A Royal tour of Britain

On Saturday we’ll be celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday here in Britain! But we know that it’s not just us Brits who love Queen Liz – The British Royal family have plenty of fans all over the world.

We’d all like to catch a glimpse into the lives of one of the world’s most historic families and luckily the British Royal Family are happy to share and have opened the doors to many of their official residences to the public.

So how about a right royal tour of Britain!

  1. Buckingham palace, The Royal Mews & The Queen’s Gallery

London - Buckingham Palace (2)Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the UK sovereigns since 1837 is a must-see on any visit to the capital. More than 50,000 people visit the Palace annually as guests at State banquets, receptions and Garden Parties. Although you probably won’t manage to score a ticket to one of these, the State Rooms are open to the public when they are not being used for official functions and you can also visit The Queens Gallery and The Royal Mews.

Don’t miss: The Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11:30 every day from April – July and on alternate days for the rest of the year.

  1. Westminster Abbey 

Just around the corner from Buckingham Palace is another famous royal site. When Prince William and Kate Middleton exchanged their vows at Westminster Abbey in 2011 they became part of a centuries old tradition of royals being married, crowned and buried at the famous Abbey. Westminster Abbey has been the coronation church for the British Monarchy since 1066 when William the Conqueror became the first royal to be crowned there.

Don’t miss: A verger-led tour including the Royal tombs!

  1. Windsor Castle

Windsor - Windsor Castle (2)Just outside of London you will find Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. The castle has been the family home of British monarchs for almost 1,000 years and is an official residence or HM Queen Elizabeth II who spends most of her private weekends here. Visit the state rooms, semi state rooms and St George’s chapel which contains the tombs of ten sovereigns including Henry VIII and Charles I.

Don’t miss: Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world.

  1. Sandringham Estate

Sandringham is Her Majesty the Queen’s much-loved country retreat in Norfolk and has been the private home of British monarchs since 1862. The Gardens were opened to the public by King Edward VII in 1908 and the Museum by King George V in 1930; Sandringham House was opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

Don’t miss: Sampling some delicious estate produce in the Visitor Centre Restaurant

  1. The Palace of Holyroodhouse

HolyroodhouseStanding at the end of Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Mile, this fine palace is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Best known as the home of Mary Queen of Scots, the Palace was the setting for many dramatic episodes in her short reign. Visitors can explore 14 magnificent State Apartments as well as the beautiful royal gardens.

Don’t miss: Mary Queen of Scots’ Bedchamber, described as ‘the most famous room in Scotland.’

  1. The Royal Yacht Britannia

Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of the British monarch between 1954 and 1997, steaming over 1,000,000 nautical miles in this time. Now berthed in Leith, Edinburgh, you can step aboard this most special of Royal residences. Starting at the bridge visitors can discover the Royal Apartments, explore the Crew’s Quart

THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA, MOORED AT OCEAN TERMINAL, LEITH, EDINBURGH PIC - ADAM ELDER/VISITSCOTLAND/SCOTTISH VIEWPOINT. YOU MUST NOT REPRODUCE THIS PHOTOGRAPH WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION. CONTACT SCOTTISH VIEWPOINT. TEL:0044 131 622 7174. FAX:0044 131 622 7175. E-MAIL: info@scottishviewpoint.com

ers and finish at the Engine Room.

Don’t miss: home-made fudge in the NAAFI sweet shop!

  1. Balmoral Castle

In the heart of the magnificent scenery of the Cairngorms National Park lies the Balmoral Estate. Purchased by Prince Albert in 1852 for Queen Victoria, the Estate has been the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family ever since and continues to be where the Queen likes to spend her summers and where, it is rumoured, she plans to retire. Although the majority of the private residence is not open to the public, visitors can see the grounds, gardens, exhibitions and a gift shop.

Don’t miss:  a guided safari tour through the manicured parkland and gardens as well as the ancient Caledonian Pine forest, moors and mountains beyond.

 

Why not visit some of the royal residences on a bespoke self-drive tour! Or travel from London to Scotland by rail – just like HRH!

Olympics Fever!

As a rather self-deprecating nation, the Great British public had been looking forward to London 2012 with some cynicism and quite frequent grumbles regarding the cost of hosting the games in tough economic times.  It is quite safe to say however that all of that has now been forgotten as Great Britain have come down with an incurable case of Olympic Fever.

Whilst I have had mixed feedback from my friends and colleagues overseas regarding the opening ceremony, at home we were generally impressed with Danny Boyle’s vision of Britain through the ages taking viewers from the quaint Cotswolds countryside through the industrial revolution to the swinging sixties and popular culture of today.  And indeed, the Queen of England’s cameo role

Olympic Stadium during spectacular Opening Ceremony
Olympic Stadium during Opening Ceremony

(which she apparently nailed in one take) as parachuting bond-girl went down a treat both at home and abroad.

Since then however Britain has been glued to its television screens watching as the wealth of stories unravel and medals roll in for team GB.  Yesterday, or “super Saturday” as it has now been coined, saw a mini-climax with our best Olympic day since 1908, as the home nation won no fewer than 6 gold medals in one day!

I was lucky enough to have received tickets for a couple of events and got to visit the Olympic Park this week.  The park itself was stunning and the atmosphere was absolutely electric and the party atmosphere was apparent throughout the city which made the metropolis of London feel somewhat like an English Cotswolds village where everyone knows everyone.  The day was made all the more enjoyable by the volunteers or “games makers” who were always on hand to welcome visitors, assist and generally keep the crowd going.

Party Atmosphere at Beach Volleyball Even in Horseguards Parade
Party Atmosphere at Beach Volleyball Event in Horseguards Parade

The Princes William and Harry have been present at the Olympics all week, watching a range of events and leading the support for local competitors.  In an informal interview with BBC presenter Sue Barker they demonstrate their ease in the public eye with some good British banter and revealing that they were unaware of their grandmother, the Queen’s, role in the Games’ opening sequence.  If you can find the interview on youtube it is definitely worth a watch if only for William’s embarrassment about potentially being caught on the “kiss cam” with his wife and Harry quipping of the Queen that “Both of us were slightly surprised with our grandmother’s secret hobby of parachuting”.

As Britain looks forward to another week of breath-taking Olympic events and a potentially unprecedented haul of medals, we are unlikely to shake this case of Olympic Fever any time soon.