The Muddy insider guide to Windsor
Thanks to a stream of Royal weddings, babies and family tensions, the spotlight's fixed on Windsor right now. Ditch the guide book, here's where to hang out during your visit.
Move over London because Windsor is officially home to Royal celebrations. The Platinum Jubilee celebration in Windsor are going to be huge. Expect fireworks (hopefully not from Harry and Meghan), a party in the park and a picnic table that stretches from Cambridge Gate to the Copper Horse for The Big Lunch. Windsor’s hot hot hot right now, putting the cool back into Cool Britannia. I’m determined to do the same for Windsor. Fancy a saunter across the cobbles?
There’s no shortage of places to scoff and quaff in these parts. If you’re looking for somewhere hip and casual, the brand spanking new The Ivy Brasserie is the place to be seen right now. It’s fun, funky and has decor to die for. It’s the most Instagrammable spot for brunch, lunch and dinner. There’s also a buzz about Patch on the Plaza – an exciting outdoor restaurant in partnership with foodie legends John and Milly of Test Kitchen. If you’re looking to keep the kids happy, Flaming Cow, the dirty burgers will go down a treat.
For grown up chefy food, head out of town. Chef Adam Handlings’ destination eaterie, Loch & Tyne is in Old Windsor and Muddy favourite gastropub The Greene Oak, owned by The Ivy Covent Garden alumni, is in Oakley Green.
Want to escape the tourist hustle? Oh but you can. Head to the foodie village of Bray where you’ll find a constellation of Michelin stars, courtesy of Heston’s Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head pub, Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn plus Muddy faves Caldesi in Campagna and The Crown at Bray.
After a sexy lockdown refurbishment, Windsor’s grand riverside The Oakley Court has become a destination for design addicts and luxury loafers. This Gothic beauty has been draped in coolness thanks to style queen and creative genius Alex Eagle – part designer, part shop keeper, part curator. For extra kudos, it’s the also the location of Soho House’s summer private members’ pop up. Swoon!
Make the most of the town and country feels of Windsor at The Winning Post Windsor. It’s a pub with rooms just a few miles out of town. Think Four Weddings cosy and a lovely spot to eat, drink and celebrity spot. A few drinks by the open fire and a boutique room to rest your weary head. It’s the perfect bolthole.
A little further afield in one direction there’s five star fabulousness at Fairmont Windsor Park (sister of thr Savoy no less) and in the other the scandalous glamour of Cliveden House. In the foodie village of Bray, rest your weary head at Muddy Award-winning boutique stay Bray Cottages, offering the space of your own cottage with the luxuries of a hotel. Or there’s Plum Cottages for grown-up boutique vibes. If it’s a central spot of nothing, the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa, on the approach to the Eton Footbridge is in a cracking Georgian building and oozes luxury. Plus there’s a spa. Nuff said.
You can’t leave Windsor without following in the footsteps of kings and queens down The Long Walk. It’s 2.64miles, a 2-3 hour round trip and takes you up to the copper statue of mad King George III. No bikes, no cars (unless you’re the crown wearing VIP) just you, Windsor Great Park and lots of roaming deer. It’s the perfect spot to clear a fuzzy head. If you’re after something more organised, there are lots of walking tours to choose from, but the ghost tour (Windsor Walks) with its tales of royals, rogues, mistresses and murderers is always fun.
Goswell Hill is fast becoming the place to hangout right night. O is a neon dream under the arches. Great for cocktails with live DJ and arty Instagram shots. They offer brunch and supper to keep it civilised.
Windsor’s best kept secret? No5 St Leonards Road. A Champagne bar that’s as sexy as a burlesque dancer’s boudoir. It’s a 10-minute walk from the centre, but the Porn Star Martinis, Chesterfields and vintage vibes are worth the trip. If you’re at the other end of town, make your way over Eton Bridge and down to The Eton Mess. Stylish interiors, industrial details, an epic selection of gins and a cocktail menu that will keep you busy. The food is good here too, so dine, drink and bed in for a cracking night.
Largely high street, but Windsor Royal Shopping has a boutique vibe and you’ll find Whistles, Sweaty Betty, Le Creuset, Jo Malone, Daniel’s department store, Space NK and a very good Zara. For something completely different, the Thames Hospice charity shop on Peascod Street, is a hidden gem. A dedicated Vintage and Retro shop, it’s a hotspot for the fashion crowd, TV stars and media stylists. It’s absolutely teeming with one-off clothes, accessories and homeware. A smidge outside the town centre is St Leonard’s Road, a great spot for cool indie businesses. Check out eco stores Zero Joe‘s and Four State, fashion boutiques Zobia and Roz Clarke, cult furniture store UrbanSuite, to name a few.
It goes without saying that when you’re in Windsor, you kinda have to visit Windsor Castle or ‘Orf with your head’. It gives you the Through The Keyhole experience in real life, as the Queen actually lives here. In fact it is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. I’m not suggesting you rifle through her underwear drawer, but perv at the interiors, admire her art and antiques and check out the sitch for the ‘I dos’ in St George’s Chapel.
There are loads of event to mark Her Maj’s phenomenal 70 years of crown-wearing service, but the biggies include The Queen’s Coronation Exhibition at Windsor Castle from 7 July. This is your chance to see The Queen’s exquisite Norman Hartnell Coronation Dress and purple silk velvet Robe of Estate from that extraordinary event in 1953 is a little bit spesh. It took 12 embroiderers, using 18 different types of gold thread, more than 3,500 hours to complete the work on the robe between March and May 1953.
Then during the special bank holiday weekend there’s a mahoosive three-day party on The Long Walk. Pack your Coronation chicken sarnies, Victoria Sponge and lashing of fizz for the totally free Jubilee Party in the Park (4–5 Jun). There will be cars, music and sport from across the decades of Her Majesty’s reign. Bring your own picnic, find your spot or grab a bite to eat and make sure your Union Jack flag waving game is strong. On Sunday 5 June, is Big Lunch day in Windsor. The aim is to create the longest picnic table ever – one very long table running from Cambridge Gate, down the Long Walk towards the Copper.
Alternatively (and rather more exclusively), head to Frogmore House. It provided the stunning backdrop for for Harry and Meghan’s engagement photos and you can see it for yourself if you time it just right. Frogmore is only open to the public for three days in June (all proceeds go to charity) or for pre-booked groups of 15+ people, during August.
The juggernaut that is Legoland is a big draw for families and fans of the plastic brick. But for alternatives, try Go Ape. The nearest one is Black Park Country Park– 560 acres of woodland where you can hang out on the high ropes, zip wires, Tarzan swings and obstacles. Just watch your zip wire landing, mine is a little less than dignified. Windsor Duck Tours gives you the local lowdown without being naff. The fact you start off on a bus and end up in a boat is great fun. Honest to god, my kids love it. Finally, if you’re looking for a place where the cool little kids hang, it can only be The Jelly Lounge. It’s funky, fun serves great food, superb coffee and booze. Now you’re talking.
The Queen living right in the centre of town is a quirk in itself, but you also have The Crooked House (previously home to jewellers, Jersey Pearl). Why does it tilt? It was either built with unseasoned wood or the builders of the Guildhall extension gave it a shove as the house next door was too close. Either way, cowboy builders were to blame. Windsor also has the shortest street in the world. Charlotte Street is just 16m long and conveniently takes you to a pub and you’ll also find the UK’s only blue post box in town. Yes there is such a thing. It was erected in 1911 to mark the first UK airmail flight which took place between London and Windsor.
If you want a guaranteed peak at our Queen, she’s a regular at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. It’s grown from a small charity dog and horse show to a big deal. A whopping 50,000 people visit the show each year in Her Maj’s back garden. Many top show jumpers and dressage riders compete here, the military put on a mega display, the kids’ Shetland Grand National is awesome and there’s a pretty high quota of royals ambling around.
Prefer to park your bum on a red velvet seat? Windsor’s Theatre Royal is a stunning venue, owned by the legendary Bill Kenwright. Lots of gold gilding and plush velvet. Some of the shows are a bit old fashioned but they throw a few gems in to pull in a younger crowd. The multi-talented Will Young making in Windsor debut in A Thousand Clowns earlier this year and Sir Ian McKellen did a stint here too.
There are two places guaranteed to drag urban hipsters out of a cereal cafe, it’s The Old Court and Brewery Comedy at Eton & Windsor Brewery. The Old Court is a former magistrate’s court come bar and culture club. You’ll find indie cinema nights and comedy, theatre, art and so much more. It’s the epitome of alternative and I love it. Eton & Windsor Brewery is more than a regional beer producer, it’s also a comedy venue. Yup. Craft beers and comedy – it a match made in hipster heaven. Fresh meat, I mean talent, perform regularly from the factory floor and they jessie it up with fairy lights. It’s worth keeping your eye out for Windsor Fringe Festival (usually September). It’s the second oldest fringe festival (after Edinburgh, obvs) and showcases new talent in music, dance, comedy, drama and art.
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