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Royal Windsor

Follow the scenic Thames from Windsor to Datchet and return by train.

Distance 2.5 miles (4km)

Minimum time 1hr 15min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Pavements, drive, tow path, path across meadows and playing fields, no stiles

Landscape Lowland meadows and town outskirts in Thames Valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 160 Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell

Start/finish SU 968772

Dog friendliness On lead in Windsor and Datchet, under control elsewhere

Parking Car park at Riverside Station, Windsor

Public toilets Riverside Station, Windsor

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1 From Windsor and Eton's Riverside Station, turn right to the river bank where you will find the Donkey House pub overlooking the Thames. Pass through a set of wrought iron gates and follow Romney Walk, restored in 1993 by Windsor Heritage. The land for this footpath was presented by the Southern Railway Company in 1934. To the right are the car park and buildings of Windsor and Eton Riverside Station, where the Royal Waiting Room dates back to 1849. There are good views from here up to Windsor Castle, as well as glimpses of Eton College and its chapel through the trees beyond Romney Island.

2 Continue ahead on a drive, pass a cottage dated 1898 and a distinctive octagonal building which houses the waterworks for Windsor Castle. On reaching a boatyard, make for the water's edge and walk along the grass tow path beside the river. Eton College Boathouse is soon visible on the opposite bank. Pass under the 19th-century Black Potts railway bridge and skirt the playing fields on the right. As you approach the next bridge, veer right to the Thames Path sign at the far end of the white railings.

3 Turn left and follow the pavement over Victoria Bridge. Over to the right is the Home Park. Bear right on the far side and follow the Thames Path through the trees, with delightful views of the Thames and the Home Park beyond. On reaching the road, turn right along the B470 and then bear left into Datchet High Street.

4 Walk along to the green and make your way to the railway station for your return train.

Windsor Castle was founded as a fortress by William the Conqueror and has been substantially altered and extended over the centuries. The most recent work undertaken followed the much publicised fire in 1992. During his reign George IV spent nearly £1 million on improving the castle. The dominant feature is its Round Tower, built by Henry II and visible for miles around. Parts of the castle are open to the public, though the state apartments are closed when the Queen is in residence.

With its legendary reputation, Eton College still represents one of this country's great institutes of learning - Gladstone described it as the 'Queen of Public Schools'. On its famous playing fields, according to Wellington, the Battle of Waterloo was won.

In May 1990 the college celebrated a remarkable achievement - its 550th anniversary. It was founded in 1440 by Henry VI who was only 19 at the time - even more remarkable. Eton is modelled on Winchester College, and is the second oldest public school in the country. Originally it accommodated 70 poor scholars who were educated free of charge. The boys of Eton College still wear black tailcoats in mourning for George III, their favourite monarch.

Eton College chapel is similar in many ways to the chapel of Kings College, Cambridge, also founded by Henry VI. It was built between 1449 and 1482 and the chapel you see here today was originally to have been the choir for a much larger, more majestic place of worship. The splendid vaulted ceiling and the impressive 15th-century wall paintings are two of the college chapel's most distinguished features. Raised 13ft (4m) above ground, the college chapel is safe from flooding should the Thames burst its banks.

The pleasant riverside village of Datchet has strong literary associations. The main road to Windsor, at the southern end of the High Street, was the Datchet Lane in William Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602). Falstaff was transported along this road on his way to face the ordeal of a ducking in the Thames. The village is also mentioned in Jerome K Jerome's famous book, Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Just before the turn of the century, and again soon after the Second World War, Datchet suffered serious flooding when the swollen Thames caused a pond in the centre of the village to overflow. Several anxious residents were isolated in their homes.

Where to eat and drink

Plenty of choice in Windsor, including pubs, restaurants and tea rooms. Try the Royal Stag at Datchet. Overlooking the green and once home of Robert Barker, printer to Elizabeth I, the pub offers snacks and more substantial dishes.

While you're there

Frogmore House, set in the private Home Park, is renowned for its splendid landscaped garden and 18th-century lake. Queen Victoria wrote of it: 'All is peace and quiet and you only hear the hum of bees, the singing of the birds'. She built a mausoleum for herself and her husband, Prince Albert, in the garden. Frogmore is open to the public on a limited number of days during the year.

What to look for

Victoria Bridge dates back to the mid-19th century and was partly designed by Prince Albert. Over to the right of it is the Home Park, consisting of 4,000 acres (1,620ha). Closed for security reasons, it was created as a private riverside park for Queen Victoria. The present Queen has come under attack on occasions for not providing public access to the park.

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