Train Ride of the Week: GWR – London to Windsor Castle

Name: Great Western Railway – London to Windsor & Eton Central

Route: London to Slough, connecting to Slough to Windsor & Eton Central

Overview: Operating from the London terminus of the Great Western Main Line, visitors wanting to visit Windsor Castle, one of the homes of the Royal Family, can be there after a short rail journey of 21 miles. Once arriving at London’s Paddington Station, passenger can purchase tickets on one of the “stopping” or “semi-fast” services out of Paddington. To connect to the train to Windsor & Eton Central, passengers must disembark at Slough and go to Platform 1. From Platform 1, the two-to three-car train provides service every 20 minutes on the 2 and ¾-mile line between Slough and Windsor & Eton Central. Once at Windsor & Eton Central, passengers disembark and walk through the shopping center located in the former station. Immediately across the street from the station entrance is Castle Hill, the public entrance to Windsor Castle.

Classes of Service: Tickets on the Great Western are available in both first class and standard class. Unlike American trains, a ticket does not guarantee a seat. To better guarantee a seat, arrive early to your train or board the “stopping” train, which is likely to have fewer passengers than the “semi-fast” service.

Train Schedule: On an average weekday, two “semi-fast” trains and four “stopping” trains stop in Slough every hour. A few London trains also originate/terminate here, though this only now occurs at peak periods rather than as part of the regular timetable. Once in Slough, the connecting train to Windsor & Eton Central departs every 20 minutes. The full journey to Windsor takes approximately six minutes, then returns to Slough.

Windsor Castle: When entering Windsor Castle, you receive an audio guide and can go to one of the various sites to visit.

State Apartments: Opened most days which the Castle is open, the State Apartments are the centerpiece of the tour, featuring many of the historic pieces of art, china, and weaponry from throughout the history of the Monarchy. The Waterloo Chamber, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon, helped to create a new grand entrance to the State Rooms.

Semi-State Apartments: The Semi-State Rooms are the private apartments created for George IV. They feature interiors decorated by Morel & Seddon, with a selection of furnishings and fittings taken from Carlton House, George IV’s former London residence. The rooms are among the most richly decorated interiors in the Castle and are used by The Queen for official entertaining. Much of this area was damaged in the 1992 Windsor Castle Fire, but luckily, much of the 19th Century artifacts had happened to be removed at the time. The Semi-State Rooms are open from autumn until spring each year, and will not be open when the State Apartments are closed.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House – The Dolls’ House was built for Queen Mary by the leading British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924. The idea behind the model was that it would be as true to life as possible, recreating every facet of modern-day life from the 1920s. During a visit you can walk around the house, seeing inside each room and admiring the tiny details. The house is filled with thousands of objects made by leading artists, designers and craftsmen, nearly all on the tiny scale of 1:12.

Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

St. George’s Chapel – The site of the recent Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, St George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England. Construction of the present chapel began in 1475 under the reign of Edward IV. When visiting make sure you look up and admire the stone ceiling, which was added by Henry VII. The chapel is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III. Within the chapel are the tombs of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I.

Tips & Tricks: When visiting Windsor Castle, arrive early. Beginning at four o’clock, various attractions at Windsor Castle begin to close. The last visitors are welcome into St. George’s Chapel at 4:30 pm and the gates close at 5.

When exiting the State Apartments, you can have your ticket validated for free admission for one-year from the date of your visit, as long as you purchased your ticket directly from Windsor Castle.

The ceremony usually takes place at 11:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but the schedule can change, check the British Army website for details. The guards march through Windsor town into the Castle, where the guard change takes place. To watch the full ceremony inside the Castle you will need to purchase an admission ticket.

When returning to London, some of the best pictures of the entire Windsor Castle property can be taken from the train. The low, flat plain gives great views of the Castle.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marsha Sparkmon

Helpful Links:

Great Western Railway – gwr.com
Windsor Castle –  https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle