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Windsor's Great Park

Royal footsteps on the Long Walk.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 160ft (49m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Park drives and rides, woodland paths and tracks

Landscape Sprawling parkland of Windsor Great Park

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 160 Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell

Start/finish SU 947727

Dog friendliness Dogs under strict control or on lead

Parking Car park by Cranbourne Gate

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park, cross the A332 to Cranbourne Gate and enter the park. Follow the drive alongside trees planted over the years to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and Edward VII's coronation in 1902. Over to the left are distant views of Windsor Castle. Turn right at the first crossroads, signposted 'Cumberland Lodge', and follow the drive to the next junction by two ponds where swans are often seen.

2 Keep left here, signposted 'The Village'. Pass the Post Office and General Store, walk between a spacious green and a playing field and then turn right to join Queen Anne's Ride. Look back for another view of Windsor Castle, framed by the houses of The Village. Pass alongside Poets Lawn and follow the ride to a tarmac drive. Turn left, keep left at the fork, then left again after a few paces at a crossroads.

3 Poets Lawn is now on your left. Continue ahead at the next intersection and then turn right to follow a broad, hedge-lined footpath. Ahead lies Royal Lodge and to the left of it is the famous Copper Horse statue. Take the next grassy ride on the left and head for a deer gate. Keep ahead towards the statue and when you draw level with it, bear left. The figure of George III points the way. Follow the woodland path and merge with a clear track running down to a drive. Pass through the automatic gate and keep right at the immediate fork.

4 Walk along to Queen Anne's Ride, which crosses the drive just before a house. On the left is the millstone. Bear right here and follow the ride to Russel's Pond. Veer away from the ride at this point and keep alongside the pond and fence. Walk ahead between fields and make for woodland. Drop down to the road at Ranger's Gate. Cross over at the lights and take the tarmac drive.

5 Veer half left about 100yds (91m) before some white gates and follow a path across the grass and alongside trees. Follow it up the slope and through the wood. Keep to the sandy track and at the point where it bends left, go straight on along a path between trees. As it reaches a gate, turn left and keep alongside a fence. The path can be rather overgrown in places in summer. Follow the fence to a drive and on the right is the outline of Cranbourne Tower. Bear left and return to the car park.

Walkers in East Berkshire who enjoy peaceful parkland, leafy paths and a sense of space in a noisy and cluttered world don't have to look very far to find what they want. Right on their doorstep is the opportunity to walk for miles and yet remain within the confines of Windsor Great Park, once part of a royal hunting ground and now, in effect, an enormous nature reserve covering thousands of acres, where many different animals - deer among them - roam freely and undisturbed amid the ancient trees.

Windsor Great Park stretches south from Windsor Castle for about 5 miles (8km), almost as far as Chobham Common in Surrey. Comprising about 4,800 acres (1,944ha) of wooded parkland and magnificent landscaped gardens, the general design and landscaping is largely the work of George III's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who was given the rangership of Windsor Great Park in recognition of his victory over the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

One of the park's most striking features is the oak-lined Long Walk, running in a straight line between Windsor and the mighty equestrian statue of George III on Snow Hill, erected in 1831 and known as the Copper Horse. Many members of the Royal Family have followed the Long Walk over the years, among the most recent royals to do so, in front of gathering crowds and television cameras, was Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who travelled by car through the Great Park in 1999, on her way to St George's Chapel where she married Prince Edward.

The statue of the Copper Horse offers one of the most photographed views in Britain - that of Windsor Castle. During the late 1950s, the exiled Duke of Windsor described the royal residence and its surroundings thus: 'there is one place... which hardly changes at all, and that is Windsor Castle. Here is a palace essentially English in character. I take pleasure in the way it broods, with an air of comfortable benevolence, down over the homely town of Windsor, while to the south spreads the spacious Great Park, with the Long Walk stretching three miles through the soft, green English landscape and the meadows of the Home Park to the south, refreshed by the waters of the slowly winding Thames'.

But it is not just royals and ramblers who have loved Windsor Great Park over the years. Writers have been captivated and inspired by it, too. Alexander Pope often rode here and was moved to write about the scenery, Jonathan Swift reported that Queen Anne was 'hunting the stag till four this afternoon', while Swift described the Long Walk as 'the finest avenue I ever saw'.

While you're there

Visit Savill Gardens, comprising 35 acres (14ha) of unspoilt woodland, herbaceous borders, azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons. The garden was created by Sir Eric Savill, Deputy Ranger of the Great Park, between 1932 and 1949. Have a look at The Village, which was designed in the 1930s whilst the Duke and Duchess of York lived at Royal Lodge. Some of the later houses, which are occupied by estate workers, were built with bricks brought in from London bomb sites. Take a break on Snow Hill and enjoy the fine views of Windsor Castle and the Great Park. This is one of the highest points in the park and it was here on June 6, 1977 that the Queen lit a huge bonfire to mark her Silver Jubilee.

What to look for

On Queen Anne's Ride stands a millstone which was unveiled to commemorate the planting of the first of 1,000 trees here, marking 1,000 years of the office of High Sheriff of Windsor Great Park. The trees were planted by the Duke of Edinburgh, Ranger of Windsor Great Park, on 23 November 1992. The millstone was carved at Stanage Edge in Derbyshire. Almost at the end of the walk is Cranbourne Tower, part of a lodge visited by Samuel Pepys in 1665 and where Queen Victoria took tea. Pepys would have probably seen the lodge while out riding. During the 1800s, parts of the building which were structurally dangerous were removed, leaving only the tower.

Where to eat and drink

There are no pubs on the walk but the Post Office and General Store in The Village serves light refreshments throughout the year. Established in 1948, the shop is closed between 1pm and 3pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and from 1pm onwards on Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday it opens between 8:30am and 5pm, and on Sunday between 10am and 5pm.

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