Monday, August 24, 2015

Day trip to the Windsor Castle, the Roman Baths and Stonehenge from London

I went to London for the first time in October 2013. Some of my colleagues were also in London and we all planned to go for a road trip over the weekend. We were planning to cover three places - Windsor Castle, The Roman Baths and Stonehenge.

We rented a car and started from somewhere near the Buckingham Palace. There on, we were completely dependent on the GPS. As we moved out of London, the landscape started to change and we were surrounded by large farms and lush green pasture. I was itching to get out and take some pictures. However, of the many driving lessons that we learned in London, one of them was that you can't stop on the highway.

Windsor Castle
Approximately 35 km from central London, the Windsor Castle was our first stop. It was about 11:30 am when we arrived at Windsor. Finding a parking spot here on a weekend is a huge task. We were told that there is a huge parking about 1 km away from the castle. Few of my colleagues went to park the car and I went to buy the tickets. It was a long queue. While waiting, we were told that the tickets can be purchased online as well. Too bad we did not researched while planning the trip. Anyways, in about an hour and a half I had the tickets and we all went in.
The Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the family home to the British Kings and Queens for over a 1000 years. It is also the Queen's favorite weekend home.

With the guided audio tour, we went around the castle admiring the architecture and size of it. We also learnt that taking pictures indoors was not allowed.

The key attractions inside the castle are:
  • State Apartments: These are furnished with the arts and antiques, reflecting the changing tastes of the Royalty.
  • St George's Chapel: It is the burial place of 10 monarchs and a fine example of Gothic architecture in England. 
  • Queen Mary's Dolls’ House: Created in 1920s, it is said to be the largest collection of the most beautiful and famous doll's house in the world. It also contains several artifacts made by the craftsmen and artists of the time.
My friend posing during the tour
A view from the lawn
We spent a couple of hours at the castle and then left for our next destination.

The Roman Baths
Bath was about 150 km from Windsor. Guided by the GPS, we continued our journey on the highway for some time and then to a road slightly uphill towards bath. The Architecture of the place was remarkable. The key attractions of the place are the Sacred Spring, Roman temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum.

The unique thing about this place is that the water here rises to a temperature of 46°C (114.8°F ) naturally. This phenomenon is more that 1000 years old. The water is also said to have healing properties.

Great Bath
The Roman Baths, main building

Roman statues on first floor

Temple pediment and Gorgon's head

Minerva's head

Coins from Roman era

The Roman great drain

Architecture, Bath

Architecture, Bath
During the month of October, the sun sets by 6 pm and we had one more attraction to be covered. Our GPS device was not showing Stonehenge as a destination so we asked someone in Bath to help us with the exact name of place. We were guided to a place called Avebury. Unfortunately the place where we ended going was not Stonehenge. However, the good thing was that this place also had multiple white structures made from huge stones. These also looked great.

After checking with the locals, we were told that Stonehenge was in Amesbury which was about 25 km from Avebury. It was already 5:00 pm by the time we left for Stonehenge. The sun was setting, but we were still hopeful to make it on time for a glimpse. The last stretch of the road was just amazing. We saw horses gazing around, green pastures, farms and some old architecture. We also saw deer and rabbits on our way to Stonehenge. English country side is a great delight to the eye.

Unfortunately by the time we reached stonehenge, the sun had gone down and the monument was closed for the day.

I managed to go to Stonehenge later during the day and completed the missing links.
We were back at our apartment by 10:00 pm. So in 12 hours, we covered London-Windsor-Bath-Avebury-Stonehenge-London. It was a total of around 440 kms with a detour of  60 kms. We were able to see a great country side and covered some historic places during the trip.

Best time to visit: All throughout the year; I would recommend checking the opening and closing times online and also to take online tickets.

How to reach: You could rent a car from London or take one of those tourist bus rides from London to cover the three spots in a day. Don't forget to buy online tickets for all the attractions and don't confuse Avebury with Amesbury.

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