Royal and Ceremonial London, London
2nd visit August 2008
Warwick Castle can be visited on a long day trip from London, this is one of my favorite castles that I've visited and they have activities going on during the day that are entertaining for both adults and kids. The weekends in summer tend to have the most activities but I imagine they are also the most crowded.
There are several different ways to visit Warwick Castle:
Several companies run day trips out to Warwick by bus, these are more expensive than independent travel and also include other stops in Oxford and Stratford.
If you opt for independent travel, the journey takes about 1 hr 40 minutes by train. If you are just planning on spending the day you can get a "cheap" day return, we purchased 2 for 1 tickets in advance from Lastminute.com, you can also get a slight discount by booking on the castle's website, plus you can avoid the queues. The Castle is just a short 15 minute walk from the train station.
Or if you want to try and combine a visit to Warwick with Stratford, there was a Shakespeare Explorer pass for either 1 or 3 days that allowed you to go into Warwick and out of Stratford (or vice versa). As seeing the castle properly takes at least 4 hours, unless you get a really early start on the day, you really can't do justice to both places in one day.
I posted some additional tips and pics on my Warwick page.
If you are spending more than 3 or 4 days in London, I would highly recommend a day trip out to one of the castles/palaces that are easily reachable from London via train. Windsor Castle is one of my three favorites that are close to London (the other two are Hampton Court and Warwick Castle), the trip takes about 35-40 minutes from London and can easily be a full day trip should you want to do some shopping, wander over to Eton or take a boat trip on the Thames River. Or a 1/2 day if you get an early start and all you want to see is the castle.
I've been out to Windsor several times on a daytrip from London, twice to take other people who hadn't seen it, twice on my own. Windsor is a quintessential castle, beautiful architecture, lots of history and lots to see inside the castle.
For more information on what to see in Windsor and how to get there, please see my Windsor page.
I think that the Horse Guards put on a much better show than the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Because of this, I've ranked them as #8 on my "Top 10 Things to do in London" list. With the Horse Guards, you can get much more "up close and personal" to the action. You're not 20 people deep in a crowd trying to catch of glimpse of the guards. Plus, I love horses. So, combining the pomp and circumstance of the changing of the guards with the beauty and grace of horses, and voila, you have a winner!
All the horses are this deep chocolate brown (almost black) with black mane and tail. The guards are all dressed in red or black with these amazing gold helmets. The contrasts are striking. The building of the Horse Guards fronts the old Palace of Whitehall, and the changing of the horse guards has taken place here since 1649. Within the area that they perform the ceremony there are several "antique" cannons and some interesting statues.
The changing of the horse guards begins everyday at 11 AM (but Sunday--10:30 AM). They'll post a sign if it's been cancelled or temporarily postponed for the day. The day that my mom and I tried to see the Horse Guards in May 2008, their ceremony had been cancelled but they were still holding inspections that afternoon at 4 PM. We unfortunately weren't able to make it back in time to see it. The pictures posted were from my trip with my husband in Feb 2003.
Go to Kensington gardens and the royal Albert hall, they're just across the road from each other and you've got plenty of stuff to do in hyde park opposite the hall. Have a picnic if the weather's good, explore the park and just have a look around. Stroll through the park to the opposite corner to marble arch if feeling energetic.
Or as we say in England - A Right Royal Walk.
Follow the link for details of a walk around Big Ben; Westminster Abbey; Buckingham Palace etc.
Takes about 3 hours
There are so many wonderful buildings to see in London; but last time I was struck by this place Admiralty Arch. It leads from the southwest corner of Trafalgar Square into The Mall. The ceremonial gateway has five arches and is one of London's most famous landmarks. Its name comes from the Royal Navy headquarters nearby .
It was designed by Sir Aston Webb (who also worked on Buckingham Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum). It was built to provide an elegant ceremonial passage from busy Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace. Traffic does not pass through the massive central arch, which is only opened for state occasions. The small outer arches are for pedestrians, and the remaining central arches for cars etc.
The inscription in Latin shows that the Arch was commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria.
The Trooping of the Colour occurs every year and is great example of traditional English pomp and pageantry. Although dating back to the 17th century, a tradition of British infantry regiments first performed during the reign of Charles II, it now marks the Queen's official birthday in June. The Queen and members of the Royal family attend in person to watch the regiments parade their colours in Horse Guards Parade.
If you're lucky enough to get close enough to watch it, its great fun and makes me feel proud to be British. Alternatively every year the BBC broadcasts the military parade live for all to see.
For a chance to see the Queen's Life Guard, head for the seperate ceremony that takes place daily throughout the year at Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall.
A colorful spectacle that last about 25 minutes. The guard march from Hyde Park Corner via Constitution Hill and the Mall to Horse Guards Parade.
It takes place daily at 11:00 am (Mon-Sat) and 10 am on Sunday
Takes place every day at 11am (10am on Sunday) - foot soldiers (the Foot Guards) at Buckingham Palace, mounted guards (Household Cavalry) at Horse Guards Parade.
These guys have been protecting the monarchy since 1660. From 1689 to 1837, the sovereign lived in St James' Palace. When Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace, the Household Cavalry remained at St James, the Foot Guards went off up the road.
The history of the Horse Guards began in the early 16th century, when Henry VIII commissioned a jousting ground on the present site of the Horse Guards building off Whitehall. A century later, Charles II established the Horse Guards as a trusted royal miliary guard and built its first building to house over a hundred horses. The Horse Guards are divided into the Household Cavalry and Foot Guards (or Tiltyard Guards), and wear a distinctive red uniform. Two Cavalry sentries stand guard at the Whitehall entrance everyday, attracting lots of tourists' attention. The Guards change daily at the Horse Guards building (10 am on Mondays to Saturdays and 11 am on Sundays). Entry is free of charge.
The Horse Guards Parade is the second most popular ceremony outside of the Changing of the Guard. In fact, the two mounted cavalry regiments of the Queens Household Regiments, who march in the Changing of the Guard, make up the Horse Guards Parade. The parade happens every Monday through Saturday at 11.00am and on Sundays at 10.00am. It takes place outside the Horse Guards Building on Whitehall, which was built in 1745 to house the old palace guards
The Guards (Queen's Life Guards) ride along the Mall between Horse Guards parade and Hyde Park.
In days gone by, before there were Public Address Systems and microphones and News Programmes on the TV, the way news was spread about a large town/city was to have a Town Crier who went through the town with his bell shouting out the proclamation he had been tasked with telling the population.
This is the current London Town Crier. I believe he has been in the role for several decades (he did tell me exactly how long, but I have forgotten the precise figure). Of course his role is pretty much just ceremonial these days, but is part of the pageantry of London that is still kept alive that many people may miss. The best way to see him is to either get lucky (I have seen him a few times), or to try and find an event he attends (such as the Pearly Kings Harvest Festival).
These days, most people associate Chelsea with Englands (currently) most successful Football Team. However A Chelsea Pensioner is NOT something ex-Chelsea players become when they get old (I can't see Frank Lampard or John Terry joining their ranks...). Chelsea is an area in London (a rather well to do area as it happens). The Chelsea Pensioners are old soldiers who live together in an Old Soldiers Home (unsurprisingly based in Chelsea). As with the Town Crier, they are part of London's heritage and you can often see them at ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour or the Pearly Kings Harvest Festival.
The Chelsea Pensioners live in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. The building itself was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682.
Built in the 1820s Wellington Arch was one of a pair by the architect Decimus Burton, celebrating and commemorating Britains victory over Napoleonic France - the other one is, of course Marble Arch.
Originally built as the entrance to Buckingham Palace it is now possible to pay a £3 entry to climb to the top for views over the Royal parks. There are three floors inside telling its fascinating history.
The Arch was once topped with a statue of Wellington on his horse (the largest horse statue ever commissioned) but it was highly unpopular and when the arch itself was dismantled and moved (due to a massive road improvement scheme) in 1912, it was seen as an opportunity to replace it with the "Quadriga" a four horse chariot at full speed, driven by the Winged figure of Peace - by sculptor Adrian Jones.
Wed-Sun & Bank Hols 10am - 4pm (5pm from 1st April)
I HAD to at least stop by and check these guys out...so we hopped off the bus right in front and visited with the horses. It's much less crowded than the changing of the guard at the "other" location, and it's very convenient.
We just visited them, but the changing of the guard and the dismounting ceremony is highly recommended.
Whitehall - Westminster