The straight path that links Windsor Castle with Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park is known as The Long Walk.
How long is the long walk in Windsor?
From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George II (The Copper Horse) The long walk measures 2.64 miles in length. So a run there and back is a great distance for joggers.
Snow Hill was where, as the legend has it, King Henry VIII sat and waited for news of the execution of his second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn. However, the path as we know it only came into being during the reign of King Charles II who had double rows of Elm trees planted the entire length of the route. There were 1,652 trees planted to create the basis of the landscape we know today. Charles wanted to remodel Windsor in a modern popular style and the Long Walk was just one aspect of his improvement scheme.
Later in 1710 Queen Anne had a road constructed down the centre of the tree lined avenue so that coaches could head out into the park on a comfortably smooth surface. A little way down from the Castle, the Long Walk is crossed by the Albert Road (A308) to old Windsor and cars often slow to a walking pace to enjoy the views in both directions.
The Long Walk is still used by the royal carriages every year as part of the route from Windsor Castle to the Ascot Races. Ocassionally a warden’s car comes down Windsor’s Long Walk but other than that it is free from all except pedestrian traffic. Cycling is not permitted on any part of the Long Walk.
Over the years Elms have been replaced by Oak, Horse Chestnut and London Plane trees. At the Park Street (Castle) end of the Long Walk Horse Chestnuts predominate, although these trees, which have provided conkers for generations of Windsor schoolboys succumbed to the bacterial canker outbreak of 2008 which meant the leaves went brown and dropped very early on. Although in 2009, the canker was still apparent, the trees looked much less affected and there were hopes of a reprive. However, the following year they once again suffered. 2011 was dry but there is still evidence of the disease and it is clear that these trees will need to be replaced at some point fairly soon.
Alongside the tens of thousands of visitors, walkers, photographers, joggers and lovers who enjoy the Long Walk each year, it is also used by the royal family when they travel to Ascot for the annual races at the start of the summer social season.
Perhaps less well known is the fact that the Castle end of the Long Walk was notorious for the prostitutes who plied their trade there in the mid 1800s.
In 2013 six willow arches were temporarily installed at the Park street end of the walk to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s six decades on the throne.