Airport stopovers are one of the inconvenient necessities of modern life; they are the price we pay for the smooth efficiency of air travel. Along with the ability to hop between the USA and London in just a few hours, we must deal with spending long hours stuck halfway to our destination in an unfamiliar city.
A stopover always seems to be an awkward length: not long enough to get out and really see the city, but far too long to spend cooped up in an airport. You’re tired, cramped and grubby; you know the free WiFi will soon lose its charm and you also know that outside the duty-free zone lies a beautiful city waiting to be explored. But Heathrow is a long way outside London, and the prospect of spending an hour on a train to drag your suitcase around the city before trekking all the way back to the airport is enough to keep you planted firmly in the departure lounge for the next ten hours.
So what to do? Well, there’s no rule that says you have to go sightseeing in central London just because you’ve landed at Heathrow. Do your research, and you’ll find there’s a way to get your fill of historic English traditions and picturesque castles without fighting the crowds at Buckingham Palace.
The secret is a private transfer to Windsor, a beautiful city to the west of Heathrow and home to ancient and beautiful Windsor Castle. Your driver will meet you at the airport with a car; or if you’ve booked one of the hotels near Hounslow tube station for a quick nap, they can pick you up from there, too. You can check out in the morning, load your bags into the car, and forget about them. The London Toolkit will look after your luggage while you explore and charge a flat fee no matter how long you spend in Windsor, since they’re based in the area. Stretch your legs and see the sights before the car takes you back to the airport to check in for your next flight.
Windsor is a very old place but it’s also one of the Queen’s current residences, so you might just catch a glimpse of her strolling through the grounds. It’s the biggest inhabited castle in the world, carefully kept in the best condition, and it’s a fascinating look through centuries of English history. It takes around two hours to explore, but there are a few special exhibitions going on that might take up a little more of your time. They look at the childhood of Britain’s beloved monarch, the toys she played with as a little girl and excerpts from her diary.
The town of Windsor is very picturesque on its own and you’re sure to find plenty of photo opportunities. Head down to the River Thames for a half-hour guided ferry ride – it’s especially beautiful in spring and summer, but if the weather is awful you can always retreat indoors to one of Windsor’s many historic pubs and cosy cafes.
On the other side of the river lies Eton College, a world-famous boys’ school whose list of alumni includes 18 British Prime Ministers. Their uniform is still the pinstriped trousers and tailcoat introduced in the 1850s. The College runs public tours of some of their best buildings, including the Chapel, the Cloisters, the oldest classroom and a museum of college life. Wealthy British families still send their sons here: an Eton education marks you as one of the British elite. It’s definitely an integral part of British history, and one which you’d miss entirely if you did all your sightseeing in central London.
For younger travellers, Legoland Windsor is the perfect place for a day out – as a bonus, they’ll be so tired that they’ll sleep right through the next plane flight. Adults are sure to love the theme park too, with rides, building workshops, driving schools, live shows and plenty of other attractions.
So there’s no need to fret about seeing Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus – they’ll always be there for you to visit another day. Focus on making your current trip as pleasant as it can be.