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Windsor Castle garden open to public for first time in 40 years

Visitors can explore the royal family's grounds

Emily Nash

For more than 40 years, it has been a private haven for the Queen and her family at Windsor Castle.

But now the garden where Her Majesty enjoyed walks during more than four months of lockdown is opening to the public for the first time since the 1970s.

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Visitors can explore the stunning East Terrace Garden on weekends throughout August and September, while she is on holiday at Balmoral.

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The enclosed, sunken garden, overlooked by the Queen’s private apartments, boasts sweeping views over the surrounding parkland and offers a tantalising glimpse of a side of the Castle that is very rarely visible to the public.

Royal watchers will recognise the East Terrace steps from a portrait of the Queen with her Corgis and Dorgis by Annie Leibovitz and a shot of the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex by Alexi Lubomirski. It was also the setting for a 1997 photograph of the Queen and Prince Philip by Patrick Lichfield.

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The gardens, as seen on the Royal Family's Twitter 

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The space is in the Castle’s Upper Ward is also overlooked by semi-state rooms including the Green Drawing Room – which was the main setting for Harry and Meghan’s official wedding portraits.

Originally laid out as three bowling greens by Charles II, the East Terrace was transformed into a garden by George IV in 1824 and then redesigned by Prince Albert, creating a much-loved sanctuary for him and Queen Victoria.

During World War II the flowerbeds were used to grow fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes, sweetcorn and dwarf beans cultivated by the-then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret.

The garden in its current form was designed by Duke of Edinburgh in 1971.

More than 3,500 perfumed rose bushes of eight different English varieties fill geometric beds set around a bronze lotus flower fountain, also designed by Prince Philip.

Richard Williams, Learning Curator at the Royal Collection Trust, which manages public access to the Castle, told HELLO!: “This is the first time visitors can enter or walk through the garden for more than 40 years.

“It’s the least known part of the Castle, on the most private side and [it’s important] because of the historical stories associated with it and its significance to the Queen and her family.”

The Castle’s secluded Moat Garden is also open for guided walks, family art activities and picnics on Thursdays and Fridays, giving spectacular views over the surrounding area from the Motte.

Nestled beneath the Round Tower, the informal garden dates from the time of Edward III and is believed to have inspired Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, the first of The Canterbury Tales.

In another nod to the Queen’s wartime life at Windsor, pantomime pictures painted by 16-year-old art student Claude Watham are on display in the Waterloo Chamber for the first time in 75 years.

The poster paint images on wallpaper were created as the backdrop for pantomimes put on by the young princesses to raise money for charity and are normally covered by historic portraits commemorating the Battle of Waterloo, which have been removed during renovations to the roof.

Visitors can also enjoy a unique view of the two-and-a-half mile Long Walk from the State Entrance, accessed via George IV’s Inner Hall, which opened to the public last October for the first time in 150 years.

And after all that sightseeing, they can refuel in the newly opened Undercroft Café, which originally served as a wine cellar in the time of Edward III.

The Royal Collection Trust has added the gardens to the visitor route for a limited time to offer more outside space as social distancing measures continue. 

While the Castle saw record daily visitor numbers of around 10,000 people last year, they are currently welcoming around 2,000 a day because of the impact of coronavirus on tourism. 

To book tickets visit this link.

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