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Best hotels in Berkshire for comfort, charm and castle views

Berkshire is the perfect getaway for strolling galleries, seeing museums, and checking out Windsor

Hazel Plush
Saturday 15 April 2023 10:51 BST
Berkshire is home to some breathtaking architecture
Berkshire is home to some breathtaking architecture (Ray Coates)

Each British county has its own charms, but only one wears a crown. The Royal County of Berkshire, so titled since 1957, is home to the late Queen’s favourite castle – and, for many, that’s enough of a reason to visit.

Beyond Windsor’s fine pomp and pageantry, you’ll find a region full of surprises. Think riverside theatres, abundant museums, and villages with more Michelin stars than most cities. And of course we can’t talk about this part of the UK without mentioning the famous LegoLand resort, Beale Wildlife Park where you can mingle with meerkats, and the bustling music scene that pops up in Reading every summer.

If that’s not enough to convince you to visit, then perhaps the fact that it’s also home to the loveliest stretch of the Thames (according to us locals, at least), and a trove of fabulous hotels, will. From dinky townhouses to entire private islands, here’s where to rest your head in style on your next visit.

Best hotel for wine lovers: The Vineyard

Neighbourhood: Newbury

Drink the afternoon away at The Vineyard (The Vineyard)

There are 30,000 bottles of wine in this hotel’s cellar. Do you really need another reason to visit? Yes, the décor is lavish and art-filled, and there’s a huge pool overlooking the gardens, but you’re really here for the inch-thick wine list – and it doesn’t disappoint. Many bottles are under £30, and the sommeliers are savvy yet un-snooty: describe your taste, and they’ll dig out something spot-on. Maybe you’ll sip a zesty Japanese Koshu over lunch, a voluptuous Argentinian Malbec with dinner, or get elegantly sozzled on tastings? Ask nicely, and they might even let you look in the cellar…

Best hotel for enviable design: River Arts Club

Neighbourhood: Maidenhead

This grand hotel will make you feel like a queen (River Arts Club)

From the outside, this Thames-side Victorian mansion looks grand and traditional – but all is not as it seems. Inside, it’s a dazzling combo of original features and decade-hopping accessories, from antique Chinese furniture to modernist sculptures and bright Designer’s Guild wallpaper. Despite its bombastic looks, the atmosphere is refreshingly low-key – with just 13 rooms, an honesty bar, and plenty of nooks to curl up with a book. There’s no restaurant, but nearby options sport a constellation of Michelin stars: among them, Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn, and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Best hotel for a city trip: The Roseate Reading

Neighbourhood: Reading

The perfect spot to tuck into afternoon tea (SungChauPhotography)

It’s hard to believe that this glorious red-brick manor started life as a council building. Built in 1911, it’s all elegant cornices, lofty ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows – a delight to work in, no doubt, but even better for play. Skip the minimalist ‘House’ rooms, and book a sumptuous ‘Roseate’ instead: with four-poster beds, velvet armchairs and original fireplaces, they ooze Edwardian opulence. The city centre is a 10-minute walk away, and the hotel’s Reading Room restaurant serves fine British classics and literary-inspired cocktails.

Best hotel for family fun: Legoland Castle Hotel

Neighbourhood: Windsor

You’ll love this magical hotel almost as much as your kids will (Legoland Castle Hotel)

The surest way to win your child’s affections? Booking a trip to LegoLand, of course. The Castle Hotel is nirvana for little ones, featuring a pirate-themed swimming pool, magicians roaming the restaurant, and supersized Lego figures – who talk! The family rooms, comprising bunk beds and a double, are themed around wizards and knights, with an in-room treasure hunt, Lego goodies, and a bedtime story about a friendly dragon. While the kids hog the flat screen TV, you’ll be glad of the Nespresso machine, quality linens and blackout curtains – especially after an action-packed day at the theme park next door.

Price: From £259 for a family room (sleeps four)

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Best hotel for scandalous history: Cliveden House

Neighbourhood: Taplow

Relax and unwind at Cliveden House (Cliveden House)

The epicentre of one of British politics’ biggest disgraces (until recent years, perhaps), Cliveden is the glamorous mansion where, in 1961, Christine Keeler met John Profumo – then Secretary of State for War – sparking an affair that would threaten the very bedrock of parliament. But then, Cliveden has always raised eyebrows: murder, mistresses and fake deaths pepper its 350-year history. You can swim in the very pool where the Profumo Affair started, and sip Champagne where the glitterati partied without prying eyes. Of course, in surroundings as lascivious as this, it would be rude not to create your own scandal.

Price: Doubles from £445, B&B

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Best hotel for gourmet stays: Gilbey’s Townhouse

Neighbourhood: Eton

This townhouse is just a stones’ throw away from the sights (Gilbey’s Townhouse)

More of a bistro-with-bedrooms than a full-blown hotel, Gilbey’s is a low key spot – but its restaurant will knock your socks off. The menu is ‘Modern British’ in style, and beloved of Berkshire’s foodies: think ricotta, spinach and butternut crisp gnocchi, rosemary-crusted lamb rump, and a heavenly lemon tart. But few realise that Gilbey’s also has three rooms and a studio suite, tucked away at the top of its townhouse, featuring king size beds, crisp linens and enviable antiques aplenty. With both Windsor Castle and Eton College within a 10-minute walk, you couldn’t be better placed for sightseeing – or dinner.

Best hotel for spotting celebrities: Castle Hotel Windsor

Neighbourhood: Windsor

Take a high end trip at Castle Hotel (Castle Hotel Windsor)

The Castle Hotel Windsor has some seriously noble neighbours. From the bedrooms at the front, you can gaze out over the late Queen’s favourite residence – and the Changing of the Guards parade passes outside the restaurant, so grab a window table at breakfast. It’s also a favourite among celebs and dignitaries: Sir Ian McKellan stayed here while playing Hamlet at Windsor’s theatre, while Sir Captain Tom stopped for afternoon tea after receiving his knighthood. But even for us ordinary folk, the Castle pulls out the stops: think slick service, comfortable rooms, and excellent locally sourced food and wines.

Best hotel for sweet solitude: Monkey Island Estate

Neighbourhood: Bray

Shack up in this 40-room hotel for the full experience (Monkey Island Estate)

Alas, there are no monkeys. But perhaps the promise of a river-view bed, floating ‘boat spa’ and free Champagne (if you book direct) will make up for the lack of primates? On a private island in the Thames, this 40-room retreat feels deliciously cut off from the world, and is accessed only by footbridge, boat or helicopter. In this neighbourhood, millionaires’ mansions yield to wide, willow-grazed waters – and Monkey Island is one of the grandest. It was originally built in the 18th century as a Duke’s fishing retreat, and has hosted royals, artists, aristocrats and socialites ever since – so you’re in excellent company.

Best hotel for rural glamour: The Retreat

Neighbourhood: Newbury

Ahh, blissful (The Retreat)

A ‘reimagining’ of a country house hotel, The Retreat has everything you need for a spectacular mini break – with absolutely no need to leave. As well as two restaurants, a tennis court, woodland walks and croquet lawn, there’s a market-style courtyard featuring a wine shop, nail salon, and café overlooking the grounds. It feels like a resort (in a good way), but the accommodation is anything but cookie-cutter: there are 55 rooms decked out in William Morris-style wallpaper, quirky heritage artworks and – in the Signature Suites – freestanding copper bathtubs. Just the spot for a glass of bubbly.

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