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Windsor - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

Just like the Royal family itself Windsor exudes pageantry but has also taken on many of the facets of modern Britain. The riverside town is a real mix of designer shops, quaint tea shops plus many of the usual chains, then it surrounded by a sprawling deer grazed parkland. It’s here that real history lurks around many of the cobbled corners. Then stares you fully in the face in the form of the imposing grey walls and turreted towers of Windsor Castle.

A fort and royal residence has dominated this spot since 1070 when William the Conqueror chose the site for its advantageous position. It was a day’s march from the Tower of London, it was right by the Thames and also had commanding views of the western approach to the capital. Windsor Castle has been continuously inhabited ever since and extended and refurbished by almost every subsequent sovereign. This makes it the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.

It was originally built as a fort, the first monarch to use it as a home was Henry I in 1110; his grandson, Henry II converted it into a palace. In 1215, King John rode out from Windsor to sign the Magna Carta at nearby Runnymede. In 1642, Oliver Cromwell used it as a prison. During the Restoration, Charles II made it more magnificent than ever, adding a new set of State Apartments. When Queen Victoria made the castle her official residence, Windsor became the centre of the British Empire. Having survived the Second World War and a terrible fire in 1992, the castle remains the town’s crowning glory.

There is however much more to Windsor than its imposing stronghold. It is a town full of quirkiness, two examples being it has the only blue postbox in Britain and the country’s shortest street which is the 16m long Queen Charlotte Street. Windsor has a thriving centre, which cannot be said for many smaller towns, it is also extremely walkable with most of the town’s attractions only a short stroll from the castle.

Pedestrianised Peascod Street is the main shopping thoroughfare. Nearby, Windsor Royal Shopping arcade occupies the grand Victorian Railway Station, where you will find a whole range of high-end outlets sitting amid the original 1850s features. The bulk of the tourist trade centres on High Street, which sweeps down past the castle in a tumble of pubs and restaurants towards the River Thames.

If you follow the High Street all the way to the footbridge and then cross the Thames you will be in Windsor’s sister settlement, Eton. Separated by the river, they’re essentially two towns in one and have had close ties since Henry VI founded Eton College in 1440. Now an enclave of little boutiques, peppered with teenage boys in billowing gowns, Eton’s own quaint High Street feels like a natural extension of its larger neighbour.

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