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A national monument and a symbol of the British monarchy, Windsor castle is the largest and oldest working castle in the world. Having been constructed by William the Conqueror shortly after his successful foray onto these shores, it has stood for a millennium on a hill over the Thames and has been successively updated and fortified with each successive monarch.
The castle itself is epic, and the view coming up the Long Walk remains in the memory long after a visit. The views over the stately grounds and gardens from the Tower are worth the effort of climbing its 200 steps - there are tube stations with more stairs, so there really should be no excuse!
Other than its sheer size and majesty, there are numerous draws within the castle itself. Top on anyone's list should be the State Apartments, a magnificent series of rooms lavishly decorated and adorned with a collection of paintings from Old Masters such as Rembrandt, as well as Canaletto and Gainsborough. George IV's private apartment is probably the most extravagant of them all, its rooms some of the most opulent in the castle.
Further on, the Drawings Gallery has shown exhibitions from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle with selections from the Royal Library. Currently until November, it is displaying The Queen - 60 photographs in 60 years, a series of portraits by the world's leading press photographers to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee. Queen Mary's Dolls House, a no-expense spared miniature dollhouse with a working lift (!), is also a marvel, and St George's Chapel is one of Britain's finest examples of Gothic architecture, as well as containing the tombs of numerous sovereigns including Charles I, Henry VIII and his wife Jane Seymour, and the late Queen Mother. It is also the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III.
Getting there is fairly straightforward despite its Berkshire location. Windsor Central or Windsor and Eton Riverside Stations will drop you off near the castle, and £17 admission will get you in (that's £15.50 for concessions, £10.20 for under-17s). The castle is open year-round - from March to October it opens at 09:45 and shuts at 17:15 (last admission is at 16:00), while the rest of the year it shuts at 16:15 with last admission at 15:00.
Sometimes the State Apartments are used for various functions and are thus shut, but this disappointment will be reflected in a vastly discounted admission price. Check the official Windsor Castle calendar for more details on events disrupting normal tours.