Travel: Riverside retreat at Runnymede
July 03, 2012
Looks can be deceiving and none more so than The Runnymede-on-Thames hotel in Egham, near Windsor.
Set by the stunning fields and banks of historic Runnymede, the hotel is no beauty spot from the outside – more business park than countryside retreat – but take a step through the doors and another aspect is revealed.
A slick lounge area decked out in warm caramels, browns and oranges with chic lighting greets you and beyond, glass doors lead you out to the garden area set on the banks of the River Thames.
Private boats are docked nearby and barges pass through the lock now and again. There is a seating area nearer the river and the hotel even has two little boats guests can hire for a cruise around. It’s idyllic.
The hotel offers several themed breaks and we tried out their Windsor Castle package in the spirit of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
It’s great value at £193 for two, which includes a one-night stay with breakfast on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and tickets to Windsor Castle. Guests can also use the spa, pools and gym.
Windsor town centre is about a 10-minute drive. You tend to forget the wealth of fun things to do on your doorstep – who needs expensive foreign holidays when there are entrancing things to do nearby?
Entrance to the castle is normally £17 per adult, but with our package tickets we were able to scoot past the queues quite easily. It is a lot more spread out than you think, but compact enough to not take the whole day to cover so you have plenty of time to explore the town centre if you wish.
We saw Queen Mary’s Dolls’, House – the largest dolls’ house in the world of quite breathtaking complexity and detail, built for the wife of George V by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924 and furnished by the best designers and craftsmen of the day.
Unfortunately the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel were closed when we visited so we strolled around the site, marvelling at the stepped gardens with its mini waterfall and manicured borders, watched bearskin-headed soldiers on guard and marching around and popped into a few of the merchandise shops.
The town itself has many quaint coffee shops and bags of retail therapy, so tarry awhile.
However, keen to explore the hotel more, we returned to take advantage of the sumptuous selection of cakes and pastries offered in its Lounge Bar (until July 31 it is offering a Diamond Jubilee Afternoon Tea at £25 per person if you want something a bit more special) before steeling ourselves for a quick dip in the hotel pool before dinner. It also has a new outdoor pool.
We were really looking forward to nosh – being a tourist takes its toll.
The hotel has two eating places, the Leftbank where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served buffet-style and the smart/casual Lock Bar & Kitchen for lunch and dinner – a fixed menu with daily specials.
The Lock’s food was exceptionally good – hearty fare beautifully cooked – and I would happily make a trip just to dine.
Highlights were my cod and chips with pea puree (£14) which sounds simple enough but the batter was perfect, chunky chips crisp and fluffy and moreish homemade mushy peas.
Afterwards we repaired to our very comfortable room, luckily with a river view, which had chic yet slumberous furnishings, a huge bathroom with a shower and cavernous bath and widescreen TV.
The proximity to London and the airports make this a popular venue for weddings and parties so it can get very busy – a queuing system had to be enforced at breakfast (irritating) – so not ideal for romantic soujourns, but during calm afternoons it is an idyllic location.
Sarah stayed at the Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel, Windsor Road, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0AG.
Call 01784 220 960 or visit www.runnymedehotel.com