Oakley Court is set in an idyllic riverside location on the outskirts of Windsor and very close to Bray in Berkshire. It is a unique, gothic style, Victorian country house hotel with various distinct grotesque figures around the property, traditionally used to ward off evil spirits. Notice them as quirky images in the room decor. This independently owned hotel exudes warmth and character. The well-dressed butlers in beige waistcoats and brown brogues, ensure that your every whim is fulfilled.
Entering the Mansion various quirky features are prominent from the grotesque guards in the doorway and lanterns in the forecourt to the line of wellington boots in the hallway. There is even a corner desk which has an old manual typewriter. Being the central point of the mansion, from the hallway the various common rooms are in view, the lounge, bar, boot room, library with a vast collection of books ranging from fiction to historic and plenty of board games to keep both adults and kids amused.
Perfectly situated near Heathrow airport, 20 minutes away by car, this venue is ideal for both a relaxing or activity based break. It is also convenient for those flying out of the UK. If your mode of transport is a helicopter, rest assured there is not one but two helipads in the grounds.
Walk through the hotel onto the beautifully landscaped gardens and witness the river in a serene and picturesque setting. Numerous deckchairs are well placed facing the river so as to admire nature’s beauty and the lovely boats that pass by. At night to avoid the eerie look green light is used to light up the trees, candles are placed in the front entrance and the main footpaths are lit well. Currently walking around the grounds various sculptures of animals made from driftwood can be seen. This work comes from a local contemporary fine art gallery and is only temporary.
The perfectly landscaped grounds which amass a total of 33 acres are mainly along the riverside and even have some ancient trees dating back to 1861, which is the Wellingtonia, also known as a Giant Sequoia, which is the world’s largest single tree and the world’s largest living thing by volume, at an average height of 85m and width of 8m this comes as no surprise.
Oakley Court has a total of 118 bedrooms including 10 suites. A grand staircase leads up to the mansion suites, which are named after people from Oakley courts history. Anomalous London stayed in the Lord Otho Augustus Fitzgerald suite, who was the owner of Oakley Court from 1874-1882. This suite had perfect view of the gardens, central fountain and river.
Leading up to the suites from the grand staircase there are some lovely pictures of Windsor Castle and the royal guards. Being in close proximity to the Castle and having been visited by the Queen in 2009 it is only fitting for the hotel to showcase this royal connection.
Oakley Court's mansion is a listed building and has its restrictions with regards to the décor. The wooden floors do creak, but to compensate this noise, the suites have a lovely DAB radio to provide chill out music which blocks out any disturbances. The old shaped windows cannot be opened but the room air-conditioning is sufficient. Features in the room include stained glass windows, ornate mirrors and wooden furniture dating back to the 1960s. The retro style phone with touch buttons is a quirky touch as are the selection of books.
A warm, bright cosy room with all modern amenities and the perfect view. Complimentary White Company toiletries are provided.
The AA 2 rosette award winning restaurant at Oakley Court offers two menu options a 3 course Market menu or a seven course Tasting menu with an optional matching wine flight. Chef Damian Broom uses the freshest of ingredients from the hotel’s own kitchen garden to produce finely presented seasonal options. Any allergy or intolerance issues are well handled by the Chef offering alternate options with advance notice.
Anomalous London had the seven course tasting menu with matching wine flight and is sharing the highlights from this experience below.
The wine pairing was very informative from the sommelier Alex. It is always nice to learn a few tips, such as the sommelier’s selection of a wine glass for his chosen wine depends upon the strength and type of wine.
Three factors to look for in the wine glass are: the rim size, width of the glass and the depth to width ratio.
So over the seven courses a selection of glasses was also observed!
The dining room overlooks the gardens and has only eight tables to create an intimate ambiance and so that the waiters can provide the best service.
Only open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday.
The decked terrace has the perfect view of the river. Comfy cane furniture, large canopies, outdoor heating and fleece blankets provided when it gets nippy. A nice touch is the background music which plays throughout the hotel including outside on the terrace. If you prefer to sit in the gardens for an aperitif the mobile bar can cater to your needs by coming out to you.
The menu is of a relaxed dining nature and has a selection of sandwiches which use mainly ingredients from the hotels own smokehouse. Light bites and salads are a good choice, try the dressed avocado with soft boiled egg and granary bread. For mains there is a limited selection. This same menu can also be had in The Scullery for dinner.
A great quirky set up which offers a good selection from the buffet including a full English breakfast, fresh fruit and huge range of dried fruits and nuts.
A Virgin Mary cocktail can be made at a unique DIY station with all the ingredients ready and method how to make it! Try your hand at making waffles at the waffle station with pre-prepared mixture in small jugs. Various toppings to suit your taste buds. If you prefer fancier eggs such as poached and omelettes these can be made to order.
Served either in the Drawing Room, Lounge or terrace the Oakley Court afternoon tea is served on an ornate three tier quirky cake stand where each plate has a quirky design. Even the tea cups are mismatched.
What’s unique here is that each person gets their own stand which has six sandwiches with a range of fresh fillings and breads. This is a greater number than most afternoon teas. A bonus scone is served here, so expect three large scones, a plain, a raisin and a seasonal one! That’s a nice touch and more to indulge in. Anomalous London got to sample the orange scone which was delicious. All scones were perfectly baked, crisp on the outside and fresh on the inside. There is a good selection of loose leaf tea which is served in teapots which have quirky bespoke tea cosies to keep the tea warm throughout the tea experience.
Try the decaff Ceylon black tea, which has a smooth nutty flavour which goes well with the sandwiches. With the scones and sweet treats try the citrus chamomile which is a blend that includes calendula, malva, lemongrass and lemon verbena. The favourites from the top tier were Champagne raspberry tart which is raspberry mousse and champagne jelly with gold flakes, very luxurious! And look out for the best treat of all, the Jaffaroon – a jaffacake and macaroon combo, never seen or had before, made of dark chocolate and orange jelly.
Tea in the grand drawing room is a fine experience with chandeliers and paintings, grand curtains and lovely decor. A nice bright room with two bay windows, one large enough for eight guests and the smaller cosy one for a couple.
Oakley Court is proud of its green initiatives and has recently won the gold award for Green Tourism. It even has a bug hotel! Walking round the grounds this can be discovered.
The kitchen garden grows all the herbs and flowers used in the menus and are picked daily. The hotel also has its own smokehouse located in the walled garden area. Several bee hives on site provide sufficient honey at meal times. Especially at breakfast where bite size portions of the actual hive are cut out so guests can enjoy the freshest of honey including bits of the hive!
Oakley Court’s kitchen uses four key mantras to source the ingredients required, seasonal, sustainable, local and quality. The menus are adapted according to what can be utilised so as to offer every guest the best possible. A full declaration of where the meat, fish and dairy and fruit is sourced and supplied from is prominently displayed in the hotel.
Take advantage of the idyllic river setting and hire a self-drive electric boat. Large enough for 6 people, it is very easy to manoeuvre, just keep away from the riverbanks and watch out for the waves that the big boats passing by create (see Anomalous London’s video).
A fun way to see the local areas of Bray and Windsor, enjoying the river at your own pace. There Is a larger 12 seater skippered boat for big groups.
Set in such a scenic landscape, discover the surroundings of Oakley Court. Three maps are conveniently provided in the room which are easily portable for guests. A 3.3km jogging route just outside the hotel across the road, a walking route within the hotels grounds and a cycling route which can take you all the way to Windsor (45 minutes).
The mountain bikes provided are very sturdy and reliable making the ride fairly easy. The cycle route is not on any main road and is a designated cycle path which you join along the river bank.
Sites which are on the route include Bray Marina, Monkey Island where you can spot some peacocks, Boveney lock and the infamous Eton Dorney Lake, which was used for the London 2012 Olympics and is an idyllic spot for a rest. Anomalous London really enjoyed the bike route and after a three hour bike ride returned to the hotel to relax in the deckchairs in the grounds!
Do carry your camera phone with you and the hotel also advises to carry your phone, just in case of an emergency!
Other facilities to keep you occupied are the billiards room in the Mansion house, two tennis courts, croquet lawn, a nine hole par three golf course and the small spa in the courtyard wing which has a sauna, steam and whirlpool. The children’s splash times are quite extensive so great if you have kids but not the best place to relax for couples.
Based in the Royal Borough of Windsor, a stay at Oakley Court gives you the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Windsor in a traditional Horse Drawn Hackney Carriage from Windsor Carriages. Introduced in 1849, when Queen Victoria gave her consent for drivers to use The Long Walk, which has always been open to the public to use by foot.
Windsor carriages are the last Hackney carriages to have retained their right to use the long walk and it is with the continued permission of The Crown Estate that they are able to operate. It is a family run company which can be traced back several generations. Talk to your driver to get a great insight into the history of the carriages and the horses that are used.
The shorter tour is for thirty minutes which is what Anomalous London went on. It is a nice short round trip journey which gives you a feel of what it was like to sit in one of these carriages. The carriage has been maintained well and has leather padded seats which offers a comfortable ride. It can seat up to six passengers and is great for a family day out or a romantic adventure. It has been used for wedding proposals!
On this journey you can see in the distance the majestic Copper Horse statue of King George III at the top of Snowhill which has spectacular vistas of Windsor Castle and out towards London. The longer tours can take you right up to the statue in the Great Park and also passes through the Deer Park where stags can be sought out!
A wonderful experience which the hotel can arrange for you. They will drop you to the collection point outside Windsor Castle, which is about 15 minutes away and will pick you up after your tour.
Built in 1859, Oakley Court history can be traced back to all the previous owners and also mentions that the Court was used in the World War II as the English HQ for the French Resistance and General Charles De Gaulle stayed in the Mansion bedrooms.
From the late 1960s to early 1980s the Court was vacant and was used by nearby Bray Studios as a location for over 200 movies. During this 14 year period the most popular productions were the St Trinians series, The Rocky Horror Show and Dracula. For the latter movie, the whole court was lit by candles to create the required eerie effect. Most recently Oakley Court was used in the Oscar winning film The Theory of Everything. The corridor leading to the dining rooms has framed posters of the movies shot at the hotel.
Oakley Court opened as a hotel for the first time in 1981 after a major investment. The East and West wings were built adjacent to the Mansion providing 85 bedrooms. The Mansion itself had seven suites. In 1997, further investment enabled the Courtyard wing to be built with 23 bedrooms.
In 2009, the Queen visited the hotel by boat from her Windsor castle home down the river. The reason for the visit was the ‘Swan Upping’ ceremony which she witnessed for the first time in her reign. The Monarch owns all unmarked swans on the River Thames and once a year the swan population is counted in this ceremony.
In 2012 the hotel hosted the GB rowing and canoeing teams for the Olympic Games, Being so close to Eton Dorney where the competitions were held this was the perfect location for them to be based at. The teams won a total of 11 gold medals out of 30 in total.
The hotel is going to be undergoing a further refurbishment for its bedrooms in the near future.