There are exactly sixty days to go until 16 June, the official birthday of the Queen, who celebrates sixty years on the thronethis year. To mark the occasions, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be making a series of regional visits, ahead of the celebrations on Jubilee weekend (2 – 5 June). She will attend the Epsom Derby on 2 June, travel in the Royal Barge leading the flotilla in the Thames Jubilee Pageant on Sunday 3 June, and light the National Beacon on 4 June. On 4 June Buckingham Palace will host a BBC Concert, featuring British and Commonwealth musicians.
Here are sixty ways everyone can enjoy Britain’s unique Royal heritage in this very special Diamond Jubilee year.
1. Buckingham Palace No trip to London is complete without peering through the gates of Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of Britain’s sovereign. A spectacular exhibition, Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration (30 June – 7 Oct) shows the many ways the precious stone has been used by monarchs over the last 200 years, including an unprecedented display of the Queen’s personal jewels.
2. Trooping the Colour The Queen’s official birthday, Trooping the Colour is the biggest royal event of the year. Taking place 16 June this year (it’s always the second Saturday in June), the event is attended by thousands of spectators who stand along the Mall to catch a glimpse of the Queen in her carriage and soak up the pageantry.
3. Balmoral Castle and Estate Take a tour around Balmoral Castle; a favourite summer residence of the Royal Family. As well as the castle, the estate itself covers 50,000 acres of heather clad hills and ancient Caledonian woodland.
4. Ceremony of the Keys Book ahead to watch the Ceremony of the Keys (the traditional locking-up of the Tower of London). It’s happened every night for at least 700 years and is a fascinating piece of history to watch live in action.
5. Windsor Castle The largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, Windsor is one of the official residences of The Queen. Right now you can experience The Queen: Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years (main picture, until Jan 2013), a royal life captured by leading photographers in a fascinating exhibition.
6. Changing the Guard The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place in front of Buckingham Palace at 11.30 every day in summer and every other day in winter. It’s free to watch and provides a wonderful glimpse of British Royal pageantry.
7. Royal Crown Derby china is synonymous with the Queen and quality: an exhibition, Throne (until 7 Sept) evokes the atmosphere of the 1950s, complete with a street party scene, as well as the most comprehensive collection of Royal Crown Derby commemorative ever seen on public display.
8. Edinburgh Castle Explore this astonishing castle fortress which dominates Edinburgh’s skyline from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Home to the Honours of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels), there are centuries of royal history to discover.
9. Hampton Court Palace Favourite stomping ground of the notorious King Henry VIII, Hampton Court is the oldest Tudor palace in England and has endless attractions including the Tudor kitchens, its world-famous maze and the State and King’s Apartments.
10. St Paul’s Cathedral Sir Christopher Wren’s iconic domed masterpiece in the centre of London has been the venue for numerous Royal occasions including the Golden Jubilee and 80th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen and the marriage of Price Charles and Lady Diana. On 5 June a Service of Thanksgiving will be held in the Cathedral.
11. Tower of London Spanning over 900 years of Royal history, the Tower of London has been a fortress, palace, prison, arsenal, garrison and menagerie! It houses the Crown Jewels, armouries, Yeoman Warders and the famous ravens. A re-presented Jewel House has been unveiled to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; the display explores the importance of the Crown Jewels to the British monarchy and the role of the Tower in protecting these valuable treasures.
12. Palace of Holyroodhouse Visit the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse has many connections with Scotland’s turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived there in the 16th century. An exhibition entitled Treasures from the Queen’s Palaces brings together 100 outstanding works from the Royal Collection from eight royal residences and five centuries, including paintings by Rembrandt, drawings by Leonardo and Michelangelo and Imperial Easter Eggs by Fabergé.
13. Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection. Right now it is showing the largest ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s studies of the human body in Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist (until 7 October).
14. Leonardo da Vinci is the subject of a Diamond Jubilee touring exhibition, featuring ten of his finest drawings from the Royal Collection: it went to Birmingham earlier in the year, is currently showing in Bristol, and will move on to Belfast, Dundee and Hull.
15. Following its show at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Norwich Castle is next to host a Diamond Jubilee exhibition of Cecil Beaton’s portraits of the Queen (Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 7 July – 30 Sept), celebrating her roles as princess, monarch and mother.
16. Wimbledon Tennis Championship The most famous tennis tournament in the world is always a favourite of the Royal Family. See players bow to the Royal box before games and receive winners’ trophies from senior Royals.
17. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich presents an exhibition on the Thames, London’s greatest thoroughfare. Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames (until 9 Sept) brings together 400 objects celebrating the country’s iconic river.
18. Renishaw Hall and Gardens in North Derbyshire is part of the Sitwell family who still care for the beautiful property. Their family’s 400 year links with British as well as European Royalty are revealed in an exhibition entitled Royalty and Renishaw with many never-before-seen items, and watercolours of Balmoral from when the family leased the property before Queen Victoria.
19. Sandringham The much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty The Queen, Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. You can tour the estate in the spring and summer. The current exhibition, Faithful Companions, explores the Queen’s relationship with her beloved corgis and dorgis.
20. Westminster Abbey Visit the place where monarchs are crowned. It’s a world Heritage Site and burial place of scores of famous Britons including Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Darwin.
21. Royal Brighton Pavilion Tour this magnificent building, the favourite getaway of the Prince Regent later, King George IV. The King’s only daughter Charlotte tragically died during childbirth, and The Forgotten Princess exhibition (until March 2013) at the Royal Brighton Pavilion, explores her short life.
22. Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk Follow this Royal route that takes in four beautiful parks and the buildings and residences that Princess Diana made famous.
23. Kensington Palace The birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, Kensington Palace has been transformed and reopened after extensive refurbishment with a new permanent exhibition Victoria Revealed, celebrating her life and reign through her own personal journals and objects. Jubilee: A view from the Crown (until 4 Nov) tells the story of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 from the perspective of those who were there, from Duchesses for street sellers.
24. Royal Tunbridge Wells Explore this historic Spa Town that was granted a “Royal” title by King Edward VII to celebrate its popularity over the years amongst members of the Royal Family.
25. Rugby at Twickenham Prince William and Harry are keen rugby supporters and are often seen watching international matches at Twickenham. Mike Tindall, the husband-to-be of the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Philips, is also a professional player for England. It’s the site for the final of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
26. Stirling Castle See the story of the monarchy in Scotland unfold before your eyes at this majestic fortress that’s been a royal stronghold, a regimental garrison and coronation site of several Scottish Kings and Queens including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543.
27. Thornbury Castle Stay in this luxurious castle that once entertained kings and queens – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn once walked the rooms and grounds. You can even stay in a room where they slept!
28. Tintagel Castle Head to the wild and unspoiled cliffs of Tintagel to discover the mythical birthplace of King Arthur. Legend has it that this ancient king was born here and that the wizard Merlin lived in a cave nearby.
29. Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness Robert the Bruce controlled this key castle after he became King of Scots and today you’ll get a real sense of Urquhart’s strategic importance. With commanding views over Loch Ness it’s also beautifully sited.
30. Royal Armouries Leeds Explore the United Kingdom’s national collection of arms and armour at Leeds and the Tower of London. See terrifying weaponry from all over the world including dazzling Royal pieces used by British monarchs.
31. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Visit the world famous historic ships at the home of the Royal Navy. Go aboard HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and see the Mary Rose Museum for a great day out in the South of England.
32. Poundbury Visit the experimental urban village of Poundbury on the outskirts of Dorchester. It’s built according to the principles of Prince Charles, who’s known for holding strong views challenging the post-war trends in town planning.
33. Royal Albert Hall This distinctive building is recognised the world over. Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall was named after her deceased husband Prince Albert. Each year it hosts more than 350 stage performances, including the world famous Proms.
34. Royal Leamington Spa Leamington is best-known for its natural springs. Don’t miss the magnificent Royal Pump Rooms and Baths, which opened in 1814 attracting royal visitors hoping to soothe various ailments by bathing in the spa pools.
35. Henley Royal Regatta Henley is a rowing event held every July on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames and is a highlight of the traditional English social calendar.
36. Fortnum and Mason This iconic retailer has had royal connections for over 300 years, since William Fortnum became a footman to Queen Anne. It holds two royal warrants and is renowned for the quality of its tea and its tail-coated shop assistants.
37. Frogmore House Set in Windsor’s Home Park, Frogmore House is renowned for its beautiful landscaped garden and 18th-century lake, and is where Queen Victoria is buried.
38. Haddon Hall Haddon Hall is a fine example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence. Recently it has become a favourite film location, and provided a dramatic backdrop for the film “Elizabeth”
39. Household Cavalry Museum The Household Cavalry Museum is a living museum about real people doing a real job in a real place. You can see troopers working with horses in the original 18th-century stables and hear first-hand accounts of their rigorous and demanding training.
40. Inverlochy Castle Nestling in the foothills of Ben Nevis, Inverlochy Castle sits amidst some of Scotland’s finest scenery – and you can stay there! Visiting in 1873, Queen Victoria spent a week sketching and painting and wrote ‘I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’.
41. Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden This vast medieval fortress which became an Elizabethan palace is one of Britain’s largest and has connections with many monarchs, especially Queen Elizabeth I, who visited her favourite, Robert Dudley while he lived there.
42. Leeds Castle Near Maidstone in Kent, Leeds Castle is set in 500 acres of beautiful parkland and gardens, and is the result of 900 years of alterations and changes. It was a royal palace to the medieval and Tudor kings and queens of England.
43. Touring exhibition The Queen: Art and Image brings together 60 images of Elizabeth II spanning the 60 years of her reign – some on public display for the first time, including works by Andy Warhol, Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz. The exhibit has been to Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff (until 29 Apr) and ends in the National Portrait Gallery from 17 May – 21 Oct.
44. Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich Originally established by Royal Charter in 1694 for the relief and support of seamen and their dependants, and planned by Sir Christopher Wren, the Old Royal Naval College later housed the Royal Naval College.
45. Open top bus tour, London Check out the top royal locations in London with an open top bus tour. Hop on and hop off at palaces, squares, museums and galleries en route.
46. The Museum of London’s Jubilee exhibition is a little different: At Home with the Queen (until 4 Nov) showcases photographs of Londoners in their own homes, pictured with their own treasured mementoes of the Queen.
47. Patey Hats Top hats, bowler hats, polo caps, and hats for shows including Evita, and Les Miserables: Royal warrant holders Patey have been making hats of all types for over 200 years.
48. Penrhyn Castle Located between Snowdonia and the Isle of Anglesey, this enormous 19th-century neo-Norman castle is crammed with fascinating items, such as a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria.,
49. Chillingham Castle Once ‘base-camp’ for the 1298 conquering attack on William Wallace (“Braveheart”) by King Edward I, today it is visited as one of the most haunted stately homes in Britain.
50. 1066 Battle of Hastings: Abbey & Battlefield Discover the birthplace of English history, where the infamous Battle of Hastings was fought between William Duke of Normandy and the Saxon King Harold in 1066. The quaint town of Battle now stands where William the Conqueror built a great Abbey following his victory.
51. Airth Castle Be King or Queen for the night with a stay at Airth Castle Hotel. Tucked away in the Scottish Heartlands on William the Conqueror’s old stomping grounds, the 17th-century castle is framed with traditional turrets and surrounded by perfectly manicured grounds.
52. Albert Memorial Recently repaired in a conservation project by English Heritage, this gleaming gold statue memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria following the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert.
53. Amberley Castle Built in 1100, the castle has been visited by many royals including Henry VIII and Elizabeth II. Set in West Sussex and briefly owned by the Duke of Norfolk, the castle now houses a luxury hotel.
54. Arundel Castle This spectacular castle is the current home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, but is open to visitors year-round. It has been featured in many films, including Young Victoria and The Madness of King George.
55. Asprey With locations in two of London’s most fashionable neighbourhoods, Asprey holds a Royal Warrant bestowed by Queen Victoria in 1862 and is a premier British maker of luxury goods including leather, jewellery, china, and glass.
56. Banqueting House Whitehall The only remaining structure after Whitehall Palace burned in 1698, Banqueting House has been the backdrop for major events in British Royal history including the beheading of Charles I!
57. Borthwick Castle Find this twin-towered fortress in the rolling green hills of Scotland. Steeped in history, the castle is said to be haunted by a servant girl from the time of Lord Bothwick, who hosted Mary Queen of Scots on her honeymoon.
58. Braemar Gathering Her Majesty the Queen is patron of the Highland Games in Braemar (the Braemar Gathering). The celebration is loud and boisterous, featuring traditional Highland dancing and sports competitions (and the requisite bagpiping!).
59. Caernarfon Castle Towering above this pre-Roman town’s picturesque harbour, the medieval fortress at Caernarfon was built by Edward I and offers beautiful views of the Menai Strait, the Isle of Anglesey and the Irish Sea beyond.
60. Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh Just one mile from city centre, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers visitors peace and tranquility amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery. Founded in 1670, the Garden is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the world.