I had the great fortune of witnessing one of the most time honored traditions in the world when I traveled with Insight Vacations to London.
For over seven hundred years The Ceremony of the Keys has taken place every evening at 9:52 pm at The Tower of London and involved the locking of the gates to the Tower. This Ceremony is limited to only a small group of guests and is sold out on average nine to ten months in advance. Lucky for us however, Insight Vacations includes this event on their Luxurious London and Paris itinerary as part of their Luxury Gold collection.
We were greeted at the Tower gate by a Yeoman Warder, or a Beefeater as they are more popularly known, who gave us a tour of the Tower grounds for over an hour. We had the Tower to ourselves which set the stage for a one of a kind atmosphere. He had our group captivated with stories of those who had once been prisoners, those who had met an unfortunate fate of beheadings or worse, and ghost stories that had us all looking around a little nervously.
We enjoyed spectacular views of Tower Bridge and the many buildings inside the Tower walls. After an overview of the Ceremony, we walked to Traitor’s Gate and stood in silence as the clock neared 9:52 pm. The Chief Yeoman Warder and four foot guards marched to the Outer Gate where it was locked before marching on and locking the oak gates of the Middle and Byward Towers. After marching back to Traitor’s Gate they proceed to an area outside the White Tower where the main Guard stand at attention. After a brief exchange and a yell of “God preserve Queen Elizabeth”, the keys are taken to the Queen’s House and the Guard is dismissed at precisely 10:00 pm. It was an incredible experience! To witness an event that has taken place every evening for over seven hundred years was an incredible experience and the highlight of my visit to amazing London. Thank you Insight Vacations for providing this amazing evening I will never forget!
Richard is Director of National Accounts for Insight Vacations USA. He travelled to London this past April.
To experience the Ceremony of the Keys plus more, join Insight’s Luxurious London and Paris tour.
I took my three children to experience the Ceremony of the Keys…and yes, you do have to book well in advance by writing to them. It was well worth the effort of organising and booking. Fascinating tradition. Kids loved it.