On my day-long tour of the English countryside from London, I had Windsor Castle, Stonehenge ruins and the Roman-Georgian town of Bath on my itinerary. I booked the tour via a brochure at Chrysos Hotel in Norfolk, London and was travelling on my lonesome.
A Tour of The Famed English Countryside
The tour began at 8 AM sharp in front of Paddington station. The first stop, Windsor Castle, was only about an hour away. We drove for nearly two hours from there to reach Stonehenge. From there, it was another hour to Bath. The return journey to London in the late evening took us around three hours. At each halt, we had around two hours to explore.
The bus was very comfortable, and I found the passengers friendly. Overall, this was the perfect day trip from London.
The tour cost was around £90 but it did not include lunch. Here are two great options: Golden Tours at £99 (includes a free lunch pack, which makes a lot of sense because you don’t get much time at each halt) and London Toolkit at £95 without lunch.
This was the main part of the tour, and we spent the maximum amount of time at Windsor Castle. The Kings and Queens of Britain have called Windsor Castle home for more than a thousand years. Imagine the kind of stories the castle would tell if it could speak!
Around 150 people, including the Queen herself, live in the impeccably maintained Windsor Castle, and so, not all parts are open for public viewing. Apparently, when the Queen is in residence, you’ll see her flag flying above the Round Tower.
Windsor Castle is spread across 13 acres, and there’s a long walk before you reach the gates. Photography is not allowed inside the castle, where the main attractions include the State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel. You can’t take any food or beverages (including water) inside either.
The reason why the English countryside tours begin so early is to make it to Windsor Castle in time for the change of guards. It takes place from 11 to 11:30 AM and is truly a sight to witness. The marching band in flaming red coats and black trousers do a round of the castle grounds before going in.
Naturally, the queue to enter Windsor is really, really, long, especially if you go at the time of the changing of guards. As always, I enjoyed roaming around the grounds more than the castle itself. The entrance ticket price for Windsor Castle is £22.50 as of 2019.
The Ruins of Stonehenge
I had high expectations from Stonehenge but owing to the crowds and the fact that we were only allowed to observe those lofty stone tributes to the Sun God from afar, I was far from satisfied.
The prehistoric monument of Stonehenge has been among the wonders of the world (though not in the current list) and its story is fascinating: it was built in the Neolithic Age, with modifications being made well unto the Bronze Age. Archaeologists aren’t sure what was its purpose, but the consensus is that it was an important site for religious rites and perhaps burials too.
However, the monument at present doesn’t really live up to its storied past. Perhaps, I would have sensed an air of mystery if I could’ve actually gone up to the stones and touched them. But alas, they’re barricaded at a very large distance and all you get is a distant glimpse.
However, there’s a museum where you can learn more about Stonehenge‘s history, and you can also peek into Neolithic houses to see how they lived.
The Roman Town of Bath
The gorgeous town of Bath with its well-preserved hot springs and Georgian architecture seemed straight from an era where ideals like nobility and dignity had their requisite place in the lives of men and women.
As the name suggests, the English town of Bath is primarily famous for its Roman baths, where the water comes from the hot springs of the Costwold hills. When the Romans waged war on England 2000 years ago, they were greatly drawn to these springs.
A couple of ladies dressed like the ancient Romans posed for my picture, like all the tourists milling about and peering into the depths of the olive-green pool:
However, there is a lot more to do in Bath. Unfortunately, since it was the final stop on our tour, we didn’t have much time there and all I could see were the Roman Baths and a few picturesque streets. According to Visit Bath, the city can easily be covered on foot. You could also go boating on the River Avon and watch Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, and Bathampton Mill passing by.
If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you can visit the Jane Austen Centre to learn about her time in Bath, and its influences in her novels. But what I would have really liked to do is ascend the Bath Abbey Tower and gaze at the city’s perfection laid out before me.
The Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath tour is the most popular of all day trips from London. But there are many other places you can visit, if you have more time in London.
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