Got Royal Fever? Add These Historic Sites To Your British Hit List
From grand abbeys to glittering jewels.
As every film buff will know, Hollywood never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. Gleaned from biographies and tabloid exposes, The Crown takes elements of truth and embellishes them for entertainment. What is real, however, is the sumptuous royal palaces, the grand abbeys, the glittering jewels, and the sprawling estates.
And, while the Royals have been in our living rooms for a while, the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the addition of many tiny princes and princesses to the family in recent years has seen Royal Fever sweep the globe.
If you’re among the Aussie travellers hooked on the House of Windsor, these are the sites you need to consider visiting.
#1 Westminster Abbey, London
Steeped in more than 1000 years of history, Westminster Abbey is an essential part of any trip to London.
Located beside the Houses of Parliament, the mostly Gothic abbey has been the coronation venue for every British monarch since 1066. It’s also the venue of choice for royal weddings including Queen Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, and Prince William and Kate Middleton, to name just a few.
Daily church services are held in the abbey, and if you’re there early enough, you may be selected to sit in the nave.
Regardless of whether you’re religious, it’s a unique experience you won’t forget.
Where: 20 Deans Yard, Westminster, London
#2 Windsor Castle, Berkshire
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Open to visitors year-round, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The Queen spends most of her weekends at the castle, which is regularly used for ceremonial and state occasions, like visits from foreign heads of state.
The castle’s magnificent State Apartments and Changing of the Guard ceremony – which happens on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11am – are just two of the must-sees.
Where: Windsor, SL4 1NJ
#3 St George’s Chapel, Berkshire
You would’ve heard of this one – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle walked down the aisle of this small chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle for their wedding.
With a capacity of just 800 guests – less than half that of Westminster Abbey – it was a much more intimate affair than the wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
The last royal nuptials held at the chapel was the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.
#4 Buckingham Palace, London
Though the most famous of all Britain’s royal sites, Buckingham Palace wasn’t actually intended to be a residence of the royal family. It was built by George Sheffield, later known as the Duke of Buckingham, as his London home in 1703. King George III purchased it for his wife Queen Charlotte to serve as a family home close to St James’ Palace in 1761.
Today, Buckingham Palace is the principal residence of The Queen and its central London location makes it a convenient spot for tourists seeking a royal fix. The palace doors are thrown open for public tours every summer, with adult tickets priced at around £23 (AU$42) each.
Where: Westminster, London SW1A 1AA
#5 Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
A home for the kings and queens since the 16th century, the Palace of Holyroodhouse – or Holyrood House, as it’s also known – serves as the official residence of The Queen in Scotland. Despite its official status, however, Her Maj only spends a week at the palace each summer to hold official engagements and ceremonies, and no doubt just enjoy the serenity.
Sitting at the bottom end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Holyrood started life as a 12th century Augustinian abbey. Visitors can explore the abbey and gardens on tour, step into Mary Queen of Scots’ Chambers or a world of intrigue and tragedy in the tower.
Where: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
#6 Balmoral Castle and Estate, Scottish Highlands
If Holyrood is the official residence in Scotland, Balmoral is the official holiday house – if you can call a grand castle surrounded by 50,000 acres of moors, forests and streams a “house”.
Purchased for Queen Victoria by her consort, Prince Albert, in 1852, Balmoral has been the royal family’s summer getaway ever since. It was here that Elizabeth and Philip first entertained the idea of becoming engaged, though the proposal was delayed until after the then-princess had turned 21 and actually took place in South Africa.
The Queen’s visits to Balmoral were featured several times in The Crown, though Ardverikie House served as the filming location.
Though the Netflix series offers a glimpse behind the royal curtain, nothing beats experiencing the palaces, castles, abbeys and estates in person. Kensington Palace, Leeds Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace… There are more sights than you can possibly see in one trip, but there’s no time like the present to start ticking these regal wonders off your list.
Where: Balmoral Estates, Ballater AB35 5TB
(Lead image: Ming Jun Tan)