We have recently visited Windsor Castle which is in the town centre of Windsor. Its really well signed and there are lots of car parks near to the castle but they are pretty expensive though so take lots of change.
Windsor castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world and is one of the Queens official houses. It was originally built for William the Conqueror.
We arrived just as they were about to do the changing of the guard which was great to watch with marching and music etc. They do this when the Queen is in residence which luckily for us she was, although we didn't actually see her. James was far more interested in following the Queens cat Mimi around rather than watching the ceremony.
We headed first to St Georges Chapel where many of the most famous monarchs are buried such as Victoria and Albert, Charles I and Henry VIII and Jane Seymour and many others. It was interesting inside and a beautiful chapel. There were guides in the area who were really helpful and great with the kids, pointing out different things to them and explaining them.
We then headed to see Queens Mary's Dolls House which for a dolls house is massive and comes complete with vehicles, petrol pumps, a room for the Crown Jewels and a throne room among many other things.
We then went on to visit the State Apartments where we saw famous paintings, Henry VIII's armour, various outfits worn by the Queen, rooms full of suits of armour and coats of arms, a whole room dedicated to Waterloo and Wellington and another to Nelson.
The castle has many features you would associate with a classic castle such as cannons, battlements, a portcullis, arrow slits etc and the boys really enjoyed pretending that they had to defend the castle.
If you are making a day trip to Windsor we would also recommend Windsor Great park and Viriginia Water which are nearby.
Recently we visited Blenheim Palace which is just outside of Oxford and is well signed.
Blenheim Palace is a world heritage site, a palace where Sir Winston Churchill was born, and is home to the Duke of Marlborough. It has been used as the setting for many films such as Spectre, Transformers, Gullivers Travels, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and many others.
The palace itself is interesting to go round. There is a Churchill Exhibition with interactive features and you can see the room where he was born as well as many other interesting rooms.
When we visited they also had a modern art exhibition on with different things in each room to look at and this also extended to the gardens with lots of different sculptures etc including a golden sunken car in one of the fountains !
The gardens are really lovely and have lots of different areas to explore from the water gardens to Italian gardens, rose gardens and even a waterfall and there are lovely walks around the lake and grounds. We also saw hundreds of pheasants - I have never seen so many anywhere before.
Once we had finished visiting the main gardens we caught a little train called Churchill to the Pleasure Gardens
The Pleasure Gardens are designed for families and have play equipment, a small model village area, adventure playground, sand playground, puzzles, outdoor chess and other features such as the Blenheim maze which is the second largest hedge maze in the world and is now features on the top of the new £5 notes.
There is also a butterfly house with free flying butterflies and zebra finches which were adorable. It was really interesting as you could see butterflies that had just hatched and others that were in the process of hatching.
Blenheim has something for everyone and is a beautiful place to visit.
If you are interested in Winston Churchill he is buried in the nearby village of Bladon at the villages church along with his wife.
Today I took the boys to Berkhamstead which is a small town close to Tring in Hertfordshire.
Berkhamstead is a lovely town to take a walk through and the Grand Union Canal passes through it, along which there are lovely walks.
We were headed to Berkhamstead Castle. Its not brilliantly signed unfortunately, however it is right next to the train station which is well signed !!
The castle is managed by English Heritage and is completely free to enter.
The original castle was built by William the Conquerors brother and is meant to be a days march away from the Tower of London. Construction on it began in 1066.
Berkhamstead Castle is mainly now in ruins but its great for the imagination as the boys were trying to imagine how it would have looked when it had water in the moat and all its walls in tact etc.
They really enjoyed playing hide and seek around the site and in the centre there is a great big open space ideal for running around !
You can walk up to the top of the "Bailey" and there are two wells on site to look at. There is a good view from the top and if you like trains a railway line passes right next to the site and every couple of minutes we saw trains passing through.
There are lots of handy information boards around the grounds which were useful in gaining some facts about the site and an idea of what it would have looked like when complete.
We then took a walk by the Canal before the boys spotted a fab little independent toy shop complete with massive playmobil firefighter outside of it !!