October Half Term in London

Planning a visit to London with the kids for October half-term and wondering what to see and do?

London is a big city, and a visit with little people needs careful planning if you want to avoid the biggest mistakes many first time visitors make, which is not taking into account how much time is required to see the sights, and how long it takes to get from point A to point B in London.

From soaring over the skyline on the London Eye, to rubbing shoulders with heroes and villains at Madame Tussauds, there are hundreds of paid attractions to choose from, but today, we want to share some of the popular free attractions waiting for you in London.

London hotels and restaurants tend to be on the expensive side, but the flip side is that no city in the world has more free things to do.

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
No visit to London is complete without seeing Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Our website is packed with information about the Guard Change ceremonies and ceremonial events that showcase the pomp and pageantry for which Britain is famous.

The Changing the Guard ceremony is a firm favourite with visitors of all ages but the huge crowds and long wait can make it a daunting experience for smaller people so we have added a new page to our website for the half term holiday. Visiting Changing the Guard with children.

London is home to some of the finest museums in the world, with most offering free admission, they are a great option for a rainy day.

The Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Imperial War Museum, the Science Museum and the Museum of London to name a few are all fabulous!

Check them out online to find one that suits your family, or try one of our picks:

  • Science Museum – Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
    Lots of interactive exhibits to keep little people occupied
  • Imperial War Museum – Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
    Huge tanks, and lots of  thought-provoking exhibits that tell the story of modern warfare
  • Museum of London – 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
    The Lord Mayor of London’s Gold Coach, and collections from Roman to modern times bring the history of London alive
  • V&A Museum of Childhood – Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
    See what the kids make of the toys you used to play with

With so many iconic landmarks, visitors to London really are spoilt for choice.

Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge, to name a few, are some of the most recognised London landmarks most visitors want to see and photograph.

To see the sights a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour might be your best bet, although not free, these kid-friendly tours  can be a lot more relaxing than running from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.

No visit to London would be complete, for little people, without popping into Hamleys the finest toy shop in the world or for Mums and Dads looking for inspiration for Christmas presents.

Hamleys on Regent Street is open 10am to 9pm Monday to Saturday and 12 to 6pm on Sundays.

Eating Out
London is overflowing with and exciting restaurants but fine dining and eye watering prices rarely fit the bill for a family day out.

Big name fast food chains abound, but for those looking for good food in child-friendly surroundings there are lots of hidden gems, with reasonable prices, waiting to be discovered.

Suggestions to get you searching for good food at fair prices include:

Rainforest Cafe, in the heart of the West End, is a wonderland for kids where movable creatures come to life in a living, breathing, tropical haven with waterfalls, and rainforest storms.
Where – 20 Shaftsbury Ave, Piccadilly Circus, W1D 4EU
How much –Children’s meals start at £11.50 and adults from around £12 for a two-course meal
Website – http://www.rainforestcafe.co.uk/

Inn The Park, nestling in the heart of St James’s Park, servies locally sourced classic British food. A good lunch time choice, for those who have just watched the Changing of the Guard ceremony, and want an early lunch before heading off to explore London.
Where – St James’s Park, SW1 (near Duck Island)
How much – Children’s meals start at £7.50 and main courses for adults from  £15.00
Website –  www.innthepark.com

Getting around London

The Tube as the quickest and easiest way to get around London and children under 11 can  travel free on the Tube, DLR and London Overground services at any time as long as they are accompanied by an adult using a valid Visitor Oyster card or Travel Card ticket.

Children, buggies and escalators do not make for a relaxing day out, so downloading the Transport for London Step Free Station Guide to help find stations with step-free access, close to the attractions you plan to visit, is time well spent.

When you do get to the station look for the wider ticket barrier, marked with a blue and white disabled sign, which is normally manned by TFL staff, will after you tap your Oyster Card, let the children through.

We suggest you avoid travelling in the morning or evenings rush hours; it gets pretty manic with everyone racing to get to work or home.

Why not add your favourite attractions and kid-friendly eateries and help those visiting find the best places to go and the little tips and tricks that help you get around London with children in tow.

June – Highlights


Trooping The Colour

Trooping The Colour

With The Queen’s Birthday Parade and Beating Retreat to look forward to there is plenty going on in June for those of us who enjoy pomp and ceremony.

2nd June – Coronation Day
Gun Salutes at HM Tower of London and Hyde Park to mark the Coronation, in 1953,  of Queen Elizabeth II. More about Gun Salutes on our website.

6th  June – Trooping the Colour
Colonel’s Review Horse Guards Parade  see the parade on The Mall or the corner of St James’s Park.

10th June – Birthday of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Gun Salutes at HM Tower of London and Hyde Park to mark the 94th Birthday of HRH Prince Philip.

10th June – Beating Retreat 
20:30 on Horse Guards Parade. A spectacular evening pageant of music and military precision drill, including horses, cannon and fireworks. More details and how to get one of the few remaining Beating Retreat tickets

11 June – Beating Retreat
In the presence of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
More details and how to get one of the few remaining Beating Retreat tickets.

13th  June – Queens Birthday Parade
The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards will be Trooping their Colour in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, on Horse Guards Parade, in what is the highlight of the annual ceremonial calendar.

15th  June  – 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta
It was at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, that King John accepted that he would no longer get to make the rules up as he went along. All the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted; uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law,  regular elections,  jury trials and more all flowed from the Magna Carta.

17th June Unveiling of the restored Hougoumont Farm  Waterloo 200 in Belgium
HRH Prince Charles and  The Duchess of Cornwall will  join Belgium’s Princess Astrid for the reopening of Hougoumont Farm as part of the Waterloo 200

Hougoumont Farm played a crucial role in the outcome of the battle you can find out more about Waterloo 200 and the events taking place to commemorate this historic battle.

18th June – Waterloo Commemorative Service at St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral hosts a commemoration service for the Bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo. This service is by invitation only

21st – June Waterloo 200 Parade
The Waterloo Parade from Horse Guards Parade down The Mall including four European visiting bands (Dutch Army Band, Zurich Police Band, Finnish Navy Band, French Artillery Band) British military bands and 200 school children. The spectacular culmination of the Waterloo commemorations both in Belgium and London

27th – June Armed Forces Day
There are hundreds of events taking place to celebrate Armed Forces Day across the country.
Visit the Armed Forces Day website for details of events near your home.

Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day 2015


May Ceremonial Highlights

Lots going on this month to make your visit to London memorable.

4th – 29th May  Gurkha’s On Public Duties

Gurkha's on Public Duties

Gurkha’s on Public Duties

As part of their 200th Anniversary Celebrations, the Gurkha’s will be providing The Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace on various dates during the month. Details on our website

Friday 8th May  – VE Day Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph.
Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a Gun Salute at 15:00, on Wellington Barracks Parade Square, to mark the start of a national two-minute silence.

Saturday 9th May – VE DAY CELEBRATION
 A day of celebration. At around 11:00, cathedrals across the country, from Durham to Canterbury, have been invited to ring their bells in celebration.

Festivities will peak with a star-studded 1940s-themed concert held on Horse Guards Parade on Saturday night, featuring a line-up of international recording artists, stars and celebrities.
The show will be one of the highlights of the year and will be broadcast that evening on BBC One.

10th May  – VE Day Commemoration
Day of Thanksgiving starts with a church service at Westminster Abbey followed by a concert at Trafalgar Square, street parties and a Veterans Village in St James Park.

11th May  – Peckham War Horse Project
Re-enactment of a World War 1 Photograph of horses being prepared for the front line.

13th May  –  Victoria Cross Stone Pavement
Unveiling for LSgt Douglas Belcher VC of The London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) in Kingston

15th May       Guard Mount from Horse Guards
Following a Trooping the Colour rehearsal the New Guard will march from Horse Guards Parade up the Mall to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard ceremony

17th May –  Grenadier Guards Regimental Remembrance Day
Service at 1440 followed by parade

18th May – Guard Mount from Horse Guards

19th May  –  Victoria Cross Stone Pavement
Unveiling for Lt Cdr Martin Dunbar-Nasmith VC (HM Submarine E11) in Richmond

20th May – Guard Mount from Horse Guards

26th May – Guard Mount from Horse Guards

26 May  – Guards’ Chapel Recital Series
Guards Saxaphone Quartet at 13:10 in the Guards’ Chapel, Birdcage Walk, London SW1E 6HQ. Free admission, retiring collection.

27 May – State Opening of Parliament

State Opening of Parliment

State Opening of Parliment. More details about the State Opening on our website.

30 May – Trooping The Colour 
The Major’s General’s Review at 10:30 on Horse Guards.
Salute to be taken by Maj Gen E. A. Smyth-Osborne, CBE, Major General Commanding The Household Division.

Trooping The Colour

Trooping The Colour. More information about Trooping the Colour on our website.


ANZAC Day Dawn Service in London

This morning’s ANZAC Day dawn service and commemoration at Wellington Arch.

Read the story and see more pictures of the poignant ANZAC Day service of commemoration and memorial on our website.

Wellington Arch -Floodlit for the ceremony

Wellington Arch -Floodlit for the ceremony. Photographer: Sgt Rupert Frere RLC

Band of the Scots Guards

Band of the Scots Guards Photographer: Sgt Rupert Frere RLC

HRH The Princess Royal attended with representatives from Australia, and New Zealand

HRH The Princess Royal attended with representatives from Australia, and New Zealand. Photographer: Sgt Rupert Frere RLC


April Ceremonial and Event Highlights

If you’re asking yourself what to do in London this month, then you’re looking in the right place. Here are highlights of  the events, ceremonial and commemorative, taking place this month!

21 April – Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Gun Salutes

A 41 Gun Salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, (KTRHA), will be fired in Green Park at noon.

A 62 Gun Salute by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) at Gun Wharf, Tower of London at 1300 hours. Free Event. Learn more about Gun Salutes

23 April 15 St. George’s Day Concert

St Georges’s Day concert by The Band of The Coldstream Guards at Cadogan Hall at 19:30.

More information on the Cadogan Hall website

25 April – Gallipoli Centenary Commemorations

Descendants of those who fought in the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign will be taking part in a London ceremony marking the 100th  anniversary at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London.

25 April – ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

An ANZAC Day Service is to be held at the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, probably Australia’s most important national occasion.

ANZAC Day - London

ANZAC Day – London

26 April – London Marathon

28 April  – The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery Major General’s Inspection

Members of the public are invited to attend this FREE colourful and spectacular event and also watch the world-famous Musical Drive. The Band of the Royal Artillery will be in support.

See Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery perform the world famous musical Drive in Regents Park FREE!

Provisional Details: 11:45 – Gloucester Green, located in the North-eastern corner of Regent’s Park, close to the London Zoo. We will post confirmation on FacebookTwitter and G+

Kings Troop RHA at the gallop

Kings Troop RHA at the gallop

28 April –  Guards’ Chapel Recital Series

With music by Clarinet & Saxophone soloists from the Welsh Guards Band.

At 13:10 in the Guards’ Chapel, Birdcage Walk, London SW1.  Free admission, retiring collection.

Guards Chapel

Guards Chapel the religious home of the Household Division


Secret London

Remembering the look of disbelief coming over a friends face when I said; “Just over 7,300”, in response to his question “How many people live in the City of London?” as thousands of commuters, heading for their offices hurried past, the coffee cart where were standing, made me realise how confusing London is for many visitors.

Although London is the capital of the United Kingdom there are actually two cities within London – The City of London and the City of Westminster and to add to the confusion the Greater London area that is home to over 8 million people.

The City of London (which is a ceremonial county) and The City of Westminster (which is in fact a borough) both have a Lord Mayor, each of London’s 31 other boroughs has its own local Mayor, and since 2000 London has elected the Mayor of London (that’s 34 Mayors all told!).

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London, an office dating from 1189, is the head of the City of London Corporation, which provides local, policing and other services for the Square Mile.
The Mayor of London is an elected politician accountable for the strategic government of Greater London (but not the Square Mile).

Confused? Perhaps this lighted hearted video by C G P Grey will separate the wood from the trees, and explain why I decided to call this article Secret London. But, I should add the numbers quoted, in the video, are not accurate according to my informed sources.

Link to City of London Map

City of London Map

Famous attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral draw millions of visitors to the City of London every year but there is a lot more to see and do.

With a history stretching back to Roman times the City is home to historic pubs, hidden in alleyways, museums, art galleries, countless memorials and impressive ceremonies are just a few of the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered in the famous ‘Square Mile’ where some of country’s most famous historic buildings nestle among the steel and glass canyons created by modern skyscrapers.

On your journey, through streets thronged with people heading to and from work  during the week, or eerily quiet at the weekend when they have all gone home, the narrow alleyways and cobbled mews, reveal unexpected treasures where stories and secrets abound, nowhere less so than behind the doors of the City’s 40 Livery Company halls (Guilds).

Two thousand years of self-government, a fire which destroyed most of the city, and championing common law against state encroachment all play a part in the impressive ceremonies, customs, traditions, offices, events, landmarks and institutions that have formed the foundations of this great and famous City.

An ideal companion, to discover more about the Square Mile’s ceremonies customs and traditions is ‘The City of London Freeman’s Guide’.

Ever wanted to stay overnight in a Livery Hall, attend the Ceremony of the Quit Rents, Drive sheep across London Bridge, visit the Court of Chivalry, find out if your ancestor was a Freeman of a Livery Company, stand for election as an Ale Conner, or enjoy a curry lunch on HQS Wellington?

These and hundreds of other facts associated with the City, Livery and Freedom in modern times are to be found in this handy guidebook.

ebook cover

The City of London Freeman’s Guide

The City of London Freeman’s Guide is available in eBook format from Amazon and the Apple iBook Store, and in hardback from
St Paul’s Cathedral Book store, The City Visitor Centre, The Guildhall Art Gallery and The Guildhall Library.

The guide is also available ‘print on demand’ from Blurb.com

 All proceeds go to the charitable trust of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists supporting education, assistive technologies for seriously disabled children, and other worthy causes.

Further details from: www.cityandlivery.co.uk

Queen’s Guard Fit For Duty

Today the British Army’s Public Duties Incremental Companies and the Bands of the Household Division were subjected to rigorous scrutiny in the build up to the 2015 ceremonial season.

In the toughest test of their year the guards who in their iconic red tunics and bearskin caps epitomise British Military tradition have, to the relief of all, once more been judged fit for public duties.

Visit our website for the full story and more pictures.

Garrison Sergeant Major, WO1 William Mott OBE MVO inspects Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.

Garrison Sergeant Major, WO1 William Mott OBE MVO inspects Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards. Photographer: Sgt. Rupert Frere RLC

Visiting London This Summer?

Summer sunshine and balmy June evenings may seem a long way ahead in the dark cold days of winter but to see the most spectacular of London’s ceremonial events you need to plan ahead. Remember it was not raining when Noah built the ark.

Ceremonial events take place throughout the country, and indeed the world, but few are as high profile as The Queen’s Birthday Parade and the Household Division Beating Retreat.

Visitors to London in June can with a bit of forward planning and a slice of good luck go home with a lifetime of memories of their visit to these highlights of the ceremonial calendar

The Queen’s Birthday Parade

Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade

Queen’s Birthday Parade

Carried out by fully operational troops, from the Household Cavalry and Foot Guards of the Household Division, The Queen’s Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, is the highlight of the military ceremonial year.

With Her Majesty the Queen herself attending and taking the salute over 1400 officers and men are on parade, together with two hundred horses and over four hundred musicians from the massed bands of the Household Division.

This impressive display of pageantry takes place on Saturday the 13th June 2015 and there are two reviews, (full dress rehearsals), the Colonel’s Review on Saturday the 6th  June and the Major General’s Review on Saturday the 30th May.

Tickets, to the seated stands on Horse Guards Parade, for The Queen’s Birthday Parade and the Reviews, are allocated by ballot.  Applications must be in writing and should be made before the end of  February.

To learn more about The Queen’s Birthday Parade and how to apply for tickets visit our website.

With the parade route extending from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade and back again there are plenty of places to stand and enjoy the procession even if you cannot get tickets.

The Royal Family appear on the Palace balcony for a fly-past by the Royal Air Force at 1 ‘o’ clock.

Beating Retreat

Household Division Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade

Household Division Beating Retreat

Beating Retreat – the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, promises to be even more spectacular this year.

The Massed Bands, Pipes and Drums and Corps of Drums of the Household Division, supported by The King’s Troop Royal and visiting military bands from around the world take part in colourful pageant set to music.

Cannons, horses, fireworks and music, modern, classical and military combine to create what is one the real highlights of the ceremonial calendar that has been described by many as epic!

Beating Retreat refers to a military drum call that can trace its origins to 16th Century England and was first used to recall nearby units to their castle. Over the centuries that followed it developed into a musical ceremonial event that is practiced throughout the Commonwealth but it is at its most spectacular in the magnificent surroundings of Horse Guards Parade

Beating Retreat will take place on the evenings of Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th June 2015.

Book tickets for the Household Division Beating Retreat in 2015 early to avoid disappointment.

Ceremonial Events

You can find details of more of the ceremonial events scheduled to take place in London this year on our website and updates on the social media channels we use.

End Of An Era

welsh-guards-sentryThe threat of lone wolf attacks by Muslim extremists has brought to an end to the iconic sight of the Queen’s Guard, in their scarlet uniforms and bearskin caps, standing outside the gates of St James’s Palace and Clarence House.

The Guards, and their sentry boxes, were moved behind the gates of St James’s Palace and Clarence House in the latter part of December and the guards are now accompanied by armed police officers, for the first time since the height of the IRA terror campaign.

Visitors heading for Pall Mall, hoping to get a picture standing alongside the lone Guardsman on duty outside St James’s Palace,  will be disappointed this year as the sentry has been relocated.

The Queen’s Lifeguard, on their horses, will also be protected by armed police officers while on sentry duty at Horse Guards, the official entrance to St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony, which attracts millions of visitors to Buckingham Palace, will still take place as normal.grenadiers-guard-mount

Whilst sad to see the troubled times we live in bring about the end of an era the move provides more protection for the Guards on duty without compromising tradition.


Merry Christmas

May your Christmas be filled with lots of presents but more importantly lots of love from the ones that matter most to you.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year