Monday, 28 September 2009

Visiting Windsor Castle

Visiting Windsor CastleUrban folk everywhere dream of a place out of town where they can get away from it all, and some do indeed enjoy just such a bolthole - but none can match the splendour of Windsor Castle, said to be the favourite weekend retreat of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is, after all, both the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world (rebuilt by Edward III from 1350).

Guided tours of the Castle's precincts introduce its history and modern role, and there is also an audio tour. Within the Castle, visitors see magnificent State Apartments furnished with some the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, including splendid paintings by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, van Dyck and Gainsborough. The Semi-State Rooms (George IV's private apartments) may be viewed in the winter months. St George's Chapel is a splendid example of Gothic architecture. It contains ten royal tombs including those fo Henry VIII and Charles I. In St Albans Street south of the Castle there is a display of the Queen's gifts and royal carriages.

From Windsor, it's but a short hop to Eton, home of the public school and those famous playing fields. Founded in 1440, it has superb medieval buildings and guided tours feature the Cloisters, College Chapel, the school's oldest classroom and the Museum of Eton life.

While you're in these parts, take the opportunity to see the unassuming cradle of Britain's rule of law - Runnymede, where that sly but inefficient King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta by his concerned barons. Today, the site is protected by the National Trust, and consists of beautiful water meadows, grassland and woods.

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