Many visitors arrive in the UK simply looking for the best places to experience the Royal Family. The Royal Family is an endless source of fascination at home and abroad. For many, it’s because their home country has nothing to compare, and for others it is the pomp and circumstance, and maybe even the family members themselves. They do live an amazing lifestyle in some incredible homes, scattered all over the land, so let’s take a tour around some of the best places to experience the Royal Family in the UK.
Perhaps the most obvious of the best places to experience the Royal Family, Buckingham Place is the official residence of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. For centuries, visitors could pretty much only stand outside the gates and view the palace from the outside but these days, “Buck House” is much more accessible. There are tours of the interior (limited access to 19 rooms) and thanks to Danny Boyle and James Bond, we even had a glimpse of the state apartments in the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. As well as hosting the Changing of the Guard and famed garden parties, the palace also hosts rock concerts.
One of the places connected with royalty in the UK, indelibly, for 950 years, is Westminster Abbey. From when William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, the abbey has seen every coronation since – 38 in all, the most recent being Queen Elizabeth’s in 1953 (an incredible 60 years ago – congrats Liz!). It is also usually the choice for royal weddings although notably, Charles married Diana in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Abbey is an amazing building, home to the tombs of 17 monarchs and the museum, which holds the Coronation Chair. It remains a functioning church and is open for public tours 6 days a week.
The British monarchy has had a great affinity with Scotland since Queen Victoria, so it’s only natural that some of the best places to experience the Royal family are here. For 44 years, the Royal Yacht Britannia was a floating home to the Royal Family, taking them on honeymoons, holidays and state visits all over the world. Having completed 968 official voyages, the yacht (actually a good sized ocean liner!) was retired to its now permanent berth in Edinburgh Docks. Four of the ship’s five decks are open to visitors.
With their love of traditional (if sometimes controversial) pursuits such as riding, shooting, hunting and fishing, Sandringham Estate is one of the favorite retreats of the current Queen. Located in the picturesque and very rural county of Norfolk, Sandringham has been a private royal residence since 1862. Visitors can tour the house, the beautiful grounds and the other homes and cottages on the estate, including places where King George VI and Diana, Princess of Wales were born.
If your tastes in monarchy run to something younger than Queen Liz and her hubby Philip, you might well be fans of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. While not yet achieving the cult stardom of Will’s mum, Diana, Kate has quite a following and since their wedding and move there, Anglesey has become one of the recently popular places to experience royalty in the UK. Anglesey is a small island off the coast of Wales and where Wills is based in the RAF. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with lovely beaches and brilliant views of the Welsh coastline. It is also home to the place with the longest name in Britain – the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
One of the most historic places connected with royalty in the UK, the Tower of London, aka The White Tower, has been a military fortress, a royal residence and a prison. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn, who was buried in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula after being beheaded on the orders of King Henry VIII. There are many attractions at the tower, including Beefeaters, ravens, museum exhibits and the grounds, but its most popular features are the truly magnificent Crown Jewels. Containing some of the largest gemstones in the world, the royal regalia contains 23,578 gems.
The Palace of Holyrood House is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. The palace is in Edinburgh at the opposite end of the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, with Arthur’s Seat providing a spectacular backdrop. What began as an Abbey in the 12th century became the home to the Kings and Queens of Scotland before the Scottish and English thrones were united. Visitors can enjoy the abbey ruins, 14 historic state apartments and the changing exhibitions of the Royal Collection.
Another of the places to experience the Royal Family in Scotland is the Balmoral estate, a place where the current Royals spend many a summer and Christmas holiday. The magnificent scenery of Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire is the perfect setting for all those traditional rural pastimes the royals love – hunting red deer, fishing for salmon in the Dee, shooting grouse and riding horses through forests and over heather strewn glens. Cottages on the estate are available to rent and the estate is open to the public between April and July.
Everyone needs a bolthole to escape the city, don’t they? If you’re the Queen of England, your weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of London just happens to be the largest and oldest continuously-occupied castle in the world. Windsor Castle sits in the huge sweeping grounds of Windsor Great Park, a short distance from London. Visitors can climb the 200 steps to the top of the Round Tower (215 feet) to enjoy magnificent views across Windsor town, the River Thames and on a good day, the London skyline. The State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and St. George’s Chapel are also open to the public.
It may be 16 years this August since Diana, Princess of Wales was tragically killed, but her allure has never dimmed. For avid fans, the places to experience the Royal family would always have to include somewhere significant to Diana. Ideally, most would prefer to be able to visit her grave site. Unfortunately, although Althorp Estate (the Spencer ancestral home) is open to the public, the tomb isn’t (except for one day, on the anniversary of her death, and numbers are strictly limited). The next best thing, therefore, is Kensington Palace and the Diana Memorial. Kensington Palace is the London home of William and Kate and is open to the public. There is also a children’s playground in memoriam to Diana next door to the palace. Other Diana memorials are the fountain and walk in nearby Hyde Park.
It’s pretty easy these days to access places in the UK with a connection to royalty. Tours are usually good value for money with plenty of interesting buildings, gardens and exhibitions providing great insight into a privileged and often fairytale lifestyle. Are you interested in any royal hot spots?
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