If like us you’ve binge-watched The Crown and are now desperate for the next instalment, it might be worth considering a weekend break to regal Windsor.
We jumped on a train at Waterloo and in under an hour we found ourselves in the centre of town, ready to explore. No need to hire a car, it makes for the perfect weekend break for tired Londoners, wanting to escape the city.
The first thing to hit you when leaving the station is how prominent the castle is. It’s right THERE. The town quietly perches around it while the Queen’s not so humble abode stands proudly in the middle of everything.
We were staying at Macdonald Windsor Hotel, a short walk from the station and literally a stone’s throw from the castle. We could even see it from our room! The unassuming hotel entrance could be easy to miss but once you glide into the modern foyer, you realise how far back the hotel goes. It’s tastefully decorated in modern neutral tones, peppered with candles and with plenty of comfy sofas to snuggle into and read the papers from.
We started our weekend stay with an indulgent Afternoon Tea in front of the roaring fire. For just £20 you’ll be served a generous selection of cakes, scones and sandwiches. We enjoyed classic finger sandwiches (crusts removed of course) with oh-so-British fillings such as smoked salmon, egg mayo and of course, cucumber. The still-warm scones were slathered with enough clotted cream and jam to make the Queen blush – you’ll get both plain and fruit varieties. To end the sweet feast we tucked into everything from slices of sponge cake to baubles of cheesecake.
In need of a lie down we went to check out our suite for the weekend. The giant room features its own lounge area with sofa where we helped ourselves to coffee from the Nespresso machine and flicked through Food & Travel magazine. We loved our huge king-sized bedroom for the weekend, complete with dressing and dining tables. Changing into our robes & slippers we explored the bathroom. Featuring a big double shower (but no bath), double sinks and lavender toiletries from Scottish brand Arran Aromatics, we spruced ourselves up before going to explore the castle.
Obviously you can’t come to Windsor without visiting the castle itself. A ticket will cost you about 20 quid but is valid for a year (if you love it so much you want to return!). With the sun shining in blue skies, we took a lovely walk around the grounds and traipsed through room after regal room. It was pretty impressive – all the more so given our new fascination with The Crown. Be sure to catch the changing of the guards while you’re here, and pop into the castle’s chapel where you’ll find the Queen Mother buried.
Aside from the castle, Windsor boasts a fab street food market where you can pick up everything from local cheese and wine to enjoy back in your room, as well as Peruvian street food or paella. The town is the perfect size to stroll through – we particularly liked the old station which has been converted into a quaint shopping centre in keeping with the area.
After all that walking around we’d worked up quite a thirst. The Queen Charlotte is a cute little pub, just moments from the hotel and as well as serving the ubiquitous beer, wine and spirits, you’ll also find an extensive gin menu. We think a coppa is the perfect pre-dinner tipple.
We headed back to Macdonald Windsor Hotel for our dinner reservation at their Scottish steak restaurant. Although part of the hotel, it is open to the public so had a lovely atmosphere.
We started with Shetland mussels which came in a Thai chilli and coconut milk broth with sourdough bread for mopping up every last drop. The skewer of tiger prawns also had an Oriental feel to it with a refreshing avocado and mango salsa with a hint of wasabi in the mayo.
Although the extensive menu does offer classics such as steak and ale pie or fish and chips – it’s really all about the steak. We opted for the chef’s favourite – the humble rump, here marinated in a little chilli and garlic. All the steaks are served with either skinny fries or fat chips and you can add a dollop of your favourite sauce – as the steak was already marinated we opted for a delicious red wine jus. Having got a little tipsy on a great value red, we decided to build our own ice cream sundae. Choose your ice-cream flavour (salted caramel), add your toppings (popping candy!!) and then the sauce (chocolate) – ice cream sundaes this good are clearly not just for the kids!
The bar is open late for that all important night-cap before we turned in. Upstairs our bed had been remade and biscuits had kindly been left on the pillow for us.
The next morning we were woken from our slumber with a very polite knock from room service. If only we started every morning with breakfast in bed! Served on a beautiful tray we gorged ourselves silly on croissants, ham and cheese, toast and that all important fry up made up of all of our favourites (chosen the night before) and nothing else. Truly a feast fit for a Queen.
Not quite ready to leave Windsor yet, we embarked on a bracing walk to get another perspective off the castle. The Long Walk is a beautiful tree-lined avenue that leads to the castle. You’ll share the space with dog walkers and about 500 Red Deer. If you time it right, we’d recommend stopping by this lovely little pub for a pint of ale – it’s right next to the castle and dates back to the 1700’s.
A trip to Windsor wouldn’t be complete without popping over the river to Eton. Stop en route to feed the swans (you can buy bird feed there) before wandering through the small streets of the high street.
The Henry VI makes for the perfect lunch pit stop, serving personal Italian pizzas in a traditional pub setting. During the summer months you’ll want to sit outside in the garden, complete with its own outdoor bar. We particularly recommend the prosciutto crudo with sun-blushed tomatoes and rocket. The garlic breads are just the thing if you’re after a little bar snack – try the one with spicy nduja if you want a kick!
From here you’re just a short stroll from the train station that will whisk you back to your less regal real life.We’d recommend a weekend in Windsor for a special birthday with the girls or a romantic weekend away.