What?: It might have been a shit year for tourism, but it’s been a great one for playing tourist in your own town – especially if you really hate people. We’d usually give hotspots like Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge a pretty wide berth but, now that they’re basically empty thanks to social-distancing rules and a complete lack of tourists, they’ve massively upped their appeal.
The Royal Mews has never really been on my radar. I’m hardly a royalist to say the least, plus I’ve always just assumed that anything to do with the royal family will likely be expensive, overcrowded, not particularly suitable for small children and not that fun, so I’d written this one off without so much as checking out the website.
Anyway, we were very kindly invited over by the Royal Collection Trust, who promised horses and an absence of crowds, so I figured we might as well. Our trip to Windsor Castle – also courtesy of RCT – last month wasn’t the most successful outing ever as far as the toddler was concerned, but that was almost entirely because we had to ditch her buggy and then try and coax her around a one-way system without letting her touch anything, so we were kind of doomed from the get go.
Thankfully the Royal Mews is all housed in and around a series of outbuildings, which meant not only did it feel like a much less formal affair than the castle, but we were also allowed to keep hold of the buggy. Having said that, since it was all outside and there wasn’t anything valuable for her to get her crusty little mitts on, we were able to emancipate her, which always makes everyone’s lives easier… at least until she knackers herself out charging around and installs herself face down on the ground screaming.
Anyway, it probably goes without saying that the horses were the highlight for the kids. The child-friendly multimedia guide with horse narrators was also a big hit for both of them, despite it being aimed at significantly older children. It also distracted them long enough to allow us to actually read things, as opposed to them getting so bored they do a runner, forcing us to chase them through a one-way system we can’t go back through, reaching the end within five minutes and leaving wondering what the hell we just saw (which is what happens on basically every other outing we go on).
Sure, the Mews is, essentially, a series of large, cold rooms housing various priceless vehicles belonging to the Queen, but if you’re willing to put away your scepticism when it comes to the monarchy for an afternoon (or indeed your hatred of overpriced tourist traps that as a hardened Londoner you’re required to harbour) then it’s actually a surprisingly fun activity. And it would be even more fun if Covid would eff off so they could reopen the interactives – which include an opportunity to step into a replica Semi-State Landau, the chance to dress up as a footman and a wooden pony that you’re invited to tack – although you can still virtually try on a Royal Mews Coachman uniform via an Instagram app, so there’s that.
When and where?: The Royal Mews can be found on Buckingham Gate and are around a five-minute walk from Victoria Station. Usual opening times are Thursday-Monday 11am-5pm, though the Mews is currently closed until 2021.
Prices: Fairly steep for a relatively short-lived activity at £13 per adult and £7.50 for kids, although on the plus side under-5s go free.
Best bits: The staff were brilliant and the horses were lush.
Worst bits: No bad bits at all really.
Would we come back? I’d like to come back when the interactives are back in action, but it feels like the sort of thing you do every few years rather than months.
Disclaimer: this was a gifted experience but my reviews are always completely (sometimes painfully) honest.
Daddy, Babu and Roro meet Gordon and Londonderry at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace.