On May 6th, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed their son Archie safely into the world.
Were you as excited as I was?? I was convinced it was a boy (no proof or scientific method involved) and I’m happy to see that it was!
And because it all happened at Windsor Castle (at the couple’s new home there), this seems like the perfect excuse to share photos from our family trip there in December.
My mother, sister, and I has always wanted to see Windsor Castle but when we found out Meghan Markle’s wedding dress would be on display at an exhibition** on their wedding, we HAD to see it.
**NOTE: The exhibition sadly finished in February. I was lucky enough to see Kate Middleton’s wedding dress at Buckingham Palace in August 2011 and can testify that if you ever have an opportunity to see a royal wedding exhibition, they’re always worth the trip!
So we hopped on a train out to Windsor, eager to see Meghan’s dress and St. George’s Chapel where they’d married, buying the wrong train ticket in the process… #tourists.
Once we made it to Windsor things were very simple.
The town of Windsor itself is quite small, especially if you’re coming in from the hustle and bustle of London.
And is dwarfed by the massive castle which was originally built in the 11th century making it the oldest inhabited castle IN. THE. WORLD.
The walk to the castle from the train station is short but completely uphill so be prepared!
Luckily there are plenty of lovely spots to see as you hike up.
And, as you get closer, you can start seeing all the different buildings that make up Windsor Castle itself.
Despite visiting in December, the weather could not have been more perfect for our visit: plenty of sun and warmth to combat the chill.
And the light was magical.
It was so beautiful walking up the hillside, watching the light dance on those medieval stones.
And I’m always so grateful for any opportunities I have to travel with these two!
As we walked we passed by many lovely little shops and pubs (one of which we visited later!).
The architecture of Windsor is an older, English style and absolutely lovely to shoot.
Especially when the light makes the buildings SING.
We eventually made it up the hillside to the entrance, being greeted first by this statue of Queen Victoria who called Windsor home for much of her life.
And the imposing facade of Windsor Castle.
Which — despite many people telling me this — still shocked me with how large it was. You can clearly see which additions to the castle are newer vs. older and it’s interesting to see the change in architectural styles as you walk past.
I highly recommend purchasing tickets for Windsor Castle in advance, especially if you’re going for a particular exhibit. We were able to walk up to the counter and grab out tickets right away without waiting in the massive queue, saving us a lot of time!
Which we naturally used up shooting around the grounds.
(Can we talk about the light at Windsor Castle that morning again? Because everywhere I turned was a postcard perfect photo waiting to be shot.)
We entered through the main archway…
And walked around the Round Tower of the lower ward towards the exhibit.
Catching our first glimpses of St. George’s Chapel (where Meghan and Harry married almost one year ago exactly).
And snapping plenty of photos for good measure.
Once inside the castle you are not permitted to take photos.
Naturally I understand this and yet am frustrated by it at the same time.
On one hand, I am constantly frustrated with how people take photos when they travel — people are so inconsiderate! And I say that as someone who is constantly staging and planning photoshoots when I travel. When Hubby and I were on a helicopter tour in Alaska, the man next to me literally BLOCKED my entire view taking photos on his iPad. I couldn’t believe he used an iPad as a camera to begin with but our pilot told us that happened multiple times every week. And don’t get me started on selfie sticks. Or the bloggers who bring a ballgown to shoot “on location” in a palace. Or the ones that hold up a whole line of people for “the shot”. Trust me — I do not blame anyone for keeping certain places “photo free” if only so everyone is sure to enjoy themselves.
But the worst offenders have ruined the opportunities for everyone! Because the inside of Windsor Castle is MAGICAL.
And, as a professional photographer, NOT shooting that space just about killed me. There’s one ceiling in particular that I so badly wanted to lay on the floor to shoot.
So, again, it’s probably best they don’t allow photographs, seeing as I’ve just admitted I would lay on the ground just to shoot a ceiling. But the shot would’ve been worth it! And undoubtedly one of my favorites in my portfolio.
Just note that you cannot take photos inside so be sure to go on a day with good weather if you want to shoot the castle itself!
Now, back to our visit…
The exhibit itself was nice, albeit sparse. Having seeing Kate Middleton’s wedding dress exhibit at Buckingham Palace in 2011, I expected this exhibit to mimic that one. But this exhibit was far more humble and low-key, just like Meghan and Harry themselves, so at least it felt appropriate.
But the grounds themselves are absolutely stunning.
And are worth the trip, even if you just plan on walking around.
Or taking a selfie at the Round Tower!
Since the Queen visits Windsor so often, you can always tell if she’s in residence by the flag flown above. If it’s the union jack, then she’s not in residence, if it’s the royal standard, then she is!
After the exhibit we continued to wander the grounds,
Which were incredibly photogenic, even in the middle of winter!
And made our way down to St. George’s Chapel, where Harry and Meghan married last May.
The detail work on the chapel itself was exceptional, especially in that magical morning light.
You cannot take photos inside (surprise, surprise) but you CAN shoot outside to your heart’s content.
So we did!
I’m a sucker for older, gothic facades like this one and ran through half of my sd card shooting the chapel in just one hour.
Can you blame me?
The lighting… the architecture… the company… it was all perfect.
But it was hard to get shots of St. George’s Chapel without swarms of crowds around, even first thing in the morning.
I would certainly recommend doing what we did and arriving as early as possible. By mid-morning the grounds were PACKED. On a Wednesday in December.
So plan accordingly!
SHOP THE LOOK:
Photos courtesy of my sister Emily
Certainly save some time to walk around inside the chapel. The stained glass windows are incredible from the inside, as are all of the graves and famous artifacts inside.
Naturally after seeing the inside, we had to stop at the famous entrance to see the steps.
All I could do was think of Harry and Meghan’s wedding day and how beautiful this facade was then.
(My Meghan Markle moment pretending to ascend the steps to marry Prince Harry, all while conveniently hiding the “do not climb” sign in front… someday, they’ll let me climb them. I’m convinced!)
But regardless of the fact that I was not climbing these steps in a bespoke wedding dress to marry a prince, the magic was not lost. The front of this chapel is truly breath-taking.
AND frequently ignored by other tourists so it’s one of the only spots on the grounds you can have to yourself.
Afterwards we continued to wander through the castle property.
Past all the medieval stones.
And through one of the side gates.
And out for…
My sister and I had done our research on where to eat in Windsor and had agreed on the Duchess of Cambridge Pub partly because of the name and partly because of the great reviews.
Not only is this spot just across the street from Windsor Castle (convenient!) but it’s absolutely adorable inside too.
And the food is totally worth the trip!
Most pubs in London are run by the same companies, so the menus are almost always THE SAME.
Delicious to be sure. But the same. exact. dishes. EVERYWHERE.
The Duchess of Cambridge Pub menu was unique, offering quite a few dishes you can’t typically find in London pubs.
Starting with mulled wine…
and halloumi fries with spicy sauce.
For our meals, my Mother opted for a delicious steak and ale pie,
While my sister opted for the traditional fish and chips with cider.
Both of which were delicious but I was biased towards my fish pie which was creamy and filling — so perfect for a chilly, December day!
And not something you’ll find on a lot of pub menus, despite fish pie’s popularity in the U.K.
We finished off our meal with another novelty: our first treacle tart!
None of us had ever tried this traditional British dessert but now we’re smitten. Just be prepared for the amount of sweetness in this dessert — it’s a sugar bomb!
But in that delectable, sinful sort-of way!
Our trip to Windsor Castle is one I’ll cherish for years. And getting to see Meghan Markle’s wedding dress in person was just the icing on the [wedding] cake.
The next time you’re in London and looking for a lovely day trip, I highly recommend visiting Windsor Castle and stopping at the Duchess of Cambridge Pub for a snack after! It’s nice to leave the crowds of London behind and spend sometime in the Queen’s favorite residence.