Historic Stoke Park, designed by James Wyatt and with gardens by ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton, has a modern addition in the form of the £20-million Pavilion. I enjoyed the mood lighting, modcon- filled bathroom, iPod dock and Fortnum & Mason-stocked mini bar, plus the spa and well appointed gym, but for those with more traditional tastes, there are Edwardian-style rooms in the main house and lovely communal areas, such as the chapel room, with a cosy fireplace and old confessional box.
Historic touches abound, such as hooks on the staircase on which curtains were hung to conceal ladies’ ankles. Sporty types will enjoy the golf course, designed by Harry Shapland Colt, on which Seve Ballesteros, Henry Cotton and James Bond (in Goldfinger) have played; a row on the lake, familiar from Bridget Jones’s Diary; the Boodles tennis tournament; and shooting at E. J. Churchill, a 20-minute drive away—a perfect warm-up for the Glorious Twelfth. Dining ranges from an LA-style cafe with salads and protein shakes to old-school British—the restaurant has decent Dover sole and beef Wellington. (01753 717171; www.stokeparkclub.com)
How to get there
Stoke Park is 20 miles (40-minute drive) from central London, three miles
from Slough and Burnham stations, or 10 miles from London Heathrow
St Giles’ Church, Stoke Poges
Believed to have inspired Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard and now the poet’s resting place, St Giles’ has elements from Saxon to Victorian architecture (01753 642261; www.stokepogeschurch.org).
Windsor, just over the county border in Berkshire, is the oldest occupied castle in the world. The State Apartments house works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Gainsborough (020–7766 7304; www.royalcollection.org.uk).
The world-famous children’s favourite has 50- odd rides, such as the new Kingdom of the Pharoahs, set in 150 acres (0871 222 2001; www.legoland.co.uk).
Royal Windsor Horse Show
Featuring showjumping, floodlit evening tattoos and mounted games, this show runs from May 13–17 (0871 230 5568; www. royal-windsor-horse-show.co.uk).
Ascot is one of the top courses in the UK, hosting nine Group 1 Sunset Boulevard/Corbis; Darryl Webb/Alamy; CLPL ‘Do you expect me to putt?’ Oddjob and Goldfinger plot James Bond’s downfall before a round on Stoke Park’s 27-hole golf course races. The pick of the season is June’s Royal Ascot (0870 727 1234; www.ascot.co.uk)
The Savill Garden, Windsor Great Park
Created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930s, the Savill Garden has 35 acres of classical and contemporary gardens (01753 860222 ; www.theroyallandscape.co.uk)
This National Trust house has glorious formal gardens overlooking the Thames (01494 755562; www.nationaltrust.org.uk)
The Red Lion in Stoke Green (01753 535115; www. theredlionstokepoges. co.uk) has comforting, traditional fare. Windsor and Eton have historic pubs and urban favourites, and the village of Bray has two three-Michelin-starred venues: Michel Roux’s The Waterside Inn (01628 620691; www. waterside-inn.co.uk) and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck (01628 580333; www.fatduck.co.uk)
The village of Stoke Poges has local shops and basic services. In nearby Windsor, the Windsor Royal Shopping Centre has top retail brands and King Edward Court has big names, but Eton High Street has more charm.