Watch: The Garden at Buckingham Palace opens to visitors for the summer
The Queen's Buckingham Palace gardens are set to open for picnics and self-guided tours in what has been billed as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The London palace usually opens for guided tours during the summer months but COVID-19 means it has not been able open for tourists in Summer 2020 or 2021.
However to give royal fans a new experience, the Royal Collection Trust, which manages the palaces on behalf of the crown, has opened the spacious gardens in the capital and is allowing unprecedented freedom for guests.
Demand for tickets was so high when the palace announced the plans in April that the website had to stop making sales temporarily.
Visitors will be able to bring their own picnic to the grounds to enjoy and then show themselves around the garden, where they could even have a snoop in the Queen's summer house.
There's a 156-metre Herbaceous Border, plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and views of the island and beehives to be spotted across the 3.5-acre lake.
The RCT previously said the opening would offer "unprecedented freedom" for visitors in 2021, with "a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to picnic with views of the Palace".
Although visitors will be free to explore the gardens for themselves, the RCT said there will be "daily talks by Visitor Services Wardens and trails for families included as part of the visit".
It added: "Art and craft activities will be available in locations throughout the garden for visitors with children on Mondays in July and August (from 19 July) and as part of two Family Festival days on 26 and 30 August, where Warden-led family tours will also be available."
To mark the summer opening there's also a new range of merchandise available from the Buckingham Palace shop, including picnic blanket, cotton napkins, a reusable water bottle and a sandwich bag.
There is also strawberry and champagne jam and buttery shortbread biscuits which can be taken home as a souvenir or enjoyed with the picnics.
A sneak peek into the Queen’s summerhouse - which is guarded by a rather inquisitive four-legged friend (a gift to the Queen, by all accounts). Loving the 80s furniture! pic.twitter.com/wEiK8YIMLl
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) July 8, 2021
However visitors are unlikely to spot the Queen during their trip. She has been living mostly at Windsor Castle since March 2020, and spends her summers in Scotland where possible.
Her annual Buckingham Palace Garden Parties have had to be postponed two years in a row, with the guests who were set to attend the 2020 event now invited to be there in 2022, the same year as the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
She would also host one in Scotland at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in normal times, but that has also been postponed.
Her grandson Prince William hosted a group of NHS workers and volunteers on Monday for a thank you party as part of a national day to mark the efforts of frontline workers in the pandemic.
His wife Kate was due to join him but is having to self-isolate after being in contact with someone who has COVID-19. She has had both coronavirus vaccines and regularly takes lateral flow tests before engagements.
The Garden at Buckingham Palace will open from Friday, 9 July to Sunday, 19 September 2021. Tickets are priced at £16.50 for adults. Garden Highlights Guided Tours should be booked with the main ticket and are priced at £6.50 for adults. Tours will run 12 times a day.
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