England has so much more to offer than just London.
I am qualified to guide in many of key sites outside the capital, and I know South East England very well. From the majesty and Royal connections at Windsor Castle to the mysterious neolithic stone circle at Stonehenge there are so many places to explore. Or perhaps you’d rather see the elegant Georgian architecture and Roman history of the city of Bath, the cathedral towns of Salisbury or Canterbury or the university colleges of Oxford.
These places are only one to two hours outside London by train or car, and we will pass through the natural beauty of the southern English countryside, with rolling hills and a patchwork of green fields, dotted with stately oak, beech, and ash trees, and bounded by ancient hedgerows.
20 miles west of central London and 9 miles from Heathrow, Windsor is dominated by Windsor Castle - a Royal Palace, the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world and an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. I live in Windsor and regularly guide the Castle and the towns of Windsor and Eton.
I’ll set you up to get the most from your visit. Windsor Castle sits on a rock a hundred feet above the River Thames and can be seen from miles around, and I’ll show you the views across the valley to Eton and miles beyond. We’ll explore the Windsor Castle grounds within the mediaeval walls and discover how an old-fashioned castle was defended with murder holes, portcullises and arrow loops. Step inside and admire the opulent State Apartments adorned with art by Rubens and Van Dyck, gorgeous tapestries and wood carvings. Widely considered among the finest interiors in Europe, they are still used for State visits and other occasions by the Queen and other senior members of the royal family. You will be walking in the footsteps of Presidents, Heads of State and other VIPs from all over the world!
You can enjoy anecdotes about life in Windsor Castle today from the Queen’s favourite tipple, her very special wake-up call and which room you would sleep in if were been lucky enough to be invited to stay.
Because the Queen is often here, there is always a detachment of the Guards based in the castle, and you will often see them marching through the precincts in their distinctive black bearskins and red tunics. You’ll get much closer to them at the Changing of the Guard, this very British military ceremony complete with music. And I won’t forget St George’s Chapel which is a medieval jewel. It is the burial place of ten English kings, including Henry VIII and Charles I, as well as the Queens parents. It was the venue for Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018 and recently saw the funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Its stunning Perpendicular Gothic vaulted roof is a genuinely astonishing sight, and the chancel pews are resplendent with the banners and heraldry of famous Knights of the realm.
The town of Windsor is a compact place, worthy of exploring on foot. You’ll find lots to enjoy from its cobbled streets, the superb views along the Long Walk, quaint pubs and lunch venues and a very crooked building. And you must see the 1689 Guildhall where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were married in 2005, exactly 10 years after my wedding in the same venue. If we are spending a full day in Windsor, we should also stroll down to the river Thames, and its resident graceful swans. A short stroll across the pedestrian bridge brings us to the small town of Eton, with its high street of old shops and some surprisingly old buildings. Eton is mainly famous for Eton College, one of England’s top public schools, which of course is anything but public. In term time we should see the boys in their old-fashioned uniforms, and we can see some of their beautiful buildings from the outside. This school was where Prince William and Harry were educated as well as the actors Hugh Grant Damien Lewis and Eddie Redmayne. It has also produced 19 prime ministers as well as Joseph Banks the botanist who accompanied James Cook on his first voyage to Australia.
Around 90 minutes by car to south west of London, Stonehenge is the greatest stone age monument in England and one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Set in Salisbury Plain, a huge area of rolling chalk grassland, this unique monument was first constructed about 5,000 years ago, the large stones that everyone recognises were erected around 4,500 years ago. As we walk around the circle we can ponder the mystery of how and why it was built. Although I follow all the latest theories about the monument, but no-one knows its exact purpose.
I will explain the distinction between the different stones, point out the joints that connected them together and tell you how these stones, some weighing 40 tonnes, were moved and placed in position using only stone tools, as well as the best places to get your photos. I’ll also show you the rest of the landscape that can be seen from the site, such as the equally ancient processional route up to the stones, and the bumps in the countryside that are actually 3000 years old Bronze age burial mounds.
A visit to Stonehenge could be combined with a visit to the medieval market town of Salisbury, dominated by the 13th century cathedral which boasts the tallest spire in England, and is set in the peaceful Cathedral Close, full of many old buildings, and even peregrine falcons. If you’re interested in other Neolithic monuments, I can also take you to nearby Avebury or Silbury Hill.
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“Mike has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things London - and (bonus!) he does his homework in his spare time to tailor his guiding to the individual guests" Robin, Michigan