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Tour Windsor with a Blue Badge Guide

Tour Windsor with a Blue Badge Guide

Facts

Download the Royal Windsor facts pdf

Visitor economy

  • Tourism in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead contributes around £625.2 million to the economy when direct, indirect and induced impacts are taken into account.
  • Tourism spending supports 9,721 actual jobs in the Royal Borough.
  • Overnight visitors spent a total of £212.4 million on 743,000 trips in the Royal Borough in 2015.
  • Overseas visitors spent £97.5 million on 200,000 overnight stays.
  • British residents spent almost £114.9 million on 543,000 overnight stays.

More visitor economy statistics

Claims to fame

  • Windsor Castle – the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and official residence of Her Majesty The Queen.
  • Royal Ascot – Britain's most popular race meeting, welcoming approximately 300,000 visitors across the five days.
  • Smiths Lawn in Windsor Great Park – with 12 grounds it is Europe's largest area dedicated to playing polo.
  • Eton Dorney Lake – official venue for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Team GB won their first gold medal of the 2012 Games at Eton Dorney.

Quirky facts 

Windsor Castle

  • 40 monarchs, including Her Majesty The Queen, have called the Castle home.
  • The castle is spread over the equivalent of 269 tennis courts and is more like a fortified town.
  • The Windsor Castle estate (including Windsor Great Park) has over 450 clocks. When British Summer Time (BST) begins, it takes The Queen’s clock maker 16 hours to move every clock forward by one hour. At the end of BST it takes him 18 hours to adjust them back one hour (as he actually has to move them forward 11 hours!)
  • When Hitler was planning his takeover of Britain he decided that he would keep Windsor Castle as one of his homes so consequently Windsor Castle and Windsor were never targeted during the war.
  • The Great Kitchen is the oldest working kitchen in the country and has served 32 monarchs, including Her Majesty The Queen.
  • The clocks in the Great Kitchen are always five minutes fast to ensure that the food served to The Queen is never late.
  • The whisk in the kitchen can hold up to 250 eggs at one time.
  • Some 18,000 bottles of wine are kept in the cellar.
  • It takes 8-10 people two days to lay the table for a state banquet in St George's Hall. Each guest has 46cm allocated to them on the table.
  • During the reign of George IV, the Round Tower was raised by some 30ft to improve the Castle’s skyline and to fit in with his romantic ideal of a Gothic castle.

Royal Ascot

  • Britain’s most popular race meeting, welcoming approximately 300,000 visitors across the five days.
  • The most valuable race meeting in Britain, with £5.5 million in prize money.
  • Approximately 400 helicopters and 1,000 limos descend on Royal Ascot every year.
  • During the five days, racegoers consume: 51,000 bottles of champagne, 160,000 glasses of Pimm's, 5,000 kilos of salmon, 2,400 kilos of beef sirloin, 35,000 spears of English asparagus, 7,000 punnets of berries and 30,000 chocolate choux éclairs.
  • Bookmakers take bets on the colour of The Queen’s hat on Gold Cup Day. No-one has either won or lost a fortune!
  • The Queen has had 22 winners at Royal Ascot. Jockeys riding Her Majesty's horses wear The Queen's racing colours – purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with gold fringe.
  • Stewards wearing bowler hats is one of the endearing and defining sights of Ascot. However the dress instruction was met with near mutiny when it was introduced in the late 1950s and the trustees had to give pay rises to prevent strike action.
  • Despite popular belief there is no one particular 'Ladies’ Day'. There is no difference between any of the five June days of Royal Ascot – all five are ladies’ days.
  • The tradition of 'singing round the bandstand' began in the 1970s. The sing song of British favourites and flag waving after racing is an integral part of the day and song books and flags are handed round.
  • Viscount Churchill was appointed as the first sovereign’s representative at Ascot in 1901. He is reputed to have taken personal charge of vetting applications for entrance into the Royal Enclosure, sorting letters into three baskets marked ‘Certainly’ ‘Perhaps’ and ‘Certainly Not.’

'Windsor' connections

  • The Windsor knot is sometimes referred to as a Full Windsor or a Double Windsor and is named after King Edward VII. It is the only tie knot that is to be used by all Royal Air Force personnel in the UK when wearing their black tie while in uniform. Ian Fleming wrote in From Russia with Love that Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot; it showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.
  • There are eight distinct forms of a traditional Windsor Chair – Sack-back; Hoop-back; Comb-back; Low-back; Rod-back; Fan-back; Continuous-arm and Bird-cage.
  • Red Windsor is Berkshire’s only native cheese, a cheddar impregnated with veins of elderberry wine or a blend of port wine and brandy.
  • Brown Windsor soup is hearty and generally made from lamb or beef steak, carrots, leeks, parsnips, bouquet garni and Madeira wine. It was featured on the menu of TV’s Fawlty Towers hotel.

The Queen and Windsor

  • Windsor is The Queen's favourite weekend retreat; she spends most of her private weekends at Windsor Castle; the family home of British Kings and Queens for almost 1,000 years.
  • When The Queen arrives at Windsor Castle, the castle's flagman climbs to the top of the Round Tower to replace the Union Jack flag with the Royal Standard. He watches the final minutes of The Queen's arrival through binoculars and hoists the Royal Standard as soon as The Queen is inside the Castle grounds.
  • The Queen often drives herself to engagements around Windsor Great Park including to the Royal Chapel on a Sunday and to watch members of her family play polo at Smiths Lawn.
  • A dedicated equestrian enthusiast, The Queen has attended every Royal Ascot during her reign and every Royal Windsor Horse Show since it started in 1943.
  • There are a number of commemorations to The Queen in Windsor Great Park:
  1. A Jubilee statue of The Queen on horseback which was unveiled by The Queen herself on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee.
  2. The Queen's Avenue, The Savill Garden – an avenue of oak trees presented by Crown Estate staff to The Queen to celebrate her 80th birthday.
  3. Golden Jubilee Garden, The Savill Garden, created in celebration of The Queen's Golden Jubilee.
  4. A 100-foot tall totem pole, Virginia Water which was a gift to The Queen from the the government of British Columbia. Usually totem poles are not repainted and are left to the elements, however this one has been repainted a number of times making it particularly special.
  • The Queen has hosted many state visits from overseas monarchs and presidents at Windsor. State banquets are held in St George's Hall in Windsor Castle on a 53 metre table which can seat 160 people. The Queen approves the menu and inspects the hall and table ahead of the banquet.
  • She also hosts 'dine and sleep' events at Windsor Castle where she invites important figures such as political leaders, Ambassadors or High Commissioners to have dinner and stay overnight.

Sports

  • Eton High Street has the only 1908 marathon route marker still in existence. It is high up on a house next to Barnes Bridge – just past the Post Office and before the Eton College shop – and reads '25 miles to go'.
  • In 1908 Windsor hosted the Marathon which started outside the castle. At the time the actual race distance wasn’t fixed. Moving the starting point from Queen Victoria’s statue to East Terrace so that spectators wouldn’t hinder the athletes added 700 yards to the total distance. A few changes at the White City finishing point meant the eventual race distance was 26 miles 385 yards and this was officially adopted as the length of the Marathon in 1924.
  • Team GB won their first gold medal of the 2012 Olympics at Eton Dorney Lake. Rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning triumphed in the women's pair event.
  • With 12 grounds, Smiths Lawn in Windsor Great Park is Europe's largest area dedicated to playing polo.
  • Maidenhead United, York Road is the oldest continuously used football ground in England.

Polo

  • The Royal Borough hosts polo at Smiths Lawn, The Royal Country of Berkshire Polo Club and Coworth Park featuring the world’s top professionals and plenty of opportunities to take part in half time ‘divot stamping’ – Pretty Woman style!  
  • Field polo originated in Persia and evolved into a cavalry training game for up to 100 riders a side. Modern day games require two teams of four players covering a grass field 240m long and 160m wide. Polo was included as an Olympic sport from 1900 – 1939.
  • There are 4 to 6 'chukkas' in a match and each one lasts for 7 minutes of actual play. There is no offside and teams change direction after each goal. Polo must be played right-handed.
  • Mounts are traditionally called 'polo ponies' although they are full-sized horses. Fast, agile and good under pressure, polo ponies can play until they are 18 to 20 years of age. Players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10 to denote overall playing ability – horsemanship, ranges of strokes, speed of play, team and game sense.

The Savill Garden, Virginia Water and the Valley Gardens

  • The Savill Building is made entirely from Larch and Oak. It came second in the Sterling prize for architecture and received many awards. It was described by Sunday Times Architecture Critic, Hugh Pearman as “the ultimate summerhouse, the granddaddy of gazebos".
  • Virginia Water was used as a filming location for the Harry Potter films’ lakeside scenes. The Scottish alternative was deemed unsuitable due to the number of midges.
  • The towering 100-foot high Totem Pole at Virginia Water was a gift from the government of British Columbia. It was carved from a 600-year-old Western Red Cedar tree by Indian Chief Mungo Martin, one of the finest craftsmen of Totem Poles.’
  • The 250 acre Valley Gardens contain unrivalled collections of azaleas, camellias, magnolias and many other spring-flowering shrubs and trees as well as the largest planting of rhododendrons in the world.

Windsor Great Park

  • The park is accessed by eight gates: Queen Anne's Gate, Ranger's Gate, Forest Gate, Sandpit Gate, Prince Consort's gate, Blacknest Gate, Bishop's Gate and Bear's Rails Gate.
  • William the Conqueror reserved the area to supply the castle with wood, deer, boar and fish. Mediaeval jousts and tournaments were hosted there. Later Monarchs favoured planting and gardening as pastimes in preference to hunting.
  • Windsor Great Park was featured on the cover and inner booklet of the 1978 Elton John album A Single Man.
  • There are numerous features and monuments in the Great Park like the Copper Horse, the Obelisk and a set of 2,000 year old Roman ruins imported from Libya.

Smiths Lawn

  • With 12 grounds, Smiths Lawn is Europe’s largest area dedicated to playing polo. The Light Cavalry supply mounted and dismounted guards at matches held during summer months.
  • WWI troops camped and trained at Smiths Lawn before heading to northern France. By 1916 it was known as The Canadian Camp after becoming the HQ for the Canadian Forestry Corps. In WWII it was used as an airfield.
  • It is believed that Prince Philip learned to fly there.
  • When The Queen attends Guard’s Polo Club the Royal Standard flies from the top of the pavilion.

Maidenhead

  • On 12 July 1901, Maidenhead entered the UK Weather Records with the Highest 60-min total rainfall at 92 mm.
  • Art on the Street is a market run by artists selling their own work. You can haggle with the stall-holder, pick up a bargain or just enjoy the hustle and bustle.
  • King Charles I met his children for the last time before his execution in 1649 at the Greyhound Inn on the High Street. A blue plaque commemorates their meeting.
  • Brunel’s Great Western Main Line passes through Maidenhead railway station and over his Railway Bridge, (known locally as the Sounding Arch), famous for its flat brick arches.
  • Norden Farm Centre for the Arts is built on the site of an old dairy farm. Facilities include a 225 seat courtyard theatre, 100 seat studio theatre, Georgian farm house meeting rooms, art gallery, Eighteenth century long barn (workshop/conference space), media suite, and cafe bar area.

Cookham

  • In 2002, Cookham was at the centre of a row over the Department for Work and Pensions' description of the village's social profile as somewhat spoiled by the gin and jag brigade.
  • Kenneth Grahame is said to have been inspired to write The Wind in the Willows as a result of his childhood beside the River Thames growing up in Cookham Dean.
  • Several islands in the Thames, Odney Island, Formosa Island and Sashes Island, belong to Cookham.
  • English painter Sir Stanley Spencer was born here and most of his works depict biblical scenes featuring Cookham villagers and village life. Over 100 of his works can be seen at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, a former Methodist Chapel he attended as a child. He referred to Cookham as “a village in heaven” and is buried in the village churchyard.

Bray

  • Bray’s Oakley Court Hotel stars as Frank n Furter’s castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). At the time, it was an unloved, dilapidated shell with rotting timbers and a leaky roof – a perfect location for neighbouring Bray studios. Converted into a hotel in 1981, some features seen in the film remain including the original staircase and external Griffins.
  • Bray Cricket Club was established in 1798, making it the oldest in Berkshire.
  • Bray is the only village in the world to have two, three starred Michelin restaurants - The Waterside Inn run by Michael Roux and The Fat Duck run by Heston Blumenthal. There are only four triple starred Michelin restaurants in the UK.
  • Bray’s Monkey Island has a colourful history. Originally a 12th-century fishery, over the years it became a destination for pleasure seekers, a location for high society gatherings and latterly a leisure retreat for weddings and corporate events. Inside the Pavilion is a series of Singerie paintings of monkeys engaged in human-like activities commissioned from the French artist Andieu de Clermont. Once reached by ferry, the island is now accessed via a footbridge.

Christmas

  • Windsor Castle is closely associated with Britain’s Christmas tree traditions. Queen Charlotte, wife of George III introduced the idea of bringing a living fir tree indoors. Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, is credited with popularising tree decorations.
  • An old recipe for Christmas mincemeat served at Windsor Castle consisted of 82 lbs currants, 60 lbs orange and lemon peel, 2 lbs cinnamon and 24 bottles of brandy.
  • In the New Year, a tree recycling facility is provided at The Savill Garden. The trees are chipped and made into compost then returned to The Great Park to enrich the soil.

Press enquiries:

Contact for press information press@live-tourism.co.uk

Royalty-free images available from www.windsor.gov.uk/media

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