Beyond London – Day Trips An Hour Away
Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest inhabited castle and one of the official residences of The Queen – you’ll see the Royal Standard flying from the Round Tower when the monarch is at home. There’s lots to explore, including the State Apartments, St George’s Chapel (where you’ll find the tomb of Henry VIII) and the Semi-State Rooms, the private apartments of George IV. Begin your visit by joining a free 30-minute tour of the Castle Precincts, led by the Wardens. In spring and summer, the Changing the Guard ceremony takes place within the castle grounds. This 45-minute ceremony, with its Regimental Band and troupe of drummers, is a spectacle not to be missed. Windsor Castle is also home to a significant number of important artworks. They make up part of the Royal Collection, which comprises more than a million pieces of fine and decorative art. The State Apartments house paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto, many of which have remained in the same place for centuries. There are also temporary exhibitions to showcase paintings from the collection. Remember to ask a Warden at Windsor Castle to stamp your ticket to turn it into a 1-Year Pass.
This fairytale lakeside castle set in 500 acres of beautiful Kentish parkland dates back to Norman times and has been the property of six queens and was used by Henry VIII. Much of the interior decoration was introduced by the last private owner of the castle, an Anglo-American heiress who bought it in 1926. But there are signs of the building’s extraordinary history all over the place, from the magnificent drawbridge over the moat, which dates from the time of Eleanor of Castile, 800 years ago, to the extensive Victorian renovations that we see today. Admire the beautiful interiors, then explore the grounds. There’s punting on the moat, regular falconry displays, two mazes and an underground grotto to explore, as well as several picturesque gardens and a nine-hole golf course that dates back to 1931. Segway tours of the grounds are also available. And whatever you do, don’t miss the most curious attraction: the country’s only dog-collar museum.
When Lego began producing its now famous interlocking plastic bricks in Denmark in 1949, no one could have predicted that the construction toy would become a global hit. There are now six theme parks to visit, too – one of which is just a short train ride from London. At Legoland Windsor, you’ll be able to enjoy 55 rides, live shows, attractions, driving schools and workshops. A recent addition to the park is Pirate Shores, which features an adventure play area, more than 100 new models and another restaurant.
As the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most important religious sites in the country. It’s also a major pilgrimage destination and a World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 11th century, Canterbury Cathedral is famous for being the place where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 by the knights of King Henry II. Look out for the martyr depicted in the cathedral’s stained-glass windows, and visit his shrine. Guided tours take place throughout the day (Monday-Saturday) and audio guides are available. As well as being open to visitors, the cathedral is a working church, with Morning and Evening Prayers, and the Eucharist, read each day. Seven choral services a week are led by the famous choir.
World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace is one of England’s largest houses. Built in the early 18th century, it’s now home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, but was the birthplace of wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. There’s a permanent exhibition devoted to him, in a room close to the one he was born in. Blenheim Palace is a beautiful example of English Baroque architecture – free tours of the imposing State Rooms run throughout the day. Blenheim Palace: The Untold Story, meanwhile, is an engaging route into the life of the palace over the past three centuries. A stroll around the formal gardens and Capability Brown landscape is a rewarding way to complete your visit.
Just an hour from London by train, this designer outlet ‘village’ is made up of 130 boutiques from some of the world’s biggest brands. Exquisite offerings from international icons such as Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Dior sit alongside stand-out designs from other heavyweights, such as Hugo Boss, Versace and Diane Von Fürstenberg. This is the place to buy luxury for less. You’ll find savings of up to 60 per cent on past seasons’ collections, with delivery available to any address in the world via the air courier service. Enjoy a VIP shopping experience by taking the Shopping Express, a luxury coach from central London. Then tuck into a two-course meal and enjoy a three-hour personal style consultation for as little as £188.