See Great Britain by Rail


Even if you’re not on the guest list for the May 19 wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle, there are plenty of ways to soak up some royal atmosphere with a trip to England.

Whether you’re heading to Windsor, site of the royal wedding, or Hampton Court Palace, once the home of King Henry VIII, or to Warwick Castle, built by William the Conqueror, Britain’s rail network makes much of the country easy to explore on day trips from London. Trains are fast, reliable and comfortable, with frequent departures from the center of the city.

Windsor Castle is about 45 minutes from London by train. Dating to the 11th century, it’s been home to 39 monarchs and it’s the place where Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her private weekends. You’ll be able to walk through the grand State Apartments, furnished with some of the finest artwork from the royal collection, see the Dolls’ House, built for Queen Mary in the 1920s and filled with intricate miniature furnishings, and visit St. George’s Chapel, where the Prince and Markle will tie the knot.

Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official London residence, is open for tours from July 21 to Sept. 30. Visitors can see the lavishly furnished State Rooms that are used for ceremonial occasions and entertaining, including the Throne Room and Ballroom. From February to November, the public can also tour the state mews, where the royal carriages are housed. The Queen’s Picture Gallery, which contains art from the royal collection, is also open most of the year.

Immerse yourself in the life and times of Henry VIII with a trip to Hampton Court Palace, about 35 minutes by train from London. You can check out the Royal Apartments and chapel and visit the Tudor kitchens. The palace’s gardens are home to the world’s oldest puzzle maze, more than 1 million flowering bulbs and wildlife, including descendants of the king’s deer herd. Young visitors will enjoy the Magic Garden playground.

Kensington Palace is home to many of today’s British royals, but it’s also the childhood home of Queen Victoria. The exhibit “Victoria Revealed” explores the life of the British monarch whose reign spanned 63 years. Other parts of Kensington Palace open to visitors include the King’s Gallery and State Apartments, where the monarch would receive courtiers and government ministers. Also on display is “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” featuring outfits worn by the late Princess of Wales.

Warwick Castle, a medieval fortress located in a bend on the River Avon, is about 90 minutes from London by train. While it’s no longer a royal residence, it has a royal history, developed from a fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1068. You can visit the elegant 17th-century Great Hall and State Rooms, go down into the medieval vaults and climb to the top of the castle’s towers and ramparts. In the summer, there are jousting tournaments on the grounds.

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