Last weekend we went to Windsor castle. It’s one of those sights you almost have to visit when you’re in London, and despite living here for over 6 years we never have.

It turned out we hadn’t missed much. Big castle, yes. Lots of fancy old furniture, yes. Lots of paintings and tapestries and porcelain, yes. But ultimately it was just a castle like most others, with nothing particularly interesting to say about itself – all gilded surface and little else.

The first room you see with fine furniture and paintings is impressive. The second and third ones are nice. But after a while it’s difficult to feel impressed about it, especially because most of the interior was fairly… boring. Expensive and kind of beautiful but utterly conventional. Nothing stood out because of its innovative design or striking individuality.

Instead it made me think about what an immense waste of resources it all was. I guess it becomes a habit, an agglomeration of wealth that feeds itself. Imagine you’re an ambassador or something like that, two hundred years ago, and you want the king to be favourably inclined towards your projects. You have an audience with the king, and of course you bring a gift. You probably bring something expensive but relatively conventional – some example of fine craftsmanship. So the stuff piles up whether the king wants it or not.

I also thought of what could have been done to make the visit more interesting. One way would have been to offer themed tours. Instead of a one-size-fits-all audio tour that necessarily presumes that you know nothing about castles and that you are interested in hearing a welcome talk by Prince Charles, how about a talk about the handicraft (masonry and carpentry and metalworks) that has gone into the building of the castle? Or about the logistics of running a castle, or the castle from the point of view of the staff, or the castle and international relations, or the castle in times of war, or meals and feasts at the castle? Any of these would have been better than the generic presentation. And it shouldn’t be that expensive to produce an hour’s worth of talk, or even just half an hour.

Westminster Abbey is another one of those must-see places we haven’t visited. Now I’m not so sure we will… Is it worth visiting, do you think?