A Royal Retreat; Part 2

Ruby the VW is parked up in Windsor, and we can see Windsor Castle from our window! We are parked up in a sectioned off part of the Coach Park in Alexandria Car Park and amazingly they allow overnight parking/sleeping in Campervans/Motorhomes.

We arrived late morning having had a lay in and a full English Breakfast. The weather had been unsettled over night and the wardens at Chertsey C&CC were quite rightly closing the Island part of the campsite due to fears of flooding. Overnight the river had burst its banks and water was getting close to the pitches on the island area.

We made the short journey to Windsor (about 25 mins) from the site and arrived at the car park just before noon. The Security team showed us where we could park and we felt very pleased to be “wild camping’ for the night. We paid £15 for our parking but this was from 12 noon through to 9am the following morning. Considering we paid £6 to park at Hampton Court Palace for 4 hours, we felt this was fairly reasonable. There is a toilet near the station however this closes in the evening and overnight. There was also a tap near to the coach area but not sure if that’s for use by campervanners.

See video here

Feeling pleased to be parked up we made the short walk to Windsor Castle entrance. I’d been very excited to make this visit – I have just recently finished reading Lady in Waiting and am watching The Crown so am totally in ‘The Zone’ when it comes to the Royal Family right now!

We’d pre booked our tickets through the Windsor Palace website (£23.50 pp) and arrived just after noon to no queues or anything. It was just a shame that the weather was drizzly and wet.

We first visited St George’s Chapel – the site of the most recent Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan. We also saw the tomb of Henry VIII which tied in well with our visit the previous day to Hampton Court Palace. The chapel is beautiful, especially the roof and the organ. Sadly no pics were allowed.

We then moved on to the State Apartments and also the Queen Mother’s Dolls House. The Doll’s House was incredible – made in the 1920s its a full scale model of a Royal Household, and everything inside it works! The scale is 1 foot to 1 inch. Even the grammerphone plays real LPs, and the miniature wine bottles had real wine in!

From here we walked through the wonderful collection of State Apartments. Its hard not to be impressed here, especially given that they are still in use for Royal Receptions and the such to this day. St George’s Hall was destroyed in the 90s by a terrible fire, but has been rebuilt and was the venue for the most recent Royal Wedding.

After visiting this section of the castle the rain had nearly stopped so we went to look at the outdoor courtyard where we could see the current Queen’s private apartments. We were told by a guide that she regularly comes to Windsor Castle, in fact she’d been there a couple of days prior to our visit.

We enjoyed looking at the round tower, the oldest part of Windsor Castle, and hope to return in August or September as it opens up to the public then. Our ticket today got stamped so we can return for free again within 12 months.

We really enjoyed our 3 hours or so exploring Windsor Castle – the audio guide was really informative and for me it was a big bucket list tick.

After our visit, we decided to enjoy the fact that we were parked up for the night. We went for a drink at the nearby Horse and Groom – opposite the Castle. Keefy soon spotted a Windsor and Eton Brewery ale trail leaflet, and so the rest of the afternoon was spent dodging the rain as we made our way around the trail – we may have added in some extra pubs too! We really enjoyed the pubs it took us to and the ale was really tasty too.

About 8pm we realised we hadn’t eaten since our breakfast, so made our way back to Ruby where I cooked up a Carbonara before we both crashed out – we were asleep by 9pm and enjoyed a very peaceful night in the carpark along with one other motorhome. I fancied trying the BBQ restaurant in town but as we’d been on the go all day (and had a few jars) we were ready to turn in! We will definitely return and will make a point of eating there next time.

We’d had a marvellous day exploring Windsor and really commend the council for having the business sense to make this scrap part of a car park a place for us to park up overnight. If we hadn’t have stayed here, then there were no other campsites for us to stay at within the range of public transport and therefore we would have been unable to take part in the pub crawl.

Well done Windsor! See our video Here

Tomorrow we are making our return journey home but not without a visit to Bletchley Park to see if we can bag a a new job as a codebreaker.

Thursday Dawned another wet and grey day. We waved goodbye to Windsor Castle just before 9am and the new day’s parking charges kicked in and made the 1.25 hour journey north to Bletchley, near Milton Keynes.

Bletchley Park has been another place on our ‘to visit’ list and we were excited to be finally ticking it off. Despite the grey and murky weather we arrived just after 10am and after having a quick late breakfast/early lunch in the carpark we entered the very important historical site.

During WW2 Bletchley Park would have been a hive of activity and the people who worked here were instrumental in ending the war. It was here that mathematicians and scientists worked tirelessly trying to crack the codes that were being intercepted from Germans to their Army. It was also here that Alan Turrin and his team developed the Bombe machine which was instrumental in deciphering and decoding messages from the German Enigma machines. If you haven’t already seen the film, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a fantastic Alan Turrin in The Imitation Game.

Visiting Bletchley Park is an all day affair. The site is large and there is lots and lots of information to read (perhaps too much) and quite a number of interactive code breaking multi media displays. There are numerous huts to visit, including the famous hut 11a and 11 where the Bombe machine was made and also Hut 8 which was where Alan Turrin had his office and team. There is also the mansion – although half of it was closed sadly.

In Block B there were a number of original Enigma machines to view, but aside from these and a few original facsimiles and essays written by Turrin we found the original artefacts lacking and this was disappointing considering that the entry price was £20 per person – and that was booking in advance price. Buying tickets on the day would have been more. Whilst we very much enjoyed being on the site, and found being in hut 8 very interesting and atmospheric, the endless multimedia displays and projections of actors and recordings of the actors voices very repetitive and just not needed. We were also incredibly disappointed that there is no original (or replica) Bombe machine here. Very sadly (and not the museums fault we realise) all the work that Turrin and his team did was ordered to be demolished at the end of the war and this included the codebreaking machine and everything to do with it. A working replica was made around 10 years ago but this is not housed at Bletchley. This is down the road at the National Computer Centre and requires additional entry fees.

There is an original Bombe machine in Maryland USA so we’ve decided to go and see that sometime instead as you know we love USA!

As I said, we enjoyed visiting the site, and rewatched The Imitation Game last night with nothing buy admiration for this who worked there. But, we felt disappointed by our visit – we should have read up beforehand, but didn’t, and as such felt disappointed not to be able to see originals. Also we felt there was an overload of repetitive and complicated information. It was hard to follow as it didn’t flow brilliantly well. I suppose its always going to be difficult to understand the information there unless you have a very mathematical and scientific mind as the formulas etc behind the code breaking machines were just so advanced! We would have liked to have read more about the people who worked there and their lives.

Like Windsor Castle, our tickets are valid for 1 year of return visits, so perhaps we will revisit later in the year with fresh eyes and without the expectation of seeing an original Bombe machine.

It’s worth noting by the way, if you plan to visit here, they won’t allow dogs in the car park. We didn’t have Jazz as we had booked three days of none dog friendly attractions so he went for a holiday at my mums, but there was a security guard checking vehicles on entry for animals and even if someone is sitting in the car with them, you would be turned away.

It was a shame to be finishing our mini break feeling flat. We’d really enjoyed our time away, and felt we’d made the best out of a disappointing week of weather, but I could do with a couple more days away to recharge and am desperately craving some mountain vistas.

We’ve got a very busy 4 weeks ahead, with no free weekends as we are gigging and holding exam days etc –  but then we travel to Vietnam and Cambodia for almost 3 weeks! I’m hoping we may manage a night away at a Britstop before then – our new Book was waiting for us on our return home!

For this weekend, we have more rain and more wind on its way so it”s time to batten down those hatches again!

Until Next Time


6 thoughts on “A Royal Retreat; Part 2

    1. Thank you! It is really nice to hear you like the blog. I love writing it so we can remind ourselves where we went but its’ really lovely to hear other people enjoy reading it too.

  1. We visited Bletchley Park on a special 40s weekend a few years ago. It was very good, with lots of talks and presentations, music and dancing. Lots of visitors dressed up as well as the staff. We found it a fascinating place.

    1. I think perhaps that would have enhanced things for us. We just found the endless information boards a bit wordy and repetitive and the atmosphere was just not captured. We’d have liked room guides we could ask questions to as they came into our heads as several questions arose but there were no guides in the rooms . Some 1940s music would definitely have helped. BUT – maybe 3 big attractions in 3 days was too much and we were in the wrong frame of mind. I’m not sure. We will definitely try again with fresh eyes another time, and now we know the machine is not there! We were very disappointed about that, but it was our fault for assuming it was there and not researching it properly. The history of the place is fantastic there is no doubt about that!

  2. Thanks for a very informative article about your experiences. Well done for finding overnight parking in Windsor. We hope to follow in your footsteps one day.

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