Windsor has royal treasures but if you’d quite like to keep your head attached to your neck, I’d recommend trying out its other treasures too
Planning a birthday? I had to find somewhere boutique and contemporary, friendly not fuddy duddy, fancy not fussy. Don’t you just love demanding friends?! But I got very lucky with Frances Lodge. The owners, former rugby star Zinzan Brooke and his wife Alison, go out of their way to ensure every guest is treated like royalty. They were very friendly on the phone and during our stay and hugely accommodating, even though we were a group of 12. They have 10 tastefully decorated rooms, no chintz in sight, and it’s surprisingly palatial inside. They even have car parking spaces, a rarity in Windsor. Breakfast was fantastic: homemade muesli, smoothies, pastries, fresh fruit, full-English breakfast, homemade relish, you name it. Even poached duck egg with asparagus for the royal palate. It’s only a short walk from the town centre and the castle. It would also make an ideal base camp for any visits to Ascot Racecourse or Legoland, especially as they have some family rooms.
Things to Eat and Do
Windsor Castle (www.royalcollection.org.uk) is impressive, but so are the shops! And Great Windsor Park is fabulous. Try the Long Walk, also perfect for a jog if you want to earn your dinner in one of the lovely pubs. The Two Brewers is one of my favourites (34 Park Street; + 44 1753 855426). It feels like it’s steeped in history, yet serves amazing tapas for around £20 per person.
If you are looking for a dining experience fit for a queen, my favourite restaurant is Gilbey’s, just over the bridge (82-83 High Street, Eton, Windsor SL4 3AF; www.gilbeygroup.com ). Originally an old butcher’s shop, but now suitably salubrious for that special occasion.
For coffee and snacks I’d head to the Windsor Larder, owned by celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson. (59a St Leonards Road, Windsor SL4 3BX; +44 1753 840272; www.windsorlarder.com). It’s only a short walk from Frances Lodge and the park and even prepares perfect picnics. So that’s your mid-morning and lazy afternoon sorted in one (weather permitting of course).
For horse racing fanatics, or just an interesting way to spend your evening, try the Monday races at Windsor Racecourse (www.windsor-racecourse.co.uk). The easiest and most fun way to get there is by boat: see www.boat-trips.co.uk. Who knows, you might just win enough to pay for your weekend away!
Windsor has plenty of really special events. The Windsor Tattoo (www.windsortatto.com) in mid May is becoming extremely popular. Royal Ascot (www.ascot.co.uk) is always a firm racing calendar favourite and is attended each day by the Royals. Windsor swells with racegoers, many of them staying over, so make sure you book your accommodation early.
Every year at the end of October the Royals have a state visit at the castle which always attracts lots of publicity and fans. Closer to home, don't miss the Changing of the Guards (www.windsor.gov.uk/site/things-to-do/changing-of-the-guard-p264351) between 10.45 and 11.30am every day in the summer and on alternate days in the Winter. Lastly, if you want to visit the castle with the added bonus of not having to pay, then go to the 6pm prayer service, held every evening in St Georges Chapel.