The burnt orange tips of old-world spires peeked out from behind the trees that lined the road from London to Egham, where Royal Holloway laid its roots.
“Ummmm, why are we not exploring that castle?!” I called out as my head whisked round to see possibly the finest building I had ever laid eyes on becoming smaller and smaller as we whizzed down the road. He gallantly turned the car round, much to my excitement.
“Ahhhh you have to see it! I came here for a fresher’s week one year when I was still in school, and I remember this friend, he just blacks out after a couple drinks, just rolling down this hill and we went off to keep partying!” he said.
“It’s a pretty university,” his friend, G, noted, clearly understating the grandeur of the university as we pulled up the drive and into a carpark.
Pretty was not the word I’d have used for the mass of detailed carvings and copper finishings that defined Royal Holloway. It’s absolute perfection.
We traipsed past the woodlands fringing the campus and beyond a set of stone stairs burst a corner of the main building, captivating in all its orange glory. Beyond that exterior forms a cloister (grand though it is), wherein a statute of the esteemed Queen Victoria on her throne sits, guarding the university as it were. In fact, in 1886 she opened the infamous Founder’s building (this here incredible structure!). We raced up the stairs to overlook the square. Given the beginnings of a lazy Summer, hardly no one was on campus, and we had the entire scope to ourselves.
“Let’s explore,” I insisted.
“I don’t think there’s much more here than this square,” G said, as the two boys lent over the stone fence to see what lay beneath.
“No-oo-o but inside there’d be plenty,” I followed. Without waiting for our little trio to deliberate, I pushed open the glass-panelled door into the rather dark and dusty interior. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him shrug and laugh to G before following my footsteps.
“Ok, we’re definitely not meant to be here.”
“Meh – they don’t know we don’t go here.”
“We don’t exactly look like we know where we’re going.”
“Shhhh! Come on.” Pushing hard on a rather old and creaky door led to a stairwell, and we bounded up the stairs, the single grand stained glass window shedding a panel of light onto us every time we rounded a corner in the seemingly never-ending staircase. Eventually, we made it as far as we could before a student pass was needed to get through any further.
“Looks like this is our stop,” he said, holding the door open for G and I.
The corridor was eerily quiet. We followed the reddish carpet to the right until we hit the end. A classroom opened up and in it we found a series of ornate portraits, old and dusty just like something you’d expect to find behind a forgotten door at Hogwarts. A noise scampered back in the corridor, and we rushed out and closed the door quietly behind us. A professor eyed us up and down without breaking his step, and he slipped into the classroom we had just been investigating. Deciding our foray to the near-top of Royal Holloway was over, we unclasped another door (having forgotten which one we had originally come in through – there are so many doors along these halls?!). Another staircase opened up in front of us, but this time tight spirals so far down the light didn’t catch it. Heedlessly, I led the way, taking careful steps as somehow the steepness made the tiny steps feel even tinier.
Spilling back onto the main square, we dusted ourselves off (someone may have slipped and fallen on the stairs, but I won’t say who…) and made our way back to Wolfgang, our foray into an English castle (in my eyes) well and truly a success xx