Tucked away in Surrey, along the border of the M25, is a manor house steeped in history – a marriage of heritage and luxury. First built in the 16th century, a stay at Great Fosters is a must for those with a head for history, with its walls stacked with stories dating back centuries for you to enjoy from the moment you crunch your way across the estate’s gravelly courtyard.
As you duck inside the hobbit-sized front door, you’ll first notice the insignia of Queen Elizabeth I positioned just above. Great Fosters has more than years on its side, with illustrious connections: both the Virgin Queen and her father, King Henry VIII, are believed to have caught 40 winks under its roof.
And little wonder. The doorway may be modest but step inside and you are greeted with grandeur. From the entrance hall’s ornate ceilings and crackling fires, to the grounds’ manicured lawns and elegant statues, Great Fosters achieves that tricky feat of combining expense with character.
The hotel’s main body – a Grade One listed building – dates back centuries, a rich history evident from its red brickwork, towering chimneys and latticed windows, while more recent extensions offer a modern twist for those preferring their contemporary décor and the latest amenities. These rooms are nicely put together – and the cheaper option – but it’s Great Fosters’ historical wing that gives it an edge.
Each apartment goes by a different name, many harking back to the estate’s former owners. The historic rooms are dressed up with oak panelling and every ceiling offers decoration worthy of your gaze. Over the years plenty of famous faces have enjoyed the privilege. Great Fosters has played host to British royalty (the Prince of Wales attended a ball here in the 1930s), as well as a steady stream of acting aristocracy. Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Gene Kelly and Emma Thompson are just a few of the famous faces who have booked in a stay over the years.
The 50-acre estate – complete with a moat, topiary gardens, and a swimming pool with 1920s listed changing cubicles – has also attracted the attention of film crews, providing locations for fifties flicks A Night to Remember and The Romantic Age.
Eating and drinking
Since revamping its restaurants early last year, Great Fosters markets itself as a serious foodie destination with the Estate Grill’s simple meals upstaged by the upmarket Tudor Room which boasts a “sophisticated dining experience”. To test their mettle, we opted for the tasting menu – a gastronomic treat, fusing the likes of watermelon and wasabi, rabbit and raisin. One-by-one, exquisite dishes were served to our table and nine courses later we waddled back to our room and sunk, satisfied, into bed.
If you’re (miraculously) hungry again come morning, breakfast is served in the Estate Grill, offering a selection of continental breads and hams, with cooked meals available to order on request.
Top off your day with a beverage in the Cocktail Bar or enjoy a view of the hotel’s gardens while sipping afternoon tea and nibbling cake in the main hall, Anne Boleyn room or, if the sun is shining, on the outdoor terrace. Whatever the time of day, Great Fosters will never let you go hungry.
Hotel address: Great Fosters, Stroude Road, Egham, Surrey, TW20 9UR
Radio Times Travel rating: 9/10
“A restful blend of history and luxury surrounded by stunning grounds and a menu packed with foodie delights”