Every day in Summer and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays during the winter months at 11.am the ceremonial spectacle of the changing of the guard can be enjoyed by visitors to Windsor.
On these days at 10.40am the roads of central Windsor are closed to vehicles. At 11.00am soldiers accompanied by a band march along the high street, past the Guildhall. They turn up on to Castle Hill at the Queen Victoria Statue and then head through the Henry VIII gate into Windsor Castle. There they relieve the previous days guards who then march with the band back to the Victoria Barracks.
This wonderful spectacle is undoubtedly the best free attraction in Windsor and always draws a crowd to cheer the soldiers. In summer you can see the bright scarlet coats and big black bearskin hats that guards have worn for generations.
Many visitors choose to watch the march past for free from vantage spots along the high street. Those wishing to see the actual changeover ceremony must get to town early and pay to visit Windsor Castle itself. The ceremony takes place in the castles Lower Ward.
Half an hour later the whole thing runs in reverse with the previous guard marching back down the high street to the barracks.
The troops are usually made up of members of the five divisions of guards: The Coldstream, Grenadiers, Scots Guards, Irish Guards and Welsh Guards. Telling them apart as they march past is not so easy. A small badge on the collar, a different coloured plume in the helmet and a different spacing of their tunic buttons are all you have to go on. Occasionally a guest division from the Navy or Airforce or even a commonwealth country may be given the honour of mounting the guard at Windsor. This happened in 2018 when the RAF’s Queen’s Colour Squadron mounted the guard, and more recently in September 2021 when The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery were seen at the Changing of the Guard in Windsor as part of their 150th Birthday celebrations.
The Guards of the Household Division have a long history. The Grenadiers (look for a grenade on the collar and a white plume in the hat) were founded 1656 to protect the future King Charles II during his exile following the Civil War. The Coldstream Guards (red plume and a garter star on the collar)were on the other side fighting for Parliament’s cause. The Scots Guards are even older, being founded in 1642. The Irish Guards (a shamrock on the collar and a blue hat plume) were founded at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign and the Welsh Guards (a leek on the collar and a white-green-white plume on the left of the bearskin) were formed during the First World War.
In cold winter months when the tunics are covered by grey woollen coats telling the divisions apart is made even harder.
Which train station is best for seeing the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle?
Windsor is well connected for the railways, The town has two train stations very close to each other and both very close to the town centre. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter which station you arrive at. Trains from Slough (which has a fast connection to London Paddington) come to Windsor and Eton Central Station whereas trains from London Waterloo arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside Station. The walk from Riverside to the town centre is six minutes whereas the walk from Central Station is just two minutes.