Windsor Great Park
Berkshire SL4 2HT
To the south of Windsor Castle lies the 6,000 acre (2428 hectare) Windsor Great Park, part of a vast Norman hunting chase. It stretches from Windsor to Ascot and is the only Royal Park managed by the Crown Estate Commissioners.
The public areas are mostly woodland and open grassland. There are many access points with parking along the A332 road from Windsor to Bracknell, and on the A30 for Virginia Water.
Some of the ancient solitary oak trees are over 500 years old and it is the Commissioners’ duty to maintain its park’s unique character. As part of the management young trees are planted near very old trees in readiness for the time when the old trees die.
The woodland contains a variety of trees including beech, oak, birch, sweet chestnut and conifers. Unfortunately, there are few elms due to the Dutch elm disease that ravaged Britain in the 1970s. The Park abounds in deer and other wildlife, a wide variety of flora and fungi. Please note that the Park is a wildlife and conservation area. All flora, fungi and fauna are protected.
The Long Walk
The most well known feature of the Park is The Long Walk which runs from Windsor Castle through Windsor Home Park and into Windsor Great Park. Designed by King Charles II who was heavily influenced by the magnificent grounds being created for Versailles, the walk runs for 3 miles (4.8 kms). Originally lined with elms it now has two avenues of trees, a taller one of horse chestnuts and a lower one of London planes.
The Walk terminates at Snow Hill which is topped by The Copper Horse, a statue of King George III on horseback. From Snow Hill, Windsor Castle is the focal point at the end of the Long Walk.
Queen Anne’s Ride
Some 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of the park has been enclosed to allow the reintroduction of deer. Magnificent stags, does and fawns can be seen resting in the shade of old oak trees. Queen Anne’s Ride is accessed from Queen Anne’s Gate at the end of King’s Road. It is a 3 mile (4.8 km) grassy walk, uphill and down-dale to the boundary near Ascot Heath and the famous Royal Ascot Racecourse.
Smith's Lawn is synonymous with the equestrian sport of Polo. It is now home to The Guards Polo Club and is the largest area devoted to polo in Europe. There are 12 playing grounds and polo is played most days during the summer. For information on forthcoming events and tickets, go to the Club website Web: Guards Polo Club
Who would believe that beautiful Virginia Water started life in 1753 as a project to drain a Surrey bog? Out of this project was created a man-made lake 2 miles (3.2 km) long and a third of a mile (537 metres) wide, and 130 acres (53 hectares) of park. A number of artificial features have been built around Virginia Water such as The Cascade, The Robber’s Cave, and the Temple of the Gods.
The Temple’s Corinthian columns are actually Roman and 2,000 years old. They were brought from North Africa and erected in 1826 as a ‘ruin’ by the architect Sir Jeffrye Wyatville. He also designed the bridge over the lake near Blacknest Gate. The complete circuit of Virginia Water is 7 miles (11.3 kms).
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The Valley Gardens overlook Virginia Water and are best seen from the top of the valley. The sides of the valley are planted with rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias which bloom in spring. Hydrangeas along with heather, exotic trees and shrubs provide the colour in the summer.
Entry to the gardens is currently free. Car parking areas are available adjacent to Wick Lane Gate and on the A30 near Virginia Water Village and the Wheatsheaf Hotel.
The Totem Pole
The Totem Pole can be reached on foot from the Wick Lane car-park. A gift from the people of Canada the pole is 100 feet high (30.5 metres) and carved from a single log of Western Red Cedar. The carvings are bold and brightly painted and represent the Canadian Indian mythical ancestors.
Located to the east of the Park just off the A30, these gardens comprise large herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a walled garden, a peat garden and a Bog garden. Paths meander beside clear streams, through woodland and down slopes covered in rhododendrons and azaleas to a lake.
There is always something beautiful to see in this garden but April-May is when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom.
The gardens are wheelchair accessible.
Facilities include a Restaurant overlooking the garden, a plant centre and shop, and a Temperate Greenhouse. There is ample parking.
The gardens are open all year:
March-October 10.00 – 18.00 hours
November to February 10.00 – 16.00 hours
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1753 860 222
Directions for all methods of travel are available on Web: The Royal Landscape/ How to Find Us
A detailed map of Windsor Great Park is at Web: The Royal Landscape/ Map of Windsor Great Park in pdf format
Google Maps - Windsor Great Park