Surrey Steeped in History – A Luxury Hotel Break at Great Fosters.
What’s your idea of luxury? For me, it’s feeling that someone has anticipated everything I might want – and makes sure that anything more is easily on hand. Some luxury hotels are just that, super luxurious places where your every whim is catered for. Great Fosters Hotel offers all that and much more with a rich living history that dates back over four centuries and important Royal connections, in particular to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Queen Elizabeth I.
Great Fosters is nestled in beautiful Surrey countryside in the parish of Egham, less than an hours drive from central London. A fine historic mansion, it is a stunning example of domestic architecture dating back to the 16th century.
It is well documented that Henry VIII used the house as a hunting lodge, as did his daughter Elizabeth. You’ll find confirmation of this on arrival – directly above the main porch you can see the original royal crest of Queen Elizabeth I, dated 1598. The royal connections are amplified in the Anne Boleyn Room, where Queen Anne Boleyn’s personal crest and royal symbols can be found.
In 1930, Sir Harold Sutcliffe bought Great Fosters, and following a period of careful restoration and refurbishment, Great Fosters became a hotel. The hotel gained a reputation as a premier destination playing host to a variety of esteemed guests including Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin, and in 1931, Queen Mary visited it and subsequently the Ascot Ball was held at the hotel in the June of that year.
Following almost 90 years of ownership under the Sutcliffe family, Alexander Hotels acquired the property in 2018.
Great Fosters shone brightly as we drove up its sweeping driveway on a cold, damp January winters evening,
We entered through a small wooden hatch door in the porch into the elegant foyer, beautifully furnished with sumptuous jewel-coloured velvet chairs and sofas. A large inviting open fireplace radiated warmth and comfort. This magnificent house oozes historic charm and sophistication, with its oak panelled walls, wooden floorboards, antiques, and soft rugs and carpeting and there are original leaded windows throughout the house and ornate fireplaces in many of the rooms.
We received a warm and welcome and were shown to our room to freshen up before heading down for dinner.
What a treat…we were staying in the hotel’s signature suite, the Tapestry Room that was originally the drawing-room of the main house and notably was Anne Boleyn’s personal lounge during her courtship and marriage to Henry VIII. The ornately carved ceilings depict the armillary sphere, collared & chained silver boar, crowned key & scimitar which interestingly is the family motif of the Percy family, and it is perhaps surprising that this remained, considering Henry Percy was Anne Boleyn’s recognised suitor prior to her famed relationship with King Henry.
This massive historic room (57 metres square) brims with wondrous tales of the past. The walls are adorned with original Flemish tapestries from the 17th century and it has a giant, splendidly carved Jacobean fireplace with a mantel depicting the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The outlook is equally glorious with dual aspects across the parterre topiary gardens and to the West, the grand drive.
The emperor-sized double bed was equally majestic with crisp white linen sheets, strewn with soft cushions and throws in rich shades of turquoise and green. The room is equipped with a desk, a dining table, a sofa and chairs, TV with Freeview, fridge, espresso machine and fresh milk, a personal safe, books and magazines. Everything we could possibly need – we hardly wanted to leave this fabulous room.
The sizable bathroom was to-die-for with a free-standing roll-top bath, walk-in shower, double sinks bathrobes and slippers and divine L’Occitane toiletries. I have to give a special mention to the separate loo, decked floor to ceiling in warm wood which reminded me of visiting my Grandmother’s house when I was a child.
We really felt like royalty when there was the knock at the door and a tray arrived with champagne, crisps and olives for two, the perfect welcoming touch!
There are several alternatives to the Suites and Historic Suites, which range from charming ‘Cosy’ rooms to larger ‘Comfy Kings’, either in the more contemporary Coach House & Cloisters or the Main House, as well as Luxury Super King rooms in the Coach House.
Great Fosters Hotel boasts a Michelin Star award-winning restaurant in the elegant Tudor Room, which is headed by Tony Parkin. It offers an intimate dining experience for just 20 diners at any one time. Usually open for lunch Thursday, Friday & Sunday & dinner Thursday – Sunday, sadly it was closed for refurbishment during our stay.
Instead, we ate dinner in the excellent Estate Grill, which offers a more informal dining experience at Great Fosters with simple, honest dishes made with fresh ingredients and with much of the produce grown on the grounds of the estate.
It is set in a beautiful room with rustic wooden arches and leaded windows with stone surround. Stylishly furnished with upholstered green leather chairs and tables set with white linen tablecloths and vibrant green glassware to match, the Estate Grill is elegant and yet informal.
We were brought some sensationally good bread made in house, flavoured with treacle and stout; it was wonderfully moist and springy with a fantastic crust.
The Sommelier recommended the Chardonnay Three Lions, Plantagenet, West Australia 2015 which paired very well with our meal, it had notes of buttery vanilla with had a good structure and mineral acidity.
Starting with a delicious salad of beetroot and fennel with goat’s curd – the fresh and crisp flavours of the beetroot and fennel cut through the creaminess of the curd.
The parsnip soup was thick and velvety, intensely flavoured with a savoury chestnut crumb, which added good texture and served with a perfect little brown loaf on the side.
My Sirloin steak with roast onion and a powerful peppercorn sauce was full-flavoured, cooked to perfection, tender, pink on the inside with a lovely char on the outside.
The seared fillet of sea bream was served with deliciously authentic sag aloo brimming with spinach and potato and warm spices.
On the side – triple cooked chips – crisp on the outside, floury on the inside and a fresh mixed salad
And for pudding, a light and airy citrus torte light with sweet segments of mandarin on a sponge base served with mandarin sorbet and a delightful creme brûlée with yummy eggy coffee cream and a thick burnt sugar surface.
All delivered with superb, friendly service.
After a very comfortable nights sleep in our grand suite, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at Great Fosters
There was a plentiful selection of home-baked breads and pastries with preserves and honey from the estate, fresh fruit salad, some delicious roasted plums with natural yoghurt, homemade granola, porridge and bircher.
There was a particularly excellent choice of cooked options which included: a full English breakfast, free-range eggs to your choice, fried, scrambled or poached, smoked salmon with soft scrambled eggs on a toasted muffin, smoked haddock & poached eggs, brioche French toast, pancakes, and vegetarian black pudding. With two mornings to indulge, we tried a few of the options, I especially enjoyed my all-time favourite, eggs Benedict with cured ham, which was cooked to perfection and dripping with a marvellously creamy hollandaise sauce.
All washed down with fresh coffee in our case, or with a choice of infusions, teas, fruit smoothies and juices.
After breakfast on our first morning, we were shown around the house and grounds at Great Fosters Hotel.
In the historic and terribly pretty Anne Boleyn drawing-room, afternoon teas are served, sure to be an elegant affair. If cocktails are more your thing, The Cocktail Bar and Terrace is the ideal setting for a relaxing drink; it’s super chic with contemporary prints on the walls and a fabulous outlook onto the Japanese bridge and the moat.
And for any discerning foodies Tony Parkin’s Michelin Star restaurant, at the Tudor Room is a must.
The pretty Garden Room is perfect for private dining parties and the Coach house provides a good venue for meetings.
Great Fosters is also renowned for hosting splendid weddings in their beautiful Tithe Barn as well as the Orangery and the modern Conservatory, which has a lovely outlook onto the grounds.
Fortunately, the sun made a very welcome appearance on our first morning and we jumped at the opportunity to take a walk around the 50 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and parkland.
Originally designed by W H Romaine Walker and Gilbert Jenkins, the gardens are amongst the finest Arts and Crafts gardens in Europe. Framed on three sides by a Saxon moat, the formal gardens of Great Fosters are a wondrous sight; one can only imagine how hard the team of five gardeners must work to create such beauty.
Impressively, they are designed to imitate the effect of a Persian rug, with intricate formal patterns. The knot garden is embellished with fragrant beds of flowers and herbs bordered by manicured hedges and topiary. At the centre is the Drake Sundial, which dates to 1589 and which historians suggest may have been donated by Sir Francis Drake.
I particularly loved the Japanese bridge, which crosses the moat and leads to the rose garden. It must look glorious when the wisteria is in full bloom in early summer.
At the far end of these historic gardens is a turf amphitheatre cut into the hillside. Standing at its top provides a fantastic view down to the house and gardens below. You can also spot the beehives used to produce honey for the hotel and which, if you fancy, is available to buy. Finally, Great Fosters also has a rather handsome heated 1930’s outdoor pool and tennis courts ideal for those long hot summers days we are all longing for.
Great Fosters makes for the perfect luxurious hotel break. Steeped in history this stunning hotel boasts magnificent grounds, sumptuous décor, excellent service and a Michelin Star restaurant all within easy access of London and just 7 miles from both Windsor Castle and Ascot Racecourse.
Great Fosters Hotel and Gardens
Phone: 01784 433822
Looking for somewhere to stay near Windsor or on the outskirts of London? Why not pin this post for later
Disclosure: I was a guest of Great Fosters – all content is editorially given
Great Fosters is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. We recommend the group and have reviewed a number of their hotels on previous occasions, including the Nira Caledonia boutique hotel in Edinburgh, the quirky Pavillon des Lettres in Paris and the Pand Hotel in Bruges