Central London is generously stocked with attractions that celebrate all things royal, but there’s plenty more to see within just a short train ride. Here are our top tips for royal days out steeped in history, both past and present.
Richmond Park, Richmond upon Thames
Richmond Park, a former hunting ground of Henry VIII, is still home to red and fallow deer, as well as some 2,500 acres of wooded hills, grassland and wide-open spaces. This protected Royal Park is a walker’s paradise, and given that it’s only 45 minutes from central London, is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital.
Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames
Gone are the days of musty museums and dull exhibits. The Palace’s “Time Explorers” digital app makes for an interactive adventure for all ages, from the young to the young-at-heart, and transports visitors back to a time when the Palace was in full swing. Discover fascinating stories about life in the Tudor court and keep your eyes peeled for the haunting apparitions of two of Henry VIII’s infamous wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
A place loaded with historical significance, Hatfield House is a must for royalty buffs, and is only 20 minutes by train from central London. It was here in 1558, in the Old Palace, that Elizabeth I learned she would be crowned. Visitors can tour the halls, gallery, library and chapel. The grand staircase is particularly impressive.
The Chalybeate Springs, Royal Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells received its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1909, when King Edward VII realised how popular Tunbridge Wells was with royal ‘holidaymakers’, including his mother, Queen Victoria. Members of the aristocracy would make the short journey from London to experience the curative waters at the Chalybeate Spring. Follow in their footsteps for some hydro healing before wandering the colonnaded walkways of The Pantiles and its independent retailers, galleries and restaurants.
Opera House, Royal Tunbridge Wells
For pre-dinner drinks, visit the Opera House pub. Originally built as an opera house in 1902 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, it was turned into a cinema in 1931, then a bingo hall, before finally finding its true calling as a pub. You can still see the stage, grand balcony and original stalls, and the pub still remains true to its theatrical roots by staging two opera performances per year.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Windsor Castle is one of Queen Elizabeth’s preferred weekend retreats, whilst Berkshire was once the stomping ground of a young Duchess of Cambridge. Tour the castle’s staterooms and grounds — an area that gained extra notoriety this year as the backdrop to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
Eton College, Berkshire
Eton College is where Prince William and Prince Harry went to school, but it’s not clear yet whether Prince George will follow in his father’s footsteps. On Sunday afternoons, the college grants access to its museums — the Natural History Museum, Eton Museum of Antiquities and Museum of Eton Life — and the college’s dazzling collection of rare books, art, manuscripts and specimens. Start off with the Museum of Eton Life, which chronicles the college’s history over six centuries and lifts the lid on some of its unique traditions.
Royal Ascot, Berkshire
Those that like the odd flutter should book tickets for one of the race meetings at Royal Ascot, one of Great Britain’s most prestigious horseracing venues, just six miles from Windsor Castle. It is the top pick amongst the Royals, with the Queen attending the Royal race days every June and July.