Steeped in 1000 years of history, Windsor Castle, on the outskirts of London, is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s also a working royal palace. The favourite home of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, its estate covers more than 15,000 acres of woodland, lawns and lakes. But one part of Windsor Great Park is particularly famous and that is the Windsor Long Walk. Here’s why you should explore this spectacular landmark when you visit the historic town of Windsor.
The Long Walk Windsor is a broad tree-lined avenue stretching, arrow straight, from the gates of Windsor Castle to Snow Hill and the magnificent Copper Horse statue on the summit. It’s a lovely place all year round, as the landscape changes with the seasons, and it is very much worth visiting if you’re thinking of a trip to Windsor.
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Why visit the Long Walk at Windsor Castle
The Windsor Long Walk does what it says on the tin: it’s a long peaceful walk, in beautiful parkland, with pay offs at start and finish.
At one end of the Long Walk is the mighty and ancient Windsor Castle surrounded by its lively town. At the other end, on the rise called Snow Hill, stands the Copper Horse, a bronze statue of King George III on horseback.
And once you’ve reached the vantage point beside the statue you get a reward for completing the walk: it’s the best place to enjoy the panoramic view of the majestic Windsor Castle walk. From here you can really appreciate its grandeur as it runs straight as a die, for more than two and half miles, all the way to the Castle gates.
It’s a grand and formal landscape that’s been maturing for centuries. The avenue of trees was first conceived by King Charles II who laid out a double row of elms in the 1680s after visiting the Palace of Versailles. Successive kings and queens have nurtured and sustained it, and since the 1830s it has been open to the public too.
Images of the Long Walk Windsor were streamed around the world in the news coverage of the St George’s Chapel wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. And most recently and sadly the world watched the funeral cortège of Queen Elizabeth II file slowly along the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. Poignantly her pony and groom stood beside the path as a tribute to the late Queen’s love of riding out in the Great Park.
How Long is the Long Walk at Windsor Castle there and back?
The Long Walk Windsor distance is 2.64 miles (4.2 km) each way. If you walk from the gates of the state entrance to Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse statue and back again you’ll cover more than 5 miles (8.4km) in total.
Where do you start the Long Walk Windsor?
If you’re staying in the town of Windsor, arriving there by train or visiting on a tour, then it makes sense to start the Long Walk at Windsor Castle in the town centre. This is the northern end of the Walk and it starts at Cambridge Gate in front of the Castle entrance.
Alternatively you could start from one of the Great Park gates at the opposite end of the Long Walk: Bishop’s Gate, Forest Gate or Cranbourne Gate. From all of these gates you’ll need to walk a short distance to the Copper Horse before you start on the Long Walk itself.
As I travelled to Windsor by car I started the Long Walk from the Bishop’s Gate end, rather than Windsor Castle, since it’s easier to find a parking space outside the town centre.
But the other big advantage of starting the walk from the Copper Horse is that you can have a break midway in Windsor for a drink or a meal!
If you only want to do one leg of the walk you could catch a White Bus from Windsor town centre to either Ranger’s Gate or Royal Lodge. From there you can take the short walk to the Copper Horse and the start of the Long Walk to Windsor Castle.
Enjoy the Long Walk by horse and carriage
There’s another, rather regal, way to enjoy the Long Walk and Windsor Great Park. And that is by horse drawn carriage. I think this would be a wonderful way to experience the Long Walk, taking in the beautiful scenery at a relaxed pace and without all the legwork of walking the Walk! Plus you’re experiencing the iconic avenue in just the same way as royalty have done for centuries. Windsor Carriages are a historic company themselves and have been operating in Windsor Great Park since 1849.
Walking the Long Walk in Windsor
I began my walk at Bishop’s Gate, bright and early at 8 am on a July morning. The sun was up but the Great Park was very quiet.
From Bishop’s Gate the path sweeps round the base of Snow Hill to your first sighting of the Copper Horse statue. Incidentally, Queen Victoria didn’t like this nickname. She once corrected a guest with the remark: “You mean the equestrian statue of our grandfather!”
This is where the Windsor Long Walk starts – or ends – depending how you look at it. The Long Walk route is unmistakeable either way: a well made, flat path that runs in a straight line from the gates of Windsor Castle.
At it was early in the morning I only saw a handful of other people on the way to the castle, just a couple of runners and a dog walker or two. The walkway is a hard, smooth tarmac surface with neatly mown grass to either side and a slope from Snow Hill.
The Deer Park in Windsor Great Park
From the statue on Snow Hill, the Long Walk passes through the Deer Park. About 500 red deer graze here, a herd that was re-established by Prince Philip when he was the Ranger of Windsor Great Park. It’s quite common to see them crossing in front of you or moving between the trees. But they were somewhere else that morning and I didn’t glimpse a single one.
Understandably, although dogs are allowed on the Long Walk, they must be kept on a lead in the Deer Park.
The Deer Park was the original hunting ground of William the Conqueror who built Windsor Castle in 1070. Some of the ancient oak trees in the park are thought to date back to that time. Astonishingly King William would have ridden past the same trees we see today. They’ve witnessed a 1000 years of regal comings and goings on the Crown Estate.
Up close you can see how the tree planting has been managed over the years. Charles II’s elms have been superseded by a mixed planting of oaks, London plane trees and horse chestnuts on either side of the avenue.
As you continue along the walk you come to a set of white gates which mark the boundary of the Deer Park.
Windsor Castle Long Walk
A little further on, beyond the deer park, a road crosses the estate. This is Albert Road, the A308, and it’s unfenced so comes as a bit of surprise. Take care, especially if you’re walking with children or dogs, as you need to watch out for traffic.
After the road the final leg of the Walk leads up to the Castle gates. This is the section of the Long Walk that we see on televised Royal occasions.
At the top of the Walk you reach Cambridge Gate, beyond this you can see the George VI Gateway to the Castle. Here you can turn left into Park Street in Windsor. At this point I walked into town for a quick coffee before re-tracing my steps.
Half an hour later I was back at the Castle gates. It was time to head south along the Long Walk back to the Copper Horse. By then it was 10 am and quite a few more people were out and about.
One of the great joys of the Long Walk is its ban on cycling, skateboards or scooters (except for under 5s). So even when the path is busier it’s still a relaxing walk. And the Great Park has plenty of other routes where cycling is welcome.
The Long Walk is a car-free zone too. The only exception is for the park rangers. And also Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth who used to be spotted occasionally driving herself along the Long Walk to church.
In summer sunshine you can duck into the shade of the trees beside the path and walk on the grass. But you can’t avoid the exposed sections so a hat and sunscreen is a good idea.
The Copper Horse Windsor
The Copper Horse statue is your goal on this leg of the walk. King George IV commissioned the bronze in memory of his father George III. Controversially called ‘Mad’ King George, the latter had renewed the Royal interest in the Windsor estate. He made it his principal home, restored St George’s Chapel and revived its fortunes as a royal residence for centuries to come.
The statue itself stands on a rise of land, Snow Hill, at the end of the Long Walk. The path forks here around the base. It may be tempting to follow it rather than make the last push up the grassy slope to the summit. Do though! It’s worth it for the elevated view of the Long Walk, stretching beneath you to Windsor Castle.
Windsor Long Walk Parking
If you’re coming to Windsor by car then you’ll need to find a parking space. The official Windsor Great Park map shows six car parks around the Park itself.
Windsor also has Park and Ride locations and long stay car parks a short walk from the town centre.
Parking is expensive in the town and traffic is often re-routed when roads are closed for the regular Guards Marches. So I’d avoid driving in if you can help it.
After a tip-off from a friend I parked in Bishopsgate Road, close to the Bishops Gate entrance to the Park. This isn’t one of the Park’s designated car parks. Bishopsgate Road has some ‘phone and pay’ spaces which are operated by the local council. I parked easily there, but it was early on a weekday during school term time. I know these spaces get very busy at weekends and holidays.
You can download the official Windsor Great Park map here. It gives you info for Windsor Long Walk parking, car park fees on the Estate and Great Park dos and don’ts.
Long Walk Windsor Essentials
As its name makes clear, this is a long walk. It doesn’t have much shelter from the elements, there’s nowhere to sit apart from the grass and there certainly aren’t any shops or cafes along the way. So best to be prepared!
You’ll need comfortable walking shoes, and either sun screen and a hat, or an extra layer, a waterproof and umbrella. It’s a good idea to take water and snacks too, especially if you’re planning to walk the full distance to the statue and back.
If you begin your walk at the Copper Horse like I did, you can pop into Windsor town centre for a pitstop after the first leg. The Two Brewers pub is handily situated at the end of Park Street, beside the Castle. And Windsor has lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. You could even have afternoon tea and then walk it off on your return journey!
Windsor Long Walk FAQs
Entry to Windsor Great Park and the Long Walk is free.
Yes but they have to be on a lead in the Deer Park.
Windsor Great Park is open from dawn to dusk. You can check the opening times here. It’s a good idea to also check their visitor updates on social media before you travel in case of occasional closures.
Trains run to Windsor from London Paddington train station in west London and London Waterloo in the south. It’s also possible to get a bus to Windsor from Victoria Coach station or Heathrow Airport.
About the author Nancy Roberts is a former women’s magazine editor and writer. She lives in London and is mum to two 20-something boys. In Map&Family she shares info and inspiration for curious travellers: singles and couples as well as families travelling with teens and young adults.
Please note that all visitor information here is for guidance only. Please check the relevant websites for the most up to date information eg. accommodation details, tickets, entrance requirements, opening times etc.
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