A tale of two royal cities: Short breaks fit for royalty in Windsor and Edinburgh

What do Edinburgh and Windsor have in common? A rich history, a charming culture and a popularity with Her Majesty The Queen…

Team Wanderlust
01 May 2020
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What do Edinburgh and Windsor have in common? A rich history, a charming culture and a popularity with Her Majesty The Queen. Both Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are an unmissable presence in their respective royal locations, so it makes sense to plan your short break around them…

Windsor Castle

Don’t miss the Christmas tree at Windsor Castle (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020)

Of all the occupied castles in the world, Windsor is both the oldest and the largest. Since its founding by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has housed 39 monarchs, has been the setting of many royal weddings and to this day provides a weekend retreat for The Queen. With the castle’s golden façade pulling all eyes to where it sits perched on a hill; and with views over the town centre on one side and the Great Park on the other, it’s little wonder The Queen enjoys this residence so much.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Look out for deer in the Great Park (Windsor)

Top things to do inside Windsor Castle 

The Palace of Holyroodhouse (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020)

Inside, highlights include the gilded Grand Reception Room, St George’s Chapel (be sure to look up) and Henry VIII’s armour. Head to St George’s Hall and you’re bound to start feeling festive: during the Christmas period, a glittering six-metre Nordmann Fir tree, fresh from the Great Park, takes centre stage. More decorations can be admired in the private rooms of George IV – only open during the winter months. You’ll soon see why Queen Victoria enjoyed celebrating the Christmas period here so much.

Don’t miss the recently revealed Pantomime Pictures. These festive portraits can be seen on the walls of the Waterloo Chamber. Learn how the Queen and her sister raised money for charity during WW2 through a pantomime series.

Top things to do outside of the castle

Don’t miss the Royal Dining Room during Christmas (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020)

Exit the castle and head out to explore the Great Park. Walk straight for five kilometres to reach the end of the Long Walk, turning around for photo-worthy views of the castle. Go off the main tree-lined path to find neat gardens, ancient woodlands and the Deer Park where around 500 red deer roam.

Once back at the castle gates, be sure to refuel with a drink at The Two Brewers, a cosy 17th-century pub, before setting out to explore the town. With boutique shops and eateries lining the cobbled streets, dipping in and out of the front doors here is a pleasant way to while away the day.

Follow Thames Street to reach the river, where you can watch the boats go by and even embark on a cruise yourself, soaking up the history as you float past it. Cross the footbridge and you’ll be in Windsor’s twin town, Eton. Don’t miss its namesake college, almost as grand as Windsor Castle itself.

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile (Shutterstock)

The walls of the Palace of Holyroodhouse almost palpitate with history: during its 500 eventful years, it’s housed Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and today it is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Standing stoically at the end of the Royal Mile, it makes for a regal start to your visit to the city of Edinburgh…

Top things to do inside the palace

Once inside the State Appartments, walk the perimeter of the Great Gallery, gazing at the portraits of 95 kings and one queen. During the festive period, the gallery is decked out with a big Christmas tree, adding extra sparkle to this already grand room. The Royal Dining Room is also a feast for the eyes during the Christmas period, with the table decorated with wreaths and candied sugared fruits, and laid out with pieces from a silver service gifted to George V and Queen Mary in 1935 to mark their Silver Jubilee.

Elsewhere in the palace, don’t miss the dramatic throne room, the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Ante-Chamber, where you can learn about Bonnie Prince Charlie. Outside of the palace, take time to look around the ruins of Holyrood Abbey and walk around the manicured Palace Gardens. With talks on royal Christmas traditions, family trails and a Christmas Festival Day, Holyroodhouse Palace offers family fun all through December.

Top things to do outside the palace

Leave Holyroodhouse and climb up to Arthur’s Seat for views so sky-high they even dwarf the palace. Descend and go back past Holyroodhouse to walk the Royal Mile. The road will wind you past a timeline of Scottish history, from the sleek Scottish Parliament building to the Gothic St Giles’ Cathedral. Stop for a drink in the bustling Medieval marketplace of Grassmarket while soaking up views of another popular royal hangout – Edinburgh Castle.

In the evening, head north to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to see the trees twinkling with lights – a magical end to a festive day out.

Good to go! 

Both Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are accredited as part of Visit Britain’s ‘Good to Go’ scheme, ensuring a safe and comfortable visit.

Both the Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are a great place to start your Christmas shopping. Find gifts fit for royalty in the shops. Cuddly corgis, festive food and drink and chinaware, anyone?

For more inspiration for a royal day out this Christmas, visit: rct.uk

 

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