Visiting Windsor is like traveling back in time. Way back. You can imagine at any moment a knight bounding around the street corner on his steed, or a maiden doing maidenly things in the Great Park. That is if you ignore the cars, shops, shoppers and fast food restaurants. Medieval England blends with time after time that hath cometh to passeth hitherto. Historic monuments and statues, authentic English pubs (one built in the 17th century), ancient Peascod Street which predates the one-thousand-year-old royal Windsor Castle… and McDonald, directly across the street from the magnificent castle wall.
I guess it depends on your palate. After a leisurely stroll around the walls of the Lower Ward, the Curfew Tower, King Henry VIII Gate and on around to the Long Walk and a that picturesque view of the castle from Windsor Great Park, I chose to stop in at The Carpenters Arms Pub.
While menu surfing earlier to decide where to have lunch I selected The Carpenters Arms because they offer an interesting vegetarian option, the Charred Aubergine and Harissa Burger. Aubergine is an eggplant, just the more exotic sounding name, and harissa is a hot chili pepper paste. Luckily the sauce it was used in wasn’t super hot. Pair that burger with a nice English style pub ale at 4.2% and you’ve got a winning lunch combo.
According to their website history the Carpenters Arms story actually began in 1844 and takes its name from the tradesmen who worked locally and would stop in for a pint. Etchings on the pub windows depict tools of the trade and other decorative scenes.
They have a good selection of ales on draft too, but it was the middle of the day so I only had one. With more time to spend I may have stopped at one or two more of the several other pubs in Windsor proper including The Two Brewers Pub, Three Tuns, The Horse and Groom, The Corner Cider & Ale House, The King and Castle or the Duchess of Cambridge. Plenty to choose from. Lots of beer flowing around here.
I’m not one for shopping but after lunch I ventured back out to browse the stores anyway, and mostly just to take in more of the town. Windsor is a beautiful historic town. One stop on The Long Walk is enough to make anyone put things into perspective. Sure, I took some pictures, but the best moments were found just being in that setting. Amazing. A lot of people at the shops, not too many on The Long Walk. That was fine with me, I enjoyed a nice rest there for a bit without a crowd.
During our visit to this part of England we stayed at the Beaumont Estate located in Old Windsor, now owned by the De Vere hotel company. While Old Windsor is not quite as dense with restaurants, pubs and sights as Windsor is there are some interesting places to visit within easy walking distance of the hotel, or just a few minutes drive. A roughly 15 minute brisk walk landed me smack dab in the middle of a field at Runnymede standing among an assemblage of twelve rather ornate and official looking bronze chairs. The chairs are an art piece called “The Jurors”, designed to inspire visitors to reflect on the history and importance of the specific location with regard to the monuments located here.
This is the place where the “Articles of the Barons” was presented to and agreed to by King John in 1215. The articles would later be assembled into an organized charter defining a peace agreement between the rebellious barons and King John. This charter would later be renamed the Magna Carta, and a grand monument stands at this location as a memorial to that historic event.
Also located at Runnymede is a memorial designed by landscape artist Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe in 1964 and completed in 1965, which sits on an acre of land given to the United States by the British government, as a tribute following assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The monument reads, in part, “This acre of English ground was given to the United States of America by the people of Britain in memory of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States 1961-63, died by an assassins hand 22 November 1963….”
The actual memorial consists of three elements, a winding path of steps comprised of 60,000 paving stones which leads to the main memorial, and from there a paved path leads to the “Seats of Contemplation” where one gets a beautiful view of Runnymede.
There were a few groundskeepers there but they stepped aside so I could take a photo and I also took the moment to reflect on just where I was and what it all means. Now more than ever we need to fight for democracy and fairness and work toward better relationships with our allies to achieve great things together. Progress is crucial, we cannot afford to go backwards.
Following my venture to Runnymede I walked back along the River Thames back toward the historic Bells of Ouzeley pub, now Harvester, which sits just across the street from the river, and took a short rest at the riverside. The Beaumont Estate, first historically mentioned in 1300, used to ramble all the way down here to the Thames and included the original Bells of Ouzeley Pub. As a Harvester the history of the pub has been lost to a fairly mediocre restaurant chain. We did eat there, and the food was decent with vegetarian options but the beer selection was very slight. There was no mention anywhere, that I could see, regarding the pubs original history.
From there I ventured into Old Windsor to stop at a convenience store for a water and something for lunch. On my way I passed a fun topiary in someone’s driveway, shaped like a giant cartoonish duck. It sat high enough that it was probably clearly visible by boaters on the river, and likely intended for them. In my mind I could see a wiry old Englishman carefully trimming the duck, grooming and tending to its form to keep passers entertained.
This is a beautiful area for sure, and a short drive to London if you’re up for that. My wife, Cindy, had business all week with no time for sightseeing or pub hopping, and we were pretty much relegated to the hotel, so we didn’t venture out too much the first week but at least I did get to explore Windsor and the local area. We’ll save a London visit for next time.
Our next stop during out European Vacation… Wales! The Brecon Beacons and Hay-on-Wye specifically. Cindy will be in full holiday mode then so we’ll be seeking out some interesting things there, including a few stops at some filming locations used in a certain favorite 80’s horror-comedy. Stay tuned via our Facebook Page for that.
Sources used as reference during this writing:
Wikipedia – Old Windsor
Wikipedia – Magna Carta
Runnymede Memorial – Kennedy Memorial Trust
The Original Windsor
Windsor-Berkshire. Visitors Guide to Royal Windsor.
Windsor Great Park