LivingTravelThe Royal Scenery at Windsor Great Park

The Royal Scenery at Windsor Great Park

If visiting the castle takes you to Windsor, stay for a while to explore a large royal park that is almost a secret.

Most visitors to Windsor Castle stay within the fortified walls of this 1000-year-old royal enclave and never venture into Great Windsor Park. Even when viewing the park from some of the highest castle walls that are open to the public, most people don’t connect the woods and lawns to their actual day outside of London. Hence, this wonderful 9,000 acre open space, dotted with lakes, waterfalls, ceremonial walks, Roman ruins, and beautiful gardens, is one of England’s best-kept local secrets, albeit highly visible.

Long or short hikes with beautiful views of Windsor Castle and several herds of Queen’s deer are free to take. There are meadows, forests, lake shores, and open meadows. Only the Savill Garden (see below) has an admission charge. And, if you’re smart and like to walk, you can even find free parking on nearby roads.

A brief history

Windsor Forest, southwest of Windsor Castle, was reserved for hunting the Monarch and for supplying the castle with wood, game and fish when the castle was little more than a fortified camp, nearly 1,000 years ago. In 1129, the reserved area was defined and a guardian known as “parker” was appointed. (I wonder if the British phrase ‘busybody parker’, which means a busybody, comes from this).

Over time, the park has gotten considerably smaller, but it will still take you at least an hour to walk through the park from Virginia Water, the man-made lake, to the gates of Windsor Castle. A 1,000 acre area in the south corner of Windsor Great Park, now known as Royal Landscape, reflects the gardening fantasies, theories and projects of Royals, their architects and gardeners for more than 400 years. And most of it can be visited for free.

Virginia water

The lake was created, through dams and floods, in 1753. Until the creation of reservoirs, it was the largest man-made body of water in Britain. The planting of native and exotic forests around the shores of the lake has continued steadily since the 18th century. Among the sites around this tranquil lake are a Roman temple, a fabulous ornamental waterfall, and a 100-foot totem pole given by British Columbia to celebrate its centennial. Fishing, with a Royal Parks permit, is permitted in parts of Virginia Water, as well as other ponds in Windsor Great Park.

The ruins of Leptis Magna

The artistically arranged Roman temple ruins near Virginia Water were originally part of the Roman city of Leptis Magna on the Mediterranean near Tripoli in Libya. How they ended up in a park in Surrey is a story in itself.

In the 17th century, local authorities allowed more than 600 columns from the ruins to be presented to Louis XIV for use at Versailles and Paris. By the early 19th century, the political balance in the region had shifted and this time it was the British Consul General who persuaded the local Governor that the Prince Regent (destined to be King George IV) should decorate his backyard with a few pieces. of choice. The locals weren’t very happy, not, unsurprisingly, because of the desecration of their heritage, but because they wanted the stones for building materials.

The granite and marble columns, capitals, pedestals, slabs, cornice pieces, and sculptures finally made their way to Windsor Great Park after a short stay at the British Museum. Recently restored and protected, the ruins of Leptis Magna are now an important lakeside feature.

The landscape gardens

The park has several flourishing gardens. The Valley Garden is a wooded garden in bloom, with areas of open grassland and exotic shrub plantations in the center of what is known as the Royal Landscape. Native trees, such as chestnut and scots pine, grow alongside cherries, azaleas, magnolias, sweet gums, tupelos, Asian rowan, maples, and exotic oaks. The Valley Garden is free to visit, though nearby parking is now limited to those who have become park members (see below).

The Savill Garden

The Saville Garden is a 35 acre ornamental garden that serves no other purpose than sheer pleasure. Originally developed in the 1930s by gardener Eric Savill, it combines contemporary and classic garden designs with exotic woodlands. A series of interconnected and hidden gardens, the Savill Garden is full of amazing discoveries throughout the year. In summer, visitors can enjoy the scents of the rose garden from a ‘floating’ walkway. In winter, the Temperate House has seasonal exhibits. Daffodils, azaleas and rhododendrons put on a show in the spring and at the Bog Garden, one of several hidden gardens, primrose, Siberian iris and other moisture-loving plants light up the scene.

Another standout feature of the Savill Garden is its collection of Champion Trees. A Champion Tree is a UK accreditation for the tallest tree or with the widest girth for its type in the country. The Savill Garden has over twenty old, champion trees. Admission is charged for the Savill Garden.

The Savill Building

The Savill Building, opened in 2006, is the entrance to the Savill Garden, but it can be freely visited without entering the garden. Its unusual and eco-friendly design includes a wavy ‘fishnet shell’ roof, made from native Crown Estates woods, that appears to float unsupported. A restaurant, for lunches and teas, overlooks the garden through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. And a gift shop offers gifts and souvenirs, as well as plants from the Royal Gardens.


  • How to get there: The Savill Garden parking area is 4 miles from Windsor Castle on the A308. The SatNav game for ZIP code TW20 0XD will bring drivers closer to the parking lot entrance on Wick Road. For Virginia Water, parking is located 6 miles from downtown Windsor on the A30, near Junction 13 of the M25. The nearest train stations are Egham, Windsor and Virginia Water.
  • Opening hours: the park is open all year round and the Savill Garden only closes on Christmas Eve and Christmas. The hours are from 10 am to 6 pm (restaurant at 5:30 pm) from March 1 to October 31 and from 4:30 pm (restaurant at 4 pm) from November 1 to February 28.
  • Dogs: Dogs are welcome everywhere in the park, except the Savill Garden, the restaurant, and the Gallery Cafe. But dogs are allowed in the rest of the Savill building, including the store and terrace restaurant.
  • Admission: Admission is only charged for the Savill Garden. Tickets are priced for adults, seniors, children (6-16), families and groups. Children under 6 years old are free.
  • Memberships: Although admission is free in most of the park, there are fees for parking and special events. Memberships for the park include free parking and guest visits to Savill Gardens. In 2019, a standard one-year membership costs £ 85
  • Visit their website

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