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Royal Connections Guide

Royal Connections Guide

One hopes you enjoy England’s splendid royal family attractions…

Since the ancient route that inspired the Great West Way was one of King Charles I’s Great Roads, a royal itinerary seems only fitting. Here are some ideas for castles, hotels and places to visit that will bring you closer to England’s royal family heritage…

Did you know? Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch ever - there have been 12 prime ministers since she was crowned in 1953.

Castles, country houses and gardens 

Start with Hampton Court Palace, a short journey upstream from central London. It’s a towering testament to King Henry VIII’s power complete with a complex of Tudor kitchens, a Great Hall and jousting tournaments in the gardens. Or Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Kew Palace - King George III’s summerhouse.

In Bath, a city famed for its Georgian-era architecture and Royal Crescent, you can visit the Victoria Art Gallery - opened in 1900 for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. While in Bristol you can head back further in time to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who found St Mary Redcliffe ‘the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.’ Inside the church there is a colourfully-painted wooden sculpture of her, believed to be painted by a contemporary.

Finally, if you have time to explore more of the Cotswolds, the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall live at Highgrove, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. You can visit their impressive gardens on selected dates, and also pop into the Highgrove Shop in Tetbury which sells luxurious souvenirs and organic treats inspired by the gardens.

Educational establishments

While kings and queens of England were traditionally educated by a personal tutor at home, times have changed. Both Prince Harry and Prince William went to Eton College, which you can visit on a guided tour between May and September. While the Duchess of Cambridge went to Marlborough College - stop for afternoon tea at the café she used to visit with friends, The Polly Tea Rooms. A little off the Great West Way, there’s the esteemed Oxford Colleges. King Edward VII and King Edward VIII are both alumni. As one of the best universities in the world, it also attracts royals from other countries. Both HM King Abdullah II of Jordan and Harald V, King of Norway studied there.

Sovereign places 

Have you noticed that some place names in England have ‘royal’ in the title? Although the prime minister and organisations can request the addition, for either their royal heritage or current royal connections, it is ultimately a gift bestowed by the queen. Along the Great West Way you can visit the Royal Borough of Windsor and the Royal County of Berkshire - thanks to the location of Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s three official residencies. There’s also the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames, as well as Royal Wootton Bassett, near RAF Lyneham - the most recent place to  receive the Queen’s blessing. (Be sure to visit Jubilee Lake when you’re there.)

Aristocratic events 

Two of the biggest events in the royal calendar are Royal Ascot in June and Henley Royal Regatta in July. Visiting during either of these sporting events will ensure you get to experience peculiar English protocols - like compulsory fascinators for women and ankle socks for men. And you can say ‘cheers’ with a glass of Pimm's - a traditional English summer drink, usually livened up with fresh strawberries and slices of cucumber. 
In July, there’s a chance of catching some Royal Swan-Upping. Since the Queen owns all the unmarked mute swans in open water, her scarlet-clad markers must tag any newborn cygnets - as her property, ceremonially, but these days more for conservation purposes. The Swan Markers travel by rowing boat, stopping at various viewing points along the River Thames, including Shepperton Lock, Marlow Bridge and Caversham Lock (see here for dates and details).

A bed fit for a King or Queen 

Sometimes nothing but a 4-poster bed and some medieval tapestries on the wall will do. See what it’s like to live like a royal by staying at a hotel with royal connections. There’s the effortlessly elegant Cliveden House Hotel, where Meghan Markle - now the Duchess of Sussex - got ready for her wedding to Prince Harry. There’s also The Georgian House, which although built as humble kitchens for George, Prince of Wales in 1719, occupies a privileged position in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

In Bath, The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa has often found its opulent interiors and prime setting in the World Heritage City attractive to visiting royals. And a short journey from Bristol you’ll find Gloucestershire’s Thornbury Castle - where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed when they visited in 1535 (ask for the Duke’s Bed Chamber).

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Product Information

  1. Bath


    The golden city of Bath has been welcoming visitors for over 2,000 years. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Bath is home to some of the most impressive architectural sights in the world such as the Royal Crescent, the Circus and Pulteney.

  2. Marlborough College Summer School


    This extremely popular multi-generational learning experience will take place over four weeks during Summer.

  3. Hampton Court Palace

    East Molesey

    Please check the Hampton Court Palace website for the most up to date opening dates and times.

    Hampton Court Palace is one of Britain’s most famous buildings, and a surviving Tudor treasure that was at the centre of court and political life for over two hundred years. Built to house monarchs,…

  4. The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa


    Experience Georgian grace and elegance in the centre of the world-famous Royal Crescent.

    Guaranteed Availability

    Book The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa Online

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
Bath (51.3856,-2.36168)Bristol (51.45152,-2.59816)16.19
Bristol (51.45152,-2.59816)Marlborough College Summer School (51.41562,-1.73538)54.02
Marlborough College Summer School (51.41562,-1.73538)Hampton Court Palace (51.40321,-0.33646)87.44
Hampton Court Palace (51.40321,-0.33646)The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa (51.38745,-2.36806)127.02
Total Distance *284.6 miles
Estimated Journey Time9.16 hours

* Approximate distance by road

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