Destination Friday: Windsor, Stonehenge, & Salisbury
When my mom and another teacher were planning what was to be my first Europe trip back in high school, my mom asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to do or see. “I have to see Stonehenge!” As part of that trip, our entire group ended up doing a day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Salisbury. I liked the combination so much that I booked it again when my husband and I went back (through Evan Evans) with some friends in 2005.
Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world and, dating back to William the Conqueror, is also the oldest in continuous ocupation. Windsor, BP, and Holyrood (Edinburgh) are the prinipal official residences of QEII.
When you visit, make sure to have your camera ready! There are lots of good spots for pictures outside. Be sure to check out the apartments (check out the artwork – paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence), Queen Mary’s dollhouse (amazingly huge and intricate), and St. George’s Chapel (burial place of ten sovereigns and site for several royal weddings).
Your guide is also likely to point out the Garter Inn, the spot where Shakespeare may have penned “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (several scenes were set there), and the Crooked House, a house said to have once had a secret passage into the castle that has a severe tilt to the left.
If you have a little extra time, you might want to take the short walk down to Eton College, attended by 18 former British PMs and a number of royals (British and otherwise).
Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world. There are lots of earth mounds (at the well-known site as well as throughout the surrounding area) surrounding a huge standing stones arranged in a circular pattern. Archaeologists think the stones were set around 2200 BC and the mounds may date back as far as 3100 BC.
If you’re really into the idea of Stonehenge, you might prefer to take a sunrise/sunset tour to walk inside the circle and touch the stones. Be warned – these tours are limited, regularly sell out well in advance, and are more expensive. My mom did this and loved it.
The most important thing to see in Salisbury is the cathedral, one of the leading examples of Early English architecture (consecrated in 1258). It has the tallest spire in the UK and is home to the world’s oldest working clock (AD 1386) as well as the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta (1215).
This group of attractions is best accomplished through a day tour since it’s not feasible to get to Stonehenge by train. I’d say that Windsor and Stonehenge are must-sees. Salisbury was only truly worthwhile to me because I got to see the Magna Carta. I’d definitely have considered one of Evan Evans other day trip tours to Windsor, Stonehenge, & Bath or Windsor, Stonehenge, & Oxford. Another option would be to do a tour that does not include Windsor and do that on your own – totally feasible and preferable to those who are worried about being rushed (I only ever felt rushed at Windsor on this particular combination).