A regal retreat in Windsor at the Fairmont Hotel
Scott Manson discovers why the Fairmont Hotel is the perfect base for a weekend in Windsor….
Have you ever tried driving on the M4 motorway during 90mph winds? Here’s a simple piece of advice: don’t do it. Sadly, we only discovered what a foolish idea this was about halfway into our journey from London to the Fairmont Windsor Park. I think it was the fourth time that our car was shoved across two lanes by Mother Nature, when the more intelligent members of our travelling trio said: “This is ridiculous; let’s turn back.”
An inauspicious start then but one that was swiftly forgotten when we returned the following week. It was a beautifully still, sunny day when we drove into the impressive entrance of this new £200m hotel. The long curving driveway, fringed by impeccably manicured lawns, took us over a lake before we pulled up in front of a handsome mansion – its exterior modelled faithfully on the Jacobean property that once stood there.
Dapper, chirpy door staff ushered us in, while others zipped guests around the grounds on Rolls-Royce and Bentley electric buggies. I made a mental note to ask for a drive of one of those later.
Stepping away from the 40 acre grounds, the interior of the Fairmont is similarly impressive. The high-ceilinged cream-stone atrium has a sense of grandeur about it, helped by a vast glass dome sitting above the reception area. As a first impression, it’s something very special.
The hotel opened in 2022, so everything is gleaming and, frankly, perfect. Not a scuff or stain to be seen and a cohort of smart, well-trained staff who seemed to pop up just when we needed them. It also means that it’s packed to the rafters with all the trappings of a contemporary luxury hotel, plus a few you wouldn’t expect.
There are three restaurants to choose from, including a Middle Eastern experience and a Michelin Star-chasing fine dining room. The highly Instagrammable 1215 bar has beautiful illuminated ceiling decorations, an afternoon tea lounge (packed every day, so do book ahead) and a cosy, wood-panelled library which proved the perfect place to plot up with the Sunday papers.
But it’s the quirkier stuff that really tickled me. A sweet shop in the lobby? Sure, why not. A cryotherapy chamber next to the underground gym? Good idea. An ‘‘experience rainfall shower’’ modelled on tropical rainstorms and, it seemed to me at least, a sudden downpour in wintry Scotland? Terrific, love it.
It’s as if someone with taste, vision and deep pockets has kept adding cool features to an already impressive offering. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool for example, tennis courts and tree house rooms currently being built in the gardens, an enormous function / ballroom and, of course, a fabulous bedroom to retire to once you’ve thoroughly exhausted all that the Fairmont Windsor Park has to offer.
Ours was a ‘‘double double’’ – a set-up popular in the USA that’s been increasingly adopted here too – essentially two double beds in a large, well-appointed room. And those beds were some of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in. Elsewhere, the marble bathroom came complete with Le Labo products and a giant bathtub. There was even a small balcony overlooking the gardens, which was perfect for sundowner cocktails.
Imagine a country house experience without the faded grandeur vibe that’s so often prevalent in this type of hotel. Add in the fact that you’re just a short walk from Windsor and, of course, the famous 11th century castle and you can see why the Fairmont Windsor Park delivers on all levels. It’s a hotel that truly has everything.