LONDON (Reuters) – Visitors will be able to meander unaccompanied through the gardens of Queen Elizabeth’s London home for the first time from Friday – and enjoy a picnic while they’re there.
There have previously been guided tours of Buckingham Palace’s 39-acre grounds, whose current landscape dates back to 1820.
But this year a 16.50 pound ($22.70) ticket, available until September, will allow tourists to explore the gardens by themselves.
“We sadly haven’t been able to open the state rooms this year because of the current (coronavirus) situation as we might ordinarily have done and therefore it’s wonderful to be able to open the garden instead ,” Sally Goodsir, from the Royal Collection Trust which manages the royal palaces, told media.
Visitors will be able to see the gardens’ 156-metre herbaceous border, its beehives, and plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and picnic on its manicured lawns while treating themselves to some royal-themed picnic accessories such as a blanket and cotton napkins.
Traditionally, the queen hosts three annual garden parties at the palace but these have had to be cancelled for the last two years because of the pandemic. Likewise, the opening of the state rooms to the public during the summer months, which has taken place since 1993, has also not been able to go ahead.
Last month, officials said royal finances had taken a hit from the pandemic, losing out on the millions normally received from ticket sales.
The palace is part way through a 10-year 369 million pound refit to replace electrical wiring, boilers, and refurbish other ageing infrastructure.
Work has been accelerated during the pandemic while the queen has spent most of the her time at her Windsor Castle home outside London.
($1 = 0.7265 pounds)
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by John Stonestreet)