Visit the beautiful scenery of Windsor Great Park for yourself, and share in the experience that generations of the Monarchy have enjoyed throughout history.
Windsor Great Park has witnessed countless events throughout history, dating back to pre-Saxon times, each of which has left its own distinctive mark on this impressive landscape. Although it wasn’t until the 13th Century that the areas making up Windsor Great Park were properly defined, creating an incredible variety of landscapes across the 4,800 acres that have grown and been developed over time.
There is a fascinating Royal heritage at Windsor Great Park that’s just waiting to be discovered. When you wander through the Great Park you’ll encounter Royal residences, formal gardens and trees that have stood for over 1,000 years - with each twisting pathway promising a journey through England’s history.
From William I using the landscape as a hunting ground a thousand years ago, to the original planting of the Long Walk by Charles II, Queen Victoria entertaining on the shores of Virginia Water, to the stewardship of H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh as Ranger of the Great Park for nearly 70 years, our Royal connections have remained strong throughout the years.
In 1066, when William the Conqueror claimed victory at the Battle of Hastings, the Forest of Windsor was already established - serving as a vital resource for the people who lived in the area. But it was William the Conqueror who was the first monarch to be inspired by the grasslands of Windsor Great Park as a place to build a residence. In fact, the outer walls of Windsor Castle as they stand today are the same walls which were constructed by William the Conqueror - and some of the original oaks planted during his reign a thousand years ago, can still be seen standing tall within the Park now.
Windsor Great Park underwent significant changes following the Restoration of the Monarchy in the 17th Century, and many of the recognisable features that our visitors enjoy today originated during this period. With the Restoration came the introduction of the formal avenues, most notably the Long Walk - an addition that was influenced by King Charles II’s fondness for French architecture.
The serene waters of Virginia Water, pictured above, were brought to life under the stewardship of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, whilst he was Ranger of Windsor Great Park in the mid 1700s. Seeking a more natural and picturesque landscape, the Duke set about creating the largest man-made lake of its time in Britain - assisted by architects Henry Flitcroft and John Vardy, and the topographical draughtsman Thomas Sandby. Today, the towering Cumberland Obelisk on Obelisk Lawn celebrates the inspiring work of the Duke of Cumberland in his time as Ranger of Windsor Great Park.
In later years, George IV, affectionately known as the ‘Fisher King’, recruited the help of the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville to introduce new features to the Virginia Water landscape. His desire was that these features - including an encampment of Turkish tents and the magnificent, oriental style fishing temple - would be enjoyed by visitors to Windsor Great Park. These features are no longer visible, but we have installed some interpretation boards to help illustrate what they would have looked like.
Five Arch Bridge, found to the north of Virginia Water, was also built under George IV’s reign - and from here, you can look out across the same views that he enjoyed. You can also visit other important additions from this time, including the folly of the Leptis Magna Roman Ruins and of course the iconic Copper Horse statue, erected at the Long Walk as a tribute from George IV to his father, George III.
Queen Victoria loved Virginia Water from childhood, and is known to have frequently enjoyed picnicking on its borders. At that time, her husband Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, had a significant impact on Windsor Great Park - committing himself to improving the living conditions of Estate workers, building cottages and establishing the Royal School, so that Estate children could benefit from a thorough education.
The Royal School is still frequented by many of the children of Crown Estate employees living in Windsor Great Park today, and an equestrian statue commemorating Prince Albert’s outstanding contributions to Windsor Great Park can be seen near Smith’s Lawn.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and George VI moved into The Royal Lodge as the Duke and Duchess of York in 1931, and The Queen Mother continued to live here after the sad passing of her husband in 1952. It was also during this time, under the continued patronage of George VI, that Sir Eric Savill created The Savill Garden and The Valley Gardens.
On 19 June 1937, King George VI planted the first of 60 Oak trees, which were planted to commemorate the King’s coronation and is known today as the King George VI Coronation Plantation. There are 20 different species, which were planted by representatives of 59 Commonwealth countries and are placed in positions that correspond with the compass points at which the different parts of the empire lie in relation to the British Isles.
Windsor Great Park has numerous stories to tell involving the current Royal Family, and has hosted many Royal celebrations over the years – most recently on The Long Walk in 2015, when HM the Queen lit the first beacon to mark the recent 70th Anniversary of the VE Day celebrations.
There are many Royal landmarks to look out for when you visit the Park. At Cow Pond you will find Rangers Avenue, an avenue of oak trees planted to honour H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh, Ranger of Windsor Great Park, who reintroduced our deer herds 1979 – and at the top of Queen Anne’s Ride, look out for the Golden Jubilee Statue, unveiled in 2002.
The Savill Building, our impressive visitor centre, was opened by H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh in 2006 - and you can also see the cypress oaks which were planted here to celebrate the 80th birthday of HM The Queen in the same year.
The Savill Garden in particular has much to offer in terms of Royal associations – with The Rose Garden having been opened by HM the Queen in 2010, and the New Zealand Garden being opened to the sounds of the Haka in the presence of HRH the Duke of York in 2007. Then the Summer Gardens host the ‘Royal William’ rose and rarely seen ‘Catherine Rose’ along with many other royally inspired blooms – and you can also see trees which were planted by members of the Royal family, including HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. There is also, more recently, the Queen Elizabeth rose, newly-planted to mark HM the Queen becoming our longest reigning monarch.