Windsor is just 23 miles (37 km) from Central London with convenient transport links. It’s not far from Heathrow Airport and many visitors are lucky enough to get an aerial view of Windsor Castle from the plane. It’s a shame that a relatively small number make it out of the capital to come and get a closer look at the castle and the beautiful town.
Windsor is south of the River Thames, which forms its boundary with its ancient twin, Eton. Yes, that’s where one finds that iconic public school that invented the celebrated Eton Mess dessert. Runnymede – where the Magna Carta was signed 800 years ago – is a short distance away.
The village of Old Windsor, just over 2 miles to the south, predates what is now called Windsor by around 300 years; in the past Windsor was formally referred to as New Windsor to distinguish the two. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it has been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer held the honorific post of ‘Clerk of the Works’ at Windsor Castle in 1391.
Georgian High Street
A visitor to Windsor will likely need some equally historic and refined accommodation, and it probably doesn’t come better than the Castle Hotel. It couldn’t be more conveniently situated for a tourist who wants to see everything. It’s in the very centre of Windsor’s Georgian High Street which is a scene reminiscent of the old Quality Street chocolates tin at Christmas, although it’s magical at any time of year.
Castle Hotel began life in 1528 and was then called The Mermaid Inn. It brewed its own beer and cider for the locals. In the 1700s the innkeeper Richard Martin was awarded the first of the hotel’s eight Royal Warrants – to provide horses and carriages for the royal household. In fact, if one arrives by car, then one will note the archway through which the carriages would have driven. It eventually became one of the most prestigious hotels in town, and by the 19th century Castle Hotel was the place to be seen for the worthies of the time.
One might expect a rather dusty expression of faded glory, but not a bit of it. All rooms were renovated a couple of years ago. It has retained and enhanced its original features but guest comfort is evidently prominent in this rather smart hotel. There are all the contemporary benefits of an international hotel – high-end toiletries, bathrobes, coffee machines and, in our room at least, a shelf of royal biographies and the like. There is good wi-fi in all rooms. One will love the Georgian ambiance; but I hear Georgian wi-fi wasn’t up to much, so consider yourself lucky to be living in this modern era.
A rejuvenating beverage
The public rooms are characterful with fireplaces, wooden staircases, paintings and sumptuous soft furnishings. The Castle Hotel is what one might describe as smart-cosy. It isn’t a marble and gold emporium of glitz but more of a confident get-away with hints of history. One might find a red Guards uniform in one corner, reflecting the long association with the other Castle which is just opposite. There are comfy nooks in which to read some history books.
The bar is well stocked and can provide a rejuvenating beverage after a day of sightseeing. The restaurant offers classic dishes including a version of the aforementioned Eton Mess. One couldn’t wish for a better location for afternoon tea, perhaps looking out over Sir Christopher Wren’s Guild Hall opposite.
The Castle Hotel is a gem. It embraces its historic location in stylish fashion but this is a modern, light and contemporary place to enjoy a unique break. I’ll return for another stay with a copious breakfast in front of a crackling fire.
18 High Street
Windsor SL4 1LJ
Phone: +44 (0)1753 252800
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018