Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adventures in the United Kingdom - the Recap Part 3 - Windsor Castle

My morning walking had lead me up to the castle entrance just before eleven o-clock. I had planned to spend the middle hours of the day at the castle, getting my tourist and history fix while the wildlife was least active. It turned out to be a great plan. As I arrived I noticed that people were lining both sides of the road. I grabbed a likely spot, and soon had my suspicions confirmed when a tour guide explained to his group that they would soon be seeing the changing of the guard.

I was lucky to have arrived when I did. The guard 'changes' every 48 hours, rotating the soldiers that will guard the castle from the barracks in town, to the castle and back, via a parade march. It is very ceremonial, and a great photo opportunity, but best not to forget that these are armed soldiers performing the legitimate duty of guarding the royal family when in residence and some of the treasures of the nation.

Having seen the entrance of the guard I headed on in to the castle, hoping to avoid a percentage of the crowds while the 'change' took place. After entering I approached Edward IV Tower, it is at the front of the visitor apartments. Behind and to the left in the picture above is the Upper Ward. Below, a closer view of Edward IV tower and its gargoyles.

Stonework above St. George's Gate showing a mounted knight slaying a dragon. The gate leads into the Upper Ward, a courtyard surrounded by the Visitor's Apartments, Private Apartments, and State Apartments. This section of the castle is restricted, and is the home of the Queen and Royal Family when they are in residence, the State Apartments which are open to tours seasonally and used for ..... functions of State.

The public access lead away from the gate, and offered this view back including the gardens at the base of the Round Tower, or castle Keep.

While not a peak season for garden color there were still colors to be found as the sun began to break through the clouds.

I had looped around the Round Tower, and toured the State, and Semi-State Apartments. They were incredible, and as such photography was not allowed. Readers may recall that in 1992 there was a fire at Windsor Castle. The fire was in the State and Semi-State Apartments, and while it was extensive and caused major damage to the buildings, the vast majority of the works of art were saved, and have since been returned to the refurbished rooms. There are some incredible highlights there, trophies from the empire, furniture made of sterling silver, St. George's Hall decorated with the coat of arms of every member of the order. Paintings by grand masters, Semi-State Apartments lavishly furnished and just opened to tourists for the season. Outside, a closer view of the upper ward, and perspective on the scale of a guard.

The Round Tower, passing back through to the Lower Ward.

Castle Guard, iconic symbol packing serious heat.

St. George's Chapel. Resting place of multiple monarchs, incredible decorations and a choir adorned with the coat of arms and helm of each current member of the Order of St. George. Which of course meant no photographs allowed!

Don't worry, lots of interiors of castles and churches from future sites. Here is an exterior view looking back across the Lower Ward towards the Round Tower, with St. George's Chapel on the left.

One parting shot, the Round Tower just outside the castle's main entrance. I made my way towards the Long Walk, Snow Hill, and my second trip to see wildlife in the Windsor Great Park.

Don't worry bird fans, the next post will be back to feathers and fur.

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