03 Oct London’s Lost Palace: A Review
The Lost Palace Tour
I wasn’t sure what to expect on a self-guided tour of an invisible Palace: basically one that had burnt to the ground many centuries ago. Logistically it all sounded a bit bizarre, but, keen to see how the people behind the idea, Historic Royal Palaces, would actually pull it off, curiosity got the better of me.
The Lost Palace Tour is a walk around the area that was once the stunning Whitehall Palace. There’s not a whole lot to see in some ways, so the tour encourages you to imagine through sounds, descriptions and historical facts. You start from the Banqueting House, which is still standing. Here, you are given a monstrosity of a handheld instrument that guides you down the past the grandiose headquarters of M15 and through your tour.
Whitehall Palace was an enormous building, with over 1,500 rooms, and a royal home for both The Tudors and Stuarts. As you wander the route, you’re encouraged to imagine both the size of the building, plus some of the intricate details and occurrences behind the windows. We have an inside seat on an imaginary cockfight, feel what it must have been like to be Charles I as he approached the scaffold, and hear the lapping of the Thames as it caressed the stone walls of the Palace.
Whilst what they’ve done is impressive, I do feel that the creators have missed some obvious tricks. If you’re not familiar with that period of English history you will be pretty much at a loss, so beginning with a quick tour of who was who would make sense. I also miss the human presence of a real life guide, someone who can field questions, put on silly accents or just give you their own opinion. Negotiating the streets with a handheld device was fine on a bright summer’s day but I wouldn’t fancy it on a wet wintery morning, with the streets full of angry drivers who don’t care that you’ve stopped to look up at the invisible facade of a long gone Palace. I’m not sure that children would last the length of the tour either, even my attention span was flagging! But I may be wrong here.
The tour, for me, was made at the end, with the final stop at the Banqueting House, the only remaining part of the Lost Palace that didn’t burn down. It is a stunning hall built for masquerades, where you can lie back on bean bags and revel in Rubens’ glorious ceiling. You don’t, however, have to go on the tour to see this. You can book for this alone.
The Lost palace tour has finished its limited opening run. I guess that they are tweaking the format perhaps, but you can show your interest for when it next starts here