VENUE TOUR: THE CASTLE HOTEL, WINDSOR
We love getting invites to check out the latest hotels and venues, especially when there’s champagne and yummy food involved! Last month we sent Lisa along to the relaunch of the Castle Hotel in Windsor…
January is always one of my busiest months – it’s when I plan out all of my goals for the year but it’s also when I get the most wedding enquiries with so many people getting engaged over Christmas. So when I was invited to spend an evening at the relaunch of the Castle Hotel in Windsor, I jumped at the chance – when you have four year old twins, an unbroken nights sleep in a plush hotel is never something you turn down!
I’d seen the hotel before from the outside – it has a prominent position on the main street through Windsor right opposite Windsor Castle itself, but I’d never actually been inside. The hotel is part of the MGallery group by Sofitel, who own boutique hotels with a story behind them (they celebrate the innkeepers of the past in each hotel) and the Castle Windsor certainly has a historic story behind it. It started life over 500 years ago as The Mermaid Inn, making it one of the oldest hotels in Windsor. The innkeeper in the 1600s George Pennington introduced a new coin as he never had the right change – he called it the Ha’penny which then became part of our currency (the hotel actually had a man in costume as George telling us about this which was a cute touch). The Mermaid Inn later became an official posting Inn and was renamed the Castle Inn. What I love is that even though the hotel has just had a major makeover and the rooms and common areas have a really great modern look, you can still see the history in the hotel, right down to the little hatch upstairs that used to be the reception when the downstairs was the pub. They have little touches all over the hotel to remind you of its past – the mermaids on the furnishings, the Pennington Penny that makes up the frosted glass on the shower screens and postage references throughout the artwork.
After parking the car (yes, there is parking at the hotel which is rare in the town centre but it’s just as easy by public transport with the nearest rail station less than a mile away) we made our way to reception for a very easy check in and we were handed a glass of champagne as we had a tour of the hotel. The ground floor is really spacious with a lounge, large reception atrium and restaurant and bar. I loved the lounge and bar area, they are really cosy with neutral colours and you definitely feel you could find a little corner with a good book and hide away for a few hours. There was a pianist playing and it really did make the whole vibe relaxing and sophisticated. The tour was great as the guide gave us so much information on the history of the hotel and being a wedding planner, she also answered my many questions about events at the hotel, without getting irritated once! The hotel is made for events – I’m glad I’ve found it as it ticks a lot of the boxes my local Surrey brides always ask for. Easy to get to and with 108 rooms, you could house the whole wedding party in the hotel and I’m told that many do just that. 5 of the rooms are suites and they are just gorgeous – really spacious, pretty and calming. The one we viewed had an interconnecting room which is perfect if you want your bridesmaids nearby the night before. We actually stayed the night in a superior room and despite being pretty picky with my hotel rooms, I really do only have good things to say about it. It had a contemporary feel to it with a nespresso machine and minibar, an extremely comfortable bed, a perfect powerful shower and they have remembered to look at the detail, putting plug sockets on both sides of the bed (leaving this out is one of my pet annoyances with hotels!).
The tour ended with a look at the beautiful ballroom, where a cocktail mixologist served us some gorgeous bright blue cocktails – apparently they are called Purple Rain and contained rum and vodka – I have no idea what made them blue but they were delicious! The ballroom is pretty impressive – I wasn’t prepared for how big it was – it’s the oldest and largest ballroom in Windsor and can hold up to 400 people.
The great thing about the room is that even though it has historic touches, it’s neutral enough that you can put your own colours or theme on it. I’ve turned down many a reception suite because it’s so grand that you could only have a very traditional looking wedding in it. Not the case here – it still has the original restored chandeliers and a vaulted ceiling but it’s stylish with plain and mirrored walls so the historic features don’t take over the room. It also has a large stage, which makes it perfect for events.
We were getting hungry after the tour so went to their restaurant for some canapes, which were presented fabulously! There were so many little dishes to choose from so we tasted the mini pies, venison burgers and mini shepherds pies and then had some little pots of Eton Mess for dessert. Everything tasted as amazing as it looked and I’ll definitely be going back to sample their afternoon tea. They even had set up a cake replica of the hotel – it was stunning!
So a summary of this hotel – a little gem in the middle of a beautiful town. They have done a brilliant job of bringing this hotel up to date whilst letting us still see the history. It’s the perfect place for a weekend away as you have so much to see right outside the doors – Windsor is a really pretty town and the Castle is a must-see so with the hotels’ great location and fabulous service, it’s a winner.
So, in a nutshell, Windsor is a fantastic place to visit with its huge selection of history, food, drink and shopping options in a really compact space. This hotel really is a little gem that deserves to be appreciated in the middle of this beautiful town.
The renovation has been an unbridled success, cleverly combining the classic look of the building itself with a stylish, 21st Century take on design. The focus on comfort, attention to detail and great customer service mean that The Castle is a real winner, perfect for a wedding or an indulgent weekend away.