- Rachel Burchfield
My dream Royal-inspired trip to London, Edinburgh, Althorp, and even Paris!
I got my travel agent on today and planned a dream trip to visit the Royal palaces and castles – and then some. There are six sites to visit in London and two sites to visit in Edinburgh, Scotland, so I am going to allot two weeks for this dream trip. The best time to do this is in August, as that is when the Queen is at Balmoral and the public has the most access to Buckingham Palace. This hypothetical trip is for August 2020. (Note: I put an obscene – like, obscene – amount of work into this hypothetical. Speaking it into existence that somehow it will come true in August of next year!)
Day 1, Sunday: Travel to London – for me, living in Birmingham, Alabama, this would be a nine hour, nine minute flight across the Atlantic and a myriad of time zone changes along the way. Because I am all about giving myself grace these days, I’m giving myself the full Day 1 and the first half of Day 2 to recuperate.
Day 2, Monday: I’m taking the morning off to sleep in and adjust to the jet lag. Then in the afternoon, I’m going to Clarence House. The tour there is guided and 45 minutes (and I’ve pushed my hypothetical trip back to August 2020 because Clarence House is closed until then for maintenance). Prices for the new Clarence House tour will be released in November 2019. Because it is currently closed there’s not tons of information on it right now, but we’ll be able to see the house, the garden, and the Clarence House Shop. Just in case you didn’t read the Royal residences post (and you should!) this is Charles and Camilla’s official London residence.
Day 3, Tuesday: Today I’m going to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. It is open July through September, so my August travel date will work fine; it opens at 9:30 a.m. and so I went ahead and booked my ticket for the earliest slot I could. (We’ll see how long this hypothetical keeps up, but I’m having fun with it thus far.) I doubt you even have to read the Royal residences post to know that Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the Queen and Prince Philip and the main administrative arm of the monarchy. I could do the “Royal Day Out” pass and see the State Rooms, the Royal Mews, and the Queen’s Gallery all in one day for 45 pounds, but I am personally a more slow-paced traveler and, since I have so much time to spare, want to take it all in and go at a slower clip, so I’m just going to do the State Rooms today and then laze around London eating and looking at other, non-Royal sites like the London Eye or Big Ben. Anyway. So, my pass to just the State Rooms is 25 pounds, but if I want to go to the gardens also (I do) then it’s another 10 pounds, so 35 pounds total. This is a three-and-a-half hour visit, so I’ll be here all morning. I’ve got some cute but comfortable shoes on, because the walk from the garden to the exit is about a half mile. On this tour, I’ll get to see the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, the Ballroom, the Grand Staircase, the garden, and the Changing of the Guard! Oh my goodness. I could cry. This tour is not guided, but I can get a multimedia tour and take it at my own pace. (If I wanted to be extra fancy and do the guided tour – minus the gardens – at night, I could pay 85 pounds for a two-and-a-half hour tour and get a glass of champagne and 20 percent off at the Buckingham Palace Shop. But I really want to see the gardens, so I’ll save 50 pounds and do the day tour.) At the end of my tour, I’ll grab a pastry and tea (even though I hate tea, but when in freaking Buckingham Palace, right?) at the Garden Café.
Day 4, Wednesday: Today I’m going to the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace! This is home to the historic Royal carriages and one of the finest working stables in existence. Again, I could do a combined Royal Mews and Queen’s Gallery combo pack for 23 pounds, but I have time and want to go at my own pace, so I’ll pay 12 pounds to just do the Mews today. I book a ticket as soon as it opens at 10 a.m. to get a jump start on my day while still allowing myself to sleep in a little bit. The self-guided multimedia tour takes about 45 minutes and I’ll get to see the Gold State Coach, carriage horses, the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, see the livery worn by the Queen’s coachmen, and even get to get in a carriage and pretend I am a duchess! I should probably start practicing my wave now, huh?
Day 5, Thursday: Today’s my last day at Buckingham Palace, and I’m headed to the Queen’s Gallery, where I will see exhibits from the Royal collection featuring old master paintings, rare furniture, decorative arts, and images from the vast photograph collection. It’s only 13.50 pounds and, keeping with my theme this trip, I book the earliest available ticket at 9:30 a.m. This is, again, a self-guided multimedia tour, and this one lasts about an hour. The exhibitions change every year – I can’t wait to see what the ones for 2020 are! (Right now they’re on a huge Leonardo da Vinci kick.)
Day 6, Friday: Today is going to be a very special day because I am going out to Windsor Castle, the Queen and Prince Philip’s country residence and, at over 900 years old, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It’s going to be an early morning for me, because I need to travel from London – where I’ve been all week – to Windsor, which is about 22 miles, and I want to kick off my day with Holy Communion at St. George’s Chapel (where Harry and Meghan and so many other Royals were married) at 8:30 a.m. After Holy Communion, I’ll head over to Windsor Castle for its opening at 10 a.m., but, before that, I’m going to hop on the free 30-minute guided Castle Precincts tour, which tours the outside areas of Windsor Castle. My visit to Windsor Castle is 22.50 pounds and includes a self-guided multimedia tour that lasts about three hours. You can choose one of two options (though it is possible to do both) – the ceremonial route, which shows the main State Apartments used by the Queen and Royal Family members today, and the historic route, which shows the rooms built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza. I opt for the ceremonial route. On the ceremonial route we’ll see the State Apartments, the Grand Reception Room, the Moat Room, the Waterloo Chamber, and the Semi-State Rooms, private rooms within Windsor Castle created by George IV. Since I’m here on a Friday I’m not going to get to see the Changing of the Guard, which happens at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but since I already saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, I’m okay. As I wrap up my tour around 1:30 or 2 p.m., I’ll grab lunch at Windsor Castle’s first permanent café in the original medieval Undercroft, which just opened in late 2019.
Day 7, Saturday: I am doing the most on this trip, but thankfully I am allowing rest times throughout my days so I’m not totally exhausted. I have so much to see and I want to see it all! Today I am headed back out to Windsor to see Frogmore House, where pre-booked groups of 15 or more people can get a guided tour that lasts about two hours. It’s just me and maybe one other person traveling on this trip, but we game the system as smart Royal obsessed people do and, through the wonders of social media, hop on a group of 15+ others who want to visit Frogmore on this day. The individual ticket price is only 11 pounds. Our tour starts at 10 a.m. and we visit the house (where Harry and Meghan’s reception was!) and the garden. It is lovely and I’m back “home” at my London hotel for an afternoon nap. I’ve got to sleep a little extra to get ready for my Paris daytrip tomorrow.
Day 8, Sunday: It takes two hours and 16 minutes to take the nonstop Eurostar channel tunnel from London to Paris. I’m really trying to not let my mild claustrophobia freak me out that we are in an underwater tunnel, because this is the quickest way to Paris. I leave on the earliest train out of London at 5:25 a.m. and get to Paris at 8:50 a.m. (note the time change). I spend the day going to the Eiffel Tower, the Pont de l’Alma tunnel where Diana died, the love lock bridge (I really hope I’m on this trip with someone I love so we can leave a lock there, but if not, I love myself so I’ll just leave a love lock with my own name on it!), the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées, eating, and doing as much as I can on a high level before I catch the Eurostar back to London at 9:13 p.m.
Day 9, Monday: Today will be very somber for me, as I am traveling one hour and 47 minutes from London to the Althorp Estate, where Diana was raised and where she is buried. Althorp House and Park is open from July 1 (Diana’s birthday) until August 31 (her death day) and is open from noon to 5 p.m. After my whirlwind day in Paris yesterday, I sleep in a little bit and then head for Althorp. My ticket for the day is 18.50 pounds and I’m going to visit the estate and the stables. I can’t actually go to the private island where Diana is buried, the Round Oval – only her family can go there – but I can go to the lakeside Temple, where I will likely lose my shit, as I am tearing up at even the thought of visiting it as I write this.
Day 10, Tuesday: Look man, I’m exhausted. All I’m doing today is resting, eating, and going to the sites of London I haven’t seen yet (like Soho House, where Harry and Meghan’s first date was). Tomorrow, I head out for Scotland. Goodbye, London. You’ve been marvelous!
Day 11, Wednesday: Travel to Edinburgh. It takes about five hours by high-speed train to get to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I’ll spend the next couple of days finishing my tour of Royal palaces and castles. Once I get to Edinburgh, I’ll check out the city a little bit before resting up for the day tomorrow.
Day 12, Thursday: Today I am headed to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen and Prince Philip’s Scotland residence. It opens at 9:30 a.m., costs 15 pounds, and has a self-guided tour that lasts about an hour. You get to see the State Apartments, the Throne Room, the Holyrood Abbey, and the gardens; there is a guided tour of the gardens that I’m looking forward to. In the afternoon, I’ll visit the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, similar to the one at Buckingham Palace. It only costs 7.50 pounds and is about an hour-long self-guided tour. I’ll grab an afternoon tea at the Café at the Palace before heading to my hotel in Edinburgh.
Day 13, Friday: Today’s my last day before traveling back home, and I’ve got to take train the hour and 17 minutes up the road to St. Andrews to visit the University of St. Andrews, where William and Kate met! I’m going to go to Saint Salvatore’s Hall, where they both lived, and walk around to their favorite hotspots when they were students. Then it’s back early to my hotel to prep for my travel tomorrow.
Day 14, Saturday: Travel back home. I have had the best two weeks of my entire life. Tomorrow, Sunday, I’m going to sleep all day long before I have to go back to work on Monday. I have visited the six Royal sites of London, the two Royal sites of Edinburgh, and even Paris, Althorp, and St. Andrews! I will have memories to last forever and MY GOD I’VE GOT TO FIND A WAY TO MAKE THIS HYPOTHETICAL TRIP HAPPEN FOR MYSELF IN AUGUST 2020!
Hey rich person from yesterday? You got a couple more (thousand) bucks on ya?