Step back in time with a stay at the magnificent Great Fosters hotel, just 10 miles from Heathrow, and enjoy a country house ambiance in lovely grounds.
Built as a royal hunting lodge in 1550 AD, Great Fosters still bears the evidence of the noble names that once graced its halls. It is thought that Henry VIII used the house and the ornate ceiling decorations in the Anne Boleyn Room feature her personal crests. Their daughter Elizabeth also came here – her original royal crest can be seen above the main porch, dated 1598.
Located in the north of Surrey, when it was built Great Fosters was conveniently placed for its royal residents between Windsor and Hampton Court. Today it is in the perfect spot for visiting both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, as well as Windsor Great Park, Runnymede, Ascot and much more.
To really step back in time, book The Tapestry Room, which was once the house’s drawing room. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel room with more ‘wow’ factor anywhere in the county. It is huge, dominated by a fireplace flanked by red chairs that look more like thrones, and by the Flemish tapestries that adorn each wall. A free-standing bath is the main feature of the bathroom, which is stocked with enough Molton Brown products to keep you going for a couple of weeks.
From here there are beautiful views of the grand, delicately topiaried gardens that stretch out behind the main house. The hotel has 50 acres of gardens and parkland altogether, including a moat, Japanese bridge, secluded tennis courts and large heated outdoor pool. As we stroll around, an adorable gosling family obligingly poses by the water with the house in the background as if carefully placed in a grand painting.
They put on an awful lot of weddings here, mostly in the beautiful Tithe Barn, dating from 1390, which was painstakingly dismantled from its original site nearby and re-built at Great Fosters in the 1930s. There is also a light-filled conservatory and plans are in motion for a new landscaped courtyard with outdoor terrace. Elsewhere the hotel interiors offer a real mixture of old and new, which is all very cleverly blended.
As a Grade 1-listed building any architectural changes must go through a long and lengthy approval process with English Heritage and, as such, much of the old rooms and features remain much as they must have been centuries ago. The great oak front door, for example, has a tiny wicket door that guests must stoop to fit through, arriving in the heavy wood-panelled Main Hall with its moulded ceilings, damask furnishings, polished antiques and grand fireplace.
The hotel offers two dining options: the formal Tudor Room offers excellent and good value fine dining including tasting menus with matched wine for each course, while the Estate Grill is a less formal offering and includes traditional favourites as well as salads, steaks and sharing platters. We go for the eight-course tasting menu in The Tudor Room and thoroughly enjoy the wine recommendations from the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier and simply sublime food.
As a short getaway from London, or the first stop on a holiday to Britain, Great Fosters offers the perfect mix of beautiful location, attentive service and relaxing atmosphere – highly recommended.Great Fosters, Stroude Road, Egham, Surrey TW20 9UR www.greatfosters.co.uk