Windsor UK
One of the most beautiful towns in England, Windsor is known for its royal connection and location on the river Thames. There are many other great things to do in Windsor as well as visiting the famous castle. Here are the best attractions in Windsor and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Things to Do in Windsor UK
Windsor is located just 20 minutes from London Heathrow and 1 hour from London. Thanks to its great road and rail links, this picturesque English market town makes an ideal weekend break. The Royal Borough is also a good base from which to explore the surrounding countryside.
Originally a Saxon village, Windsor became a thriving town thanks to its position on the river Thames. These days, Windsor is a popular destination for shopping, entertainment and tourism.
1. Windsor Castle
The largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world, this historic British landmark dates from 1070. Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror and took 16 years to complete.
The castle was quite a simple fortress until the 1200s, when its wooden fences were replaced with stone walls. The Round Tower, which stands on the original castle mound, was created by Henry II in the 12th century. George IV heightened the tower walls in the 1820s.
Today, Windsor Castle is famous as a Royal home and an official Royal residence. When the Queen is in residence, her standard flies from the Round Tower.
Visits to Windsor Castle should be pre-booked to guarantee entry. The number of visitor slots has been reduced to facilitate social distancing and a one-way system is in operation.
Staff are extremely welcoming and will explain which parts of the castle are open to visitors. While Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and Precinct Tours are temporarily unavailable, there is much to enjoy. HRH Princess Beatrice of York’s wedding dress is on display until 22 November 2020.
The Semi-State Rooms are open from Autumn until Spring, while the State Apartments themselves are open all year. Don’t miss St George’s Chapel, where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are buried. Refreshments are available in the new Undercroft Cafe.
Address: Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD
2. River Thames Boat Cruise
For one of the best views of the castle and also the River Thames, take a Windsor boat trip. French Brothers are a family run company known for their highly informative boat tours.
Chris French was a finalist in Visit England’s Tourism Superstar competition in 2019. We chose the 40 minute Windsor river cruise, which takes you upstream to Boveney Lock.
As you glide past the swans, you’ll see Windsor Racecourse, Eton College, the Brocas Meadows and Mill House. The French Brothers fleet is very comfortable and all necessary social distancing measures are in place. Each visitor bubble must stay in their seats and visitors disembark at intervals.
Address: Windsor Promenade, Barry Road, Windsor SL4 1QX
3. Windsor Great Park
Originally the hunting ground of William I, Windsor Great Park has been popular with royalty ever since. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh has been the Ranger of Windsor Great Park since 1952.
The park boasts 4,800 acres of green space, including the famous Long Walk. Leading from Windsor town centre and the castle to the Copper Horse statue on Snow Hill, it’s a 2.65 mile tree-lined walk.
Along the way you may spot some of the herds of red deer who roam freely around. According to legend, Henry VIII waited for the news of Anne Boleyn’s execution at the Copper Horse statue.
Address: The Crown Estate Windsor Great Park SL4 2HT
The Savill Garden within Windsor Great Park was created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930s. The gardens are known for their herbaceous borders in Summertime, although they look beautiful all year round.
Spread over 35 acres, the gardens and woodland have a gift shop, plant shop and restaurant. Entrance fees apply and tickets can be pre-booked online via the Windsor Great Park website.
4. Humphry’s Fine Dining Restaurant
For contemporary British cuisine with a twist, head to Humphry’s Restaurant at Stoke Park. This elegant space has floor to ceiling windows and is decorated with beautiful floral displays.
Humphry’s takes its name from the 18th century landscape designer Humphrey Repton. He created the iconic Repton Bridge in the hotel grounds.
Head Chef Chris Wheeler has been at Stoke Park for 14 years. In that time, he and his team have won 3 AA rosettes for their accomplished cooking.
Dishes such as home-smoked scallops and pan-fried pave of halibut with butternut squash risotto, artichokes, local asparagus and crispy leeks are perfectly executed and presented. For dessert we highly recommend the rose, raspberry and lychee parfait with coconut sorbet, mint “glass”, raspberry gel and vanilla and raspberry sponge.
Address: Stoke Park Country Club, Spa and Hotel, Park Road Buckinghamshire, Stoke Poges SL2 4PG
5. Escape Experience Windsor
Whether you’re visiting Windsor with kids, as a couple or with friends, an escape room is a fun activity. Escape Experience Windsor gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor and has 4 different rooms as well as two outdoor games.
Each escape room is private for you and your group of a maximum of 6 players. The rooms and all props are fully cleaned in between uses.
We tried our luck with the Crown Jewels Heist, which is ideal for first-time escapees like ourselves. Thankfully, there is a host who watches from a separate room and will give you clues if you are floundering.
You’ll need to work as a team to solve some of the riddles, and to seize the Crown Jewels within 60 minutes. We made it with a few minutes to spare, feeling very pleased with ourselves!
Address: 15a Goswell Hill, Windsor SL4 1RH
6. Windsor Town Centre
During your Windsor trip, make time to walk around the picturesque town centre. Starting at the castle, you can follow the Queen’s Walkway, a circular walking tour with 63 pavement plaques that was opened by the Queen on her 90th birthday. The walkway was commissioned to commemorate her becoming the longest reigning monarch at 63 years 210 days in September 2015, (therefore the walkway distance is a symbolic 6.321km).
Don’t miss The Crooked House of Windsor at 51 High Street. This timbered building dates from the 16th century and has a secret passage in the basement. It is rumoured that this was used for illicit encounters between King Charles II and Nell Gwynn. The house leads on to the shortest street in England, Charlotte Street which is 51 feet and 10 inches long.
Next to the crooked house, you’ll find the Guildhall, which opened in 1689. A popular venue for events and weddings, it was completed by Sir Christopher Wren and contains two chandeliers loaned by the Queen. There’s also a local history museum which is temporarily closed.
Also worth seeing in town are the Theatre Royal, dating from Edwardian times and Alexandra Gardens. Shoppers will enjoy the Windsor Royal Station arcade and Windsor Yards mall.
Stop for refreshments at Sebastian’s, an Italian restaurant on Goswell Hill or Cinnamon Cafe, in the former booking hall of Windsor railway station.
7. Afternoon Tea at Cliveden House
An elegant English country house hotel, Cliveden was designed by the architect Sir Charles Barry in the 1850s. This Italiante style building has welcomed many famous guests over 350 years.
Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandh and President Franklin D. Roosevelt have all graced its doors. The Beatles filmed part of their film Help! here. John Profumo and Christine Keeler first met here, sparking the infamous Profumo affair.
Cliveden House retains all of its historical charm, with a Great Hall adorned with tapestries and an intricately carved staircase. Afternoon tea at Cliveden takes place in the Dining Room, which has delightful garden views.
The Red Velvet Afternoon Tea includes a tasty selection of finger sandwiches and savouries, together with two types of homemade scones and a fabulous array of sweet treats. Our favourites were the apple shaped pastry and the red velvet muffin. There’s also a great choice of Cliveden blend teas which you can enjoy with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne for an additional charge.
The original red velvet recipe comes from the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC, built by the former owner of Cliveden, William Waldorf Astor. There are so many treats that Clivden will prepare a doggie bag for you if you can’t finish them all.
All served with full-bodied and aromatic Cliveden blend teas.
Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead SL6 0JF
8. Cliveden Gardens
The Grade I listed formal gardens and woodlands at Cliveden are operated by the National Trust. Cliveden means valley among cliffs and the house stands on a plateau with far reaching views.
Take a walk to the riverside and Spring Cottage, where Stephen Ward and Christine Keeler once stayed. Admire the six-acre formal parterre, the mysterious Sounding Chamber and ornate Fountain of Love.
The Water Garden takes inspiration from Asia and has a profusion of Japanese maples, together with a Chinese pagoda.
Address: Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead SL1 8NS
Famous for Eton College, this historic town also has some good independent stores including an antique bookshop, several tailors and a cute dog shop called It’s a Dog’s Life.
It’s easy to reach Eton from Windsor town centre, by crossing on foot at Windsor Bridge. Take the Eton Walkway, a 2 mile circular walk which features 18 points of interest in the town.
Eton College is closed to visitors, however you can catch a glimpse of it from the outside. The college also runs 3 museums for which admission is free: the Museum of Eton Life, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Antiquities. They are open on Sunday afternoons.
10. The Stanley Spencer Gallery
Located in a former Methodist church, the Stanley Spencer Gallery showcases the life and work of British artist Stanley Spencer. In the picturesque riverside village of Cookham, it gives a fascinating insight into his creative output.
The currrent exhibition, Love, Art, Loss: The Wives of Stanley Spencer, reveals how Spencer’s relationships with his two wives inspired his work.
Address: 16 High St, Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9SJ
11. Gin Tasting at The Queen Charlotte
Known for its tasty pub food and handy location in the heart of Windsor, the Queen Charlotte serves over 50 different gins. Try their own distilled Guildhall Island Gin, named after the area of cobbled streets where the pub is situated.
We particularly like the Ginger Gin, which tastes delicious in a gin and tonic. It’s garnished with citrus fruits and is very refreshing.
Address: 6 Church Lane, Windsor SL4 1PA
12. Spa Treatment at Stoke Park
If you’re looking for a truly pampering experience near Windsor, we recommend a spa treatment at Stoke Park. This luxury Buckinghamshire spa is located within the grounds of a thousand year old estate.
Stoke Park was actually the first country club in the UK and it boasts some fantastic leisure facilities. The spa is situated within The Pavilion, which has an indoor heated swimming pool with floor to ceiling windows, marble steam rooms, a tropical aquarium, relaxation room and a nail bar and boutique.
There’s an outdoor spa garden with a Scandinavian sauna and a hot tub, as well as a fully equipped gym indoors. We tried the Sensory Retreats Lava Relax Massage, using warm lava shells.
This innovative treatment lasts 55 minutes and soothes away all aches and pains. The expert masseuse uses the lava shells and wellbeing oils over the arms, feet and legs to leave you feeling perfectly relaxed.
Address: Stoke Park, Country Club, Spa and Hotel, Park Road Buckinghamshire, Stoke Poges SL2 4PG
Where to Stay in Windsor UK
Stoke Park is a five AA Red Star country hotel with a relaxed vibe. You may well recognize the mansion house from films such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, Layer Cake and Tomorrow Never Dies.
In Goldfinger, James Bond takes on Goldfinger in a golf match on Stoke Park’s 27 hole championship golf course. This led to Sean Connery’s lifelong passion for golf.
The Georgian mansion was designed by James Wyatt, the architect to George III. There are 14 acres of beautiful gardens, created by Capability Brown and Humprhey Repton.
There are 49 individually designed rooms and suites, with all mod cons such as high speed WiFi. You can either stay in the mansion itself or the Pavilion, which is popular with families thanks to its interconnecting rooms.
Our beautiful room in the mansion had a four poster bed, marble bathroom with rolltop bath and a huge balcony overlooking the golf course and grounds. There are 3 restaurants, bars and lounges as well as 9 private event rooms.
In addition to golf, the leisure facilities are extensive, with 13 tennis courts including 3 indoor and two Padel courts. Padel is a raquet sport played on an indoor court that is easier to learn than tennis.
Stoke Park has taken all necessary measures to keep guests safe, with a temperature check on arrival and pre-booking of the swimming pool to manage visitor numbers. It all makes for a wonderfully relaxing stay!
Getting to Windsor
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is easily accessed via the M4, M3, M25 and M40 motorways. There are two train stations, Windsor & Eton Central, and Windsor & Eton Riverside, with regular services to London Paddington and London Waterloo. Heathrow airport is just a 25 minute cab ride away.
Have you ever visited Windsor? Find out more about things to do in the Royal Borough at VisitWindsor’s official website: www.windsor.gov.uk.
Read all our UK travel features here.
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With thanks to Visit Windsor and the organisations mentioned in this article.
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