“ Location: Alexandra Gardens, Barry Avenue, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 3HY „
It seems you can't be a proper tourist destination these days without at least two of the following, an open top double decker bus, a river boat cruise or a Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye. Royal Windsor being an uber tourist destination has all three.. Is the latter the Royal Windsor Wheel I would like to review after stumbling across it on a day trip to this most royal of boroughs. WHEELY WINDSOR The London Eye's blue blooded smaller cousin may not look quite as impressive but looms high above Windsor's skyline not quite competing with the castle. It is located in Alexandria Gardens just a short walk from the River Thames, both Windsor railway stations and a stones throw from Windsor Castle itself. We rode the wheel on August Bank Holiday Sunday and thus were very lucky, as it is not a permanent fixture only gracing genteel Windsor in the summer months between May 13h and September 4th. One more week and we would have missed it. WHEELY REASONABLE The good thing about the Windsor Wheel is that it is pretty reasonable for a basic ticket. We paid £6 each for an adult ticket. It is only £5 for students an seniors and £4 for children. There's also group discounts and a family ticket for £18. For those who are organised there is a 10% discount on on line booking but even on the gate I thought it was a decent price. You would pay between £2 and £4 for an ordinary fairground ride and the mini golf next to the wheel was not a lot cheaper. Compare this with £18 for a standard ride on the London Eye and this is a steal. For those that want a more luxurious ride there are a number of different packages to choose from . You can reserve a private gondola for up to 6 people. This works out a pound cheaper if you have 6 adults but more costly with an other combination. When we were there it was not too busy and my fiancé and I managed to get a gondola to ourselves). Celebrating, why not hire a private gondola with champagne for £60 or it you wan to be very swanky hire the VIP gondola with its blacked out tinted windows for £45 for 4 people or £70 with champagne. Paying was very painless as there was no queue at the ticket booth so all there was to do was wait for our turn on the wheel. WHEELY HIGH I am not sure how busy it normally gets but I was surprised by how quiet it was that particular Sunday. There was virtually no queue and our wait was less than ten minutes until the ride that was happening at the time ended. This was a complete contrast to when we have walked past the London Eye and the queue seems to go on forever. Whilst witting we we had time to survey the magnificence of the wheel. Its 60 metre diameter (or 15 double decker buses stacked up in layman's terms ) pales in comparison with the London Eye's 135 metres. There's 40 gondolas including the aforementioned VIP one and one adapted for disabled access but very few of them seemed occupied. Just before we boarded our gondola for two, our photo was taken. I can not comment on the size, quality or price of the prints ready to pick up once you depart from the wheel, as we did not bother even investigating purchasing our souvenir photo. The cost would have bumped up our trip on a deal by quite a lot I should think. ONE WHEELY SCARED BLOKE i felt fairly safe on boarding the wheel. The gondola may have rocked a bit but the safety mechanisms for opening and closing the doors seem to be watertight. It was time to sit, back, relax and enjoy our 12 minute ride taking in four full revolutions of the Royal Windsor Wheel. There's a nice little introduction to the wheel before it informed you that you could either have a commentary with facts about Windsor or music from some radio station. I was dubious about the music so plumped for the sight seeing facts since we were tourists for the day. I found the facts to be fairly interesting and gave me a feel for the history and the sights of Windsor. We started off sitting on the right hand side of the gondola facing inwards. I would not recommend this if you are bit scared of heights (I would not recommend the wheel full stop if you are afraid of heights or get vertigo). My poor fiancée spent the first revolution with his eyes shut looking completely terrified especially when the wheel stopped to pick up more passengers and give us aerial views across Windsor and also when the wheel was going down. He seemed to calm down after the second one especially when we moved to the opposite side of the gondola. I mus admit even I a dare devil when it comes to rides felt my stomach disappear when we were making the descent on the first revolution. The main reason for ridding the wheel is for the views over Windsor. Its said on a clear day you can see Wembley Arches and Canary Wharf in the background. I think that is a slight exaggeration but there were stunning views and fiancée did spot the not so glamorous towers of Didcott Power Station in the distance. I had stunning aerial views over the river Thames and fabulous views of Windsor Castle. However these must pale in comparison with the London Eye which I have not yet experienced even though I've lived in London for over five years now. There's only limited scope for spotting particular buildings, as the only real landmarks are those castle, the Thames and Eton College. I don't think Windsor Coach Park could be described as a tourist attraction. I really enjoyed my ride on the Windsor Wheel. I had been on a similar one in in Manchester which perhaps had more attraction, as I knew the city better and again there were more landmarks to spot. Its not the type of attraction you would make a special trip to unless you lived particularly local but it was a nice little diversion for half n hour. It was a good dress rehearsal if I ever wanted to go on the London Eye but I doubt I will take my fiancé! http://www.mellorsgroup.com/Windsor-Wheel/
The Royal Windsor Wheel seems to be an annual feature in the Summer months, it's a non permanent ferris wheel with capsules that is 60 metres high (the height of 15 double deckers according to the operator) and this year has been in place in Alexandra Gardens from May and will be dismantled in September. If you are in the area, it's well worth a visit in my opinion, though not as thrilling as the London Eye which would be its glamourous older sister, its still an enjoyable experience. Alexandra gardens is situated by the River Thames, right next to the coach park and a short stroll down the hill from the castle. Tickets can be pre-booked - and you can check prices and reserve tickets before your visit at a slight discount at http://www.mellorsgroup.com/Windsor-Wheel/index.html. We didn't reserve but pitched up on a Saturday in August and bought a family ticket for 4 for £18. This meant we had a gondola to ourselves for the duration of our "flight". Getting on the wheel is quick and easy, we had no wait at all either on this visit or a previous visit two years ago now. Having politely declined having our photo taken at the foot of the wheel, five gondolas were loaded at once and, after a very small wait we were off! The flight lasts 12 minutes and, by my calculations that included 5 complete rotations of the wheel and loading and disembarking. The wheel turns at just the right speed to allow you to have a good look around and enjoy either the accompaniment of the local radio or a commentary about Windsor. We opted for silence after having tried out both and settled back to enjoy the view. On the day we went the sky was pretty well cloud free and it was sunny, you could see London in the distance and had a very good view of Windsor castle and, less impressively the coach park. The castle looks amazing from above, at street level it's easy not to realise the scale of the castle, from the top of the wheel you can see quite how far the turrets extend and how many buildings are contained within its walls, it's all very impressive. There's a good view of the river and Eton on the opposite bank. Riding in the wheel feels very secure but there are slight gaps in the doors and you probably wouldn't want to move off the benches, of which there are two, and move around too much. The gondolas seemed to be kept clean with smear free glass. A ride in the wheel is enjoyable for both adults and children alike in my opinion and I actually thought the family ticket was quite good value. At the wheel there is a small cafe and also a stand selling photo souvenirs. I am not sure how good access is for those in wheelchairs and there is nothing on the online site to indicate whether they can accomodate those with special needs. As far as we are concerned the Wheel is an attraction that we enjoy visiting and we will no doubt visit again. It's no doubt it is best enjoyed on a clear day. If you are visiting the area in Summer I would recommend a trip on the Wheel, it's fun, interesting and just a good way of seeing Windsor in a slightly different way! 2011 prices: Adults £6 Concessions £5 Children £4 Under 3's are free and group discounts also apply - 10% discount for online booking VIP gondola also available - this appeared to be a gondola identical to the others with blacked out glass Open daily 10am - 8pm
It was the bank holiday weekend and we had friends staying so we thought we would take in some of our local attractions. Windsor is only half an hour away from where we live so we decided to head over there with the intention of taking all our children on the Royal Windsor Wheel - which was a first for us all. I had looked up the details on the website at www.royalwindsorwheel.com We could have booked our tickets in advance but I decided that, because my four year old daughter is sometimes a bit unsure of things and may well take one look at it and decide that she wasn't going on it, to risk not booking. As it was, on a Sunday lunchtime it was not busy, my daughter was quite happy and we virtually walked on straightaway as soon as we had paid. The Windsor Wheel is probably best described as a smaller version of the London Eye. I have never been on the London Eye so I can't compare, although I know people who have who say that the Windsor Wheel is nowhere near as impressive. That's hardly surprising as the Windsor Wheel is only 60 metres high compared to the London Eye's 135 metres. Also the Wheel trip lasts about twelve minutes compared to the London Eye's half an hour. Therefore it is not really fair to compare as the Windsor Wheel is not going to offer so much but I think it might be a good introductory ride for children before risking the larger London Eye. Also, of course, the differences are also reflected in the prices. A single ride on the Wheel costs £6.50, OAP's £5.50, children £4.50 and a family ticket (two adults and two children) costs £18.50. Compare this with the London Eye's prices of £17 per adult, £14 per concession and £8.75 per child and you are obviously not going to expect the same experience for what you are paying. I thought that paying £18.50 for our family ticket did represent reasonable value. You can also book the VIP capsule if you are feeling particularly flush for a champagne flight which costs £80 per capsule but can take up to six adults and two children. The maximum any capsule will take is eight which was a shame as there were nine of us and we did feel that we could have easily fitted one more little one in. I guess that's all down to health and safety. The capsules are all quite comfortable and are air conditioned. There are lots of safety signs telling you all the things that you should not do such as rock the capsule - as if! All in all, our entire trip lasted approximately twelve minutes and we actually went round five times. From the top of the wheel there are excellent views of Windsor Castle, the town of Windsor and the River Thames. You are also meant to be able to see Wembley Stadium and some of our party thought that they did but I wasn't sure myself. The good thing is that going round a few times, you have more than one opportunity to spot what you miss first time round. You can also listen to a commentary that helps you look out for all the important landmarks. I found it a very enjoyable twelve minute and our two girls were really thrilled to be up so high and able to look down on everything. As you are getting on the wheel you do get your photograph taken and it is there ready and waiting for you at the other end. I expected this to be very expensive but you are offered a souvenir pack that contains two large photos and four postcard sized ones for only £10 (it does actually say £12 on the website but we paid £10). Splitting these between the two families we each paid £5 and we each have one large and two small photos which the girls love. Also, it's worth noting that once you have paid for your photos you also receive a code that means that you can access them on line. The Windsor Wheel does not have its own parking so you will have to use one of the Windsor car parks and they can prove quite expensive. However, the likelihood is that you will combine the Windsor Wheel with doing other things in Windsor such as visiting the castle or, like us, taking boat trip. The wheel is open every day from 10 am until 10 pm. Overall, I really recommend a trip on the Royal Windsor Wheel and it certainly helped to contribute to a great eye. Just be warned though, that if you have already experienced the London Eye you might be a little bit disappointed.