Castle gazing, park walking and river roaming – Windsor is a princely place for a weekend
Like the Queen herself, Windsor oozes pageantry but has also embraced modern Britain. The riverside town is a mix of designer shops and sprawling deer-grazed parkland, where history lurks around many a cobbled corner then whacks you full in the face in the form of the chilly grey walls and turreted towers of Windsor Castle.
A fort and royal residence has dominated this spot since 1070, when William the Conqueror chose the site for its advantageous position: a day’s march from the Tower of London; right by the Thames; commanding views of the western approach to the capital. Windsor Castle has been continuously inhabited ever since, and extended and refurbished by almost every subsequent sovereign. This makes it the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.
Originally built as a fort, the first monarch to use it as a house was Henry I in 1110; his grandson, Henry II converted it into a palace. In 1215, King John rode out from Windsor to sign the Magna Carta at nearby Runnymede. In 1642, Oliver Cromwell used it as a prison; during the Restoration, Charles II made it more magnificent than ever, adding a new set of State Apartments. When Queen Victoria made the castle her official residence, Windsor became the centre of the British Empire. Having survived the Second World War and a terrible fire in 1992, the castle remains the town’s crowning glory.