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The Best Royal Attractions in England

By Alex Boag-Wyllie
More by Alex

A Royal Affair

The first king of all of England was King Athelstan, who reigned in the early 900s. More than a millennium later, there is no denying the impact of the monarchy on the British tourism industry. From royal weddings to grand palaces, the British royal family bring in millions of pounds for the country’s economy. This is no more true than at present as we follow the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 and the coronation of King Charles III on 6th May 2023.

There are a reputed 4,000 castles in England. That doesn’t include country houses, grand manors and classic hotels. The Tower of London, home of the Crown Jewels, regularly tops lists as one of the top sights in London, and Buckingham Palace is rarely without a crowd. It can certainly be challenging to pinpoint the best royal attractions in England. Look no further. We’re here to guide you through the world at the very upper class of English society. This is a place of glittering tiaras, dramatic history, and quaint cucumber sandwiches. Read on to step inside.

Take My Carriage Straight To:

Windsor Castle

A voyage of discovery into the world of the British royal family would only be complete with a visit to Windsor Castle. An architectural giant, the original castle was built in the 11th century following the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror. The first English monarch to use the castle was William’s son, King Henry I.

The usage of the castle by the British monarchy has continued to this day, making Windsor Castle the oldest and longest-occupied palace in England. Many of the best-known names in the British monarchy have walked these halls, including the infamous King Henry VIII and his fiery daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. King Charles I found himself a prisoner within the castle during the English Civil War. Windsor Castle also served as home to Queen Elizabeth II during the Coronavirus Pandemic and until her passing in 2022. The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, will soon move to Windsor from their residence in Kensington Palace.

Windsor Castle Tours

The list of British royals who have lived their life at Windsor Castle goes on and on. There is no avoiding the awe-inspiring feel of their lives lived within these great walls during your visit. Peel back the imposing facade and step ‘behind the ropes’ on an after-hours tour of Windsor Castle to fully immerse yourself in this history. With tours designed to satisfy every interest, why not add a private talk on Queen Elizabeth II’s life at the castle, or get up close and personal with the extraordinary Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House?

St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

However your clients choose to visit Windsor Castle, don’t miss St George’s Chapel. Located on the grounds of Windsor, the chapel is the home of the Order of the Garter. Founded in 1348 by King Edward III, the Order remains the oldest order of chivalry in the world. The chapel is also the final resting place of many of the British royal family, from King Henry VIII to HRH Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is famous as a symbol of awe and fear, and for its security. Add in the Crown Jewels, ravens bound by legend and the Yeomen Warders, or Beefeaters as they are better known, and this is a royal visit you don’t want to miss. The reverence and refuge felt at the Tower is the work of William the Conqueror, who built the White Tower at the centre following his successful invasion of England in the 1000s. The broader layout of these fortifications was added 200 years later by King Henry III and King Edward I.

Legends of the Tower

The building is iconic in the central London landscape, but there is much more to the Tower than first meets the eye. No fortification comes without a bloody past – the Tower of London is the infamous location of the murder of King Henry VI and the mysterious disappearance of King Edward IV’s sons, the Princes in the Tower. For hundreds of years, the Tower has served as a prison for society’s very top and bottom. The most famous residents ‘sent to the tower’ include two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the ‘Nine Days’ Queen’ Lady Jane Grey and the Gunpowder Plotter Guy Fawkes. Today, the ghosts of those who suffered the Tower’s fate are said to haunt it still.

Another legend of the Tower of London is the tower ravens. The kingdom and Tower will fall if the six ravens leave the Tower of London.

The Crown Jewels

More tangible but no less tied to the spirit of the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels. On display at the Tower since the Coronation of King Charles II more than 350 years ago, the Crown Jewels are still used by the monarch today. We can arrange pre-opening private tours for your clients of the Crown Jewels with a knowledgeable guide, with the option to continue behind the scenes after hours to discover the ‘Secrets of the Tower’ on a tour with a Yeoman Warder, including the Ceremony of the Keys. This nightly tradition has been performed every night for over 700 years.

Hampton Court Palace

Nestled in southwest London, Hampton Court Palace is Tudor entertainment at its finest. Hampton Court was built in the early 1500s by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. When Wolsey fell from the King’s favour, the Palace passed to Henry. One of his favourites, King Henry VIII brought all six of his wives to Hampton Court. Here, his third wife, Jane Seymour, died giving birth to the future King Edward VI. The British monarchy continued to reside at the Palace for 200 years, well into the fabulous Georgian period. King George II was the last resident monarch at Hampton Court Palace. Upon his departure in the 1830s, ‘grace and favour’ apartments were available for rent. Although this ceased in the 1960s, it is still possible to catch a glimpse of the few remaining people who live at Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace Tours

To fully appreciate this historic pleasure palace, stay after hours to experience the court when it is closed to everyone else. Be warned, this palace has a darker undercurrent – step onto a private ghost tour if you dare! If your clients would rather visit in the daylight, we can arrange a private tour before Hampton Court opens for the day. Follow the tour with a stroll through the expansive gardens. For the whole experience, start the day with a carriage tour of the gardens, pulled by a pair of the Palaces’ majestic Shire horses. Follow this memorable ride with a rooftop tour of the palace for a rare perspective of one of Henry VIII’s favourite haunts.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was built for the Duke of Buckingham, a now-extinct peerage, in the early 1700s. King George III, ‘the Mad King’, acquired the house in 1761 for his new wife, Queen Charlotte. This was the start of the palace’s association with the British monarchy. Almost a century later, Queen Victoria was the first royal to make Buckingham Palace her official London residence. The tradition of the British monarch living in the palace continues to this day with King Charles III.

Buckingham Palace Tours

See how the British monarch lives on a private Buckingham Palace tour. Soak up the splendour of the State Rooms with an experienced guide before heading behind the scenes at the Royal Mews. Your clients will get up close and personal with the working royal stables. There is also the chance to see the livery and carriage horses, as well as the iconic Gold State Coach. Perhaps surprisingly for a palace at the heart of the UK’s capital, Buckingham Palace boasts a splendid garden which is not be missed. Here, you’ll find the Queen’s Gallery, which can be viewed privately out of hours. No matter which tour you choose, you can be sure it will be unforgettable. Don’t forget to check the times for the Changing of the Guard for the perfect experience.

Brown's Hotel

Although not a stately residence, Brown’s Hotel offers the perfect accommodation for any royal experience in London. Founded in 1837, Brown’s spans 11 Georgian townhouses. This unusual format ensures Brown’s offers unique rooms and suites for its guests. It is not the building of the hotel that is most noteworthy but, perhaps instead, the names who have spent time in London’s oldest hotel. A night at Brown’s is one spent in the footsteps of the likes of Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkein and Stephen King. These hallowed halls aren’t limited to literary giants; the hotel also hosted the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

When you stay here, take a moment to appreciate your phone as Brown’s is said to be the site of the first successful telephone call in Britain, made by Alexander Graham Bell himself.

Afternoon Tea like a Queen

Another experience to be enjoyed in this historic hotel is afternoon tea. A quaint and classic English tradition dating back to the 1800s, the afternoon tea served in the Drawing Room was a favourite of Queen Victoria.

Highclere Castle

Photo credit: Visit Britain

Highclere Castle is in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Just a two-hour drive from central London, Highclere offers a different royal connection than others on this list. Still, only a few other privately-owned residences provide such an insight into the upstairs-downstairs life of 19th century England.

The Foundation of Canada

Built in the late 1600s, the impressive facade of Highclere Castle that stands today is the result of a renovation in the mid-1800s. The 1800s was a pivotal time for Highclere, and it was here, in the 1860s, that the 4th Earl of Carnarvon helped draft the British North America Act of 1867. Receiving Royal Assent on 29th March 1867, this act led to the establishment of Canada. A maple tree was planted at Highclere in 2018 to recognise the role of the 4th Earl in Canada’s foundation.

Highclere in the 20th Century

Not to be overshadowed by his predecessor, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon employed Howard Carter to find the tomb of Tutankhamun. The expedition was successful, and in 1922 Carter discovered the largely intact tomb of the pharaoh. Shortly before this, Highclere served as a military hospital for troops wounded in the First World War. King George V and his wife, Queen Mary, visited the soldiers at Highclere in 1917.

Downton Abbey

Viewers of the hit TV series Downton Abbey will remember a similar scene from the show’s second season. The use of Highclere Castle as the filming location for Downton Abbey ultimately saved this huge house from ruin. It made it the iconic destination it is today. Still in the private ownership of, and lived in by, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, Highclere offers incredible State Rooms, bedrooms and an Egyptian exhibition to visitors. Let us arrange a taste of life as the Carnarvons, and Crawleys, would have known it with a private, out-of-hours tour of Highclere Castle, tailored to the group’s interests. With an experienced guide on hand to answer every question, this is an experience to remember. Top it off with a stroll through perhaps Capability Brown’s best-known landscape.

Highgrove House and Garden

Built at the end of the 1700s, Highgrove House is a lovely neo-classical Georgian manor. Although the building that stands today is the late 1800s remodel following a fire, it remains an idyllic home. Highgrove is best known today as the private residence of King Charles III and the Queen Consort. King Charles bought Highgrove in 1980. Today, Highgrove boasts an impressive array of gardens, with the addition of an orchard dining room and an estate shop. We can organise a private tour through the parks at their peak during hazy English summer days before a traditional afternoon tea is served to your clients with Highgrove champagne.

Sudeley Castle

There are said to be around 4,000 castles in England. Nestled on the northern edge of the golden Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle is the only privately owned castle in the country to have a queen buried on its grounds. This is Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. Catherine was Henry’s last wife, and one of only two of his wives to outlive him (Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleeves, also survived him). After Henry’s death, Catherine married her love, Thomas Seymour. Seymour was the brother of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, and their marriage soon after Henry’s death caused a scandal. The couple lived at Sudeley Castle, and it was here that she died during childbirth in 1648.

Royal Visits at Sudeley Castle

Catherine Parr is not the only royal connection with Sudeley Castle. In the 1500s, a century after the castle was built, the Crown seized Sudeley. The Castle became the property of King Edward IV and, later, King Richard III, before King Edward VII gifted it to his uncle. King Henry VIII visited Sudeley in 1535 with his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and their daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, on multiple occasions. Sudeley also hosted a visit from King George III, and the castle was used as a refuge by King Charles I during the English Civil War.

Discover more about the swirling past of this ancient castle on a tour of the castle. Private talks are available to help you uncover more about the history of Sudeley, the magnificent gardens and the fascinating architecture of the building.

Sandringham House

Perhaps best associated with the late Queen Elizabeth II, Sandringham Estate has a history dating back to at least the time of Queen Elizabeth I almost 500 years ago. The sprawling country house at the heart of this Norfolk estate is a 1770s replacement of an earlier houset. It was not until the 1860s that Sandringham’s iconic association with the British royal family began.

Sandringham Estate & the British Royal Family

Following the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria bought the house for their son, the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. Edward and his wife, Princess Alexandra, moved in the following year. Sandringham has been a beloved family home for the royals since. Edward’s son, King George IV, and his son, King George V, died at Sandringham, and it was from the house that Queen Elizabeth II filmed her first Christmas broadcast. Sandringham Estate remains a private residence of the royal family, and the country residence of the Prince of Wales and his family is Anmer Hall on the estate. William’s mother, Princess Diana, also has a history with the estate, spending her first few years at Park House on the grounds of Sandringham.

Sandringham House Tour

Sandringham’s connection with the British monarchy is iconic, but the estate is unusual as it is a property personally owned by the monarch themselves rather than the Crown. Step inside the private residence of the monarch on an out-of-hours private guided tour of Sandringham House, and enjoy an afternoon in the sun with a guided tour of the gardens.

Castle Howard

Another property with a more subtle royal connection, Castle Howard is an impressive sprawl of country house on the southern tip of the North York Moors National Park. Built in the 1700s, the house is known as a castle as it was built on the site of an earlier castle!

Castle Howard on Film and TV

Fans of the silver screen will recognise Castle Howard as the filming location for many hits of the TV and film, including Death Comes to Pemberley, the ITV series Victoria. Most recently, it stood in for the Duke of Hasting’s home, Clyvden Castle, in the Netflix adaptation of Bridgerton. However, Castle Howard is perhaps best known as the filming location of Brideshead Revisited.

Castle Howard Tours

Step into the screen and discover the rich history of Castle Howard on a range of exciting tours, including a talk on Queen Victoria’s visit to the house in 1850 and the use of the property as a filming location.

Allow Us To Introduce Your Clients' Favourite

From grand palaces to traditional afternoon tea services, England offers a rich variety of royal experiences. Whether your clients dream of strolling in dappled sunlight through beautifully manicured gardens or prefer ghost stories by candlelight, sit back and let us arrange the perfect royal affair. We can arrange private tours and exclusive experiences at all of the locations mentioned and more. Where will your clients go?

Meet the Author: Alex Boag-Wyllie

Born in the Scottish Highlands, I was lucky enough to spend my childhood playing on beautiful beaches and learning to ski (or, more often, fall over). My father’s job kept us on the move, and I was soon just as at home across the rest of the UK. I’m your gal if you need a good cafe recommendation (almost) anywhere in the country; if I haven’t been there yet, you can be sure it’s on my trip list…

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