View of Eton from Windsor Promenade

Eton is home to the world-famous college which dominates this historic and picturesque town on the opposite bank of the Thames to Windsor. On Sundays the College’s vast collections are open free of charge in the form of three museums: the Museum of Eton Life, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Antiquities making it a very pleasant place to explore.

The George, Eton High Street

If you are starting in on the Windsor side of the river, cross over the pedestrian bridge and walk up Eton High Street.  As you walk up the High Street you’ll eventually cross over Baldwin’s Bridge where you’ll see the last remaining mile marker from the 1908 Olympic marathon beneath the Slough Road sign on the left of the road.  It was this 1908 race from Windsor Castle to the White City Stadium that permanently set the exact distance of 26 miles and 385 yards.

Marathon Marker

From this point most of Eton is made up of College buildings, boarding houses and so on. Turning right down ‘Baldwin’s Shore’ we head towards the Museum of Eton Life.

Entrance to Museum of Eton Life

The Museum of Eton Life houses permanent and temporary displays and, as the name suggests, brings to life the experience of studying at Eton across six centuries since the college was founded.  The museum is housed in an undercroft below College Hall, a space where beer for scholarship boys was stored until the early 20th century!  Learn about Eton’s history and traditions, where pupils learn, eat and live and sports including the Wall Game.

Old Boys Room Display, Museum of Eton Life

The list of notable Old Etonians is overwhelming: 20 prime ministers, Nobel prizewinners, recipients of the Victoria Cross, Oscar-winning stars and famous authors. There’s even a nod to fictitious OEs, including the likes of Captain Hook and James Bond!

Eton College Chapel

Emerging from the museum, you are in the shadow of College Chapel.  Founder, King Henry VI, wanted the Chapel to be twice as long as it actually turned out to be – think King’s College Chapel at Cambridge.

Eton College School Yard

Walk through the graveyard and continue up Slough Road where you will see School Yard through the archway.  Access is restricted but you can join a heritage tour of Eton College at certain times of the year.  Visit www.etoncollege.com/Visits.aspx for information and how to book.

Eton College Wall Game

Continue on the Slough Road and before too long you can peek through to College Field on the right hand side and see where the Wall Game is played.

Anthony Gormley Statue

At this point you need to cross over and head back towards Windsor.  Take a slight detour into Common Lane where you’ll see an Anthony Gormley statue high above you at right angles to the pavement! Walk back down past Burning Bush, Library, School Hall, then head right down Keate’s Lane. There is a white cross marker on the left of a building in Keate’s Lane showing where Eton College Chapel was meant to end. Head straight onto South Meadow Lane, to Eton College Natural History Museum, the second of the free museums you can visit.

Entrance to Eton Natural History Museum

There are more than 16,000 specimens and displays housed at the museum, exploring themes including Thames Valley wildlife, biodiversity, evolution, and ecology. The museum was first created to house the Thackeray Collection of British Birds. It opened in 1875 and 20 years later moved to its present site. 

Eton College Natural History Museum

Unique exhibits include a rare surviving page from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and material relating to famous botanist and Old Etonian Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed on HMB Endeavour with Captain Cook. There are also extensive collections of insects (mainly butterflies and moths), the William Hincks Herbarium, a full set of Banks’ Florilegium, fossils and birds’ eggs.

Museum of Antiquities entrance, Eton

When leaving the Natural History Museum, turn left and keep going down South Meadow Lane.  The last building before the meadows is the stunning purpose-built Jafar Gallery, home to the Museum of Antiquities.

Museum of Antiquities, Eton

Eton’s antiquities have gained an international reputation with many items having been exhibited all over the world.  It was old boy Major William Joseph Myers who left his remarkable collection of Egyptian artefacts to the Head Master of Eton College at the end of the 19th century. The collection has been augmented over the years – including gifts from the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Carnavon – and the objects on show cover a vast geographical and chronological frame: from Australia to Afghanistan and from Peru to Babylon.  Visitors will find it fascinating!

Enjoying a beer at the George Inn, Eton

Having experienced the delights of Eton’s museums, wander back to Windsor along Eton High Street and maybe stop for a bite to eat or a drink at one of the lovely pubs and restaurants en route.

Eton is a perfect place to explore.  You can also discover more through the Eton Walkway or a walking tour.

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