There is really only one choice for a walk to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and that’s among the splendours of Windsor Great Park. The vast 5,000 acre park itself has all you need if you’re after a memorable day on foot with a pinch of royalty for added flavour – ancient woodland, splendid avenues of trees, historic buildings, herds of deer, vast open spaces, Windsor Castle itself, and more royal associations than you can shake a sceptre at.
The long walk
Leaving Windsor Riverside station, follow High Street. Where it bends right and becomes Sheet Street, keep ahead along Park Street and through the gates into Windsor Great Park. There’s a fine view here of the epic Windsor Castle, which has a rich history spanning 1,000 years and is still a working royal palace today, as the Queen often chooses to spend her weekends here.
William the Conqueror chose the site to construct the castle high above the River Thames in the 1070s. He intended it to guard the western approaches to London and the outer walls he built still stand in the same position today. The castle itself contains glorious state apartments (furnished with treasures from the royal collection), St George’s Chapel, Queen Mary’s Dolls House and The Drawing’s Gallery (currently showing The Queen: Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years).
Turn right along The Long Walk for two-and-a-half miles (with views of the Royal Mausoleum where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert lie buried) to reach the Copper Horse Statue on Snow Hill. The statue, erected in 1831 to commemorate King George III (of him on horseback), was made of 25 tons of melted brass cannons – and 16 workmen squeezed inside it to eat bread and cheese and sing ‘God Save The King’.
The village scene
Continue down the far side of Snow Hill, through a deer gate, on a long, grassy ride between hedges, past Ox Pond on the right. In another 200 yards, turn right along a tarmac road to The Village. Pass the green and the post office. In 100 yards, go right at a T-junction; in 250 yards, go left (signposted ‘Cranbourne Gate’) to cross the A332 at Cranbourne Gate. Continue along a tarmac road to Cranbourne Tower. This tower is one of a succession of royal hunting lodges on this site, dating back to Tudor times.
Queen Anne’s Ride
Return a short way left on a sandy track through woods (you’ll see a ‘Horse Riders – Do Not Deviate From Track’ notice). In two-thirds of a mile at white gates, turn right on a tarmac road to recross the A332 at Ranger’s Lodge pedestrian traffic lights. Go through the gate; immediately take the gravel path that climbs from the tarmac track into trees, to reach Queen Anne’s Ride – a beautiful dead-straight ride (about three-miles long and dating from 1708), which is bordered by an avenue of lovely old trees, including some very ancient oaks.
Keep left along the ride for one mile to meet A332 at Queen Anne’s Gate. Go right through a stile; along the grass path to
meet The Long Walk. Here are more opportunities to take striking photographs along this tremendous avenue, up to the castle and down to the Copper Horse. Go left back to the castle and station.