This summer, in anticipation of an entire month’s stay with family in the South West of England, we did something special following our red-eye flight from Halifax to London. Rather than run full-pelt from the airport, tired and dishevelled into the clutches of my Cornish in-laws, our family enjoyed a “pre-holiday” getaway at the very grand, slightly quirky, and totally family-friendly Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor, only 20 minutes from Heathrow airport. Little did we know that we had, in fact, booked a night at Frank-N-Furter’s Castle, the famed location of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! There were so many things we loved about The Oakley Court. Here are just a few:
The Booking Process
Our stay at this glamorous location was roughly the same price as a standard airport hotel because we got a great deal through Booking.com. Travel Tip: book early, and always contact the hotel directly to let them know of any special requests such as extra child beds or cots. If you’re booking at the last minute, try the Book Now App to find hotels in your area that have last minute availability. You might be surprised at the gems you find…like this one!
It’s SO close to the airport!
Have you heard the urban myth about the American tourist, who, looking out the plane window on the final approach to London, sees Windsor Castle below, and exclaims: “Hey, Why did the Queen build her Castle so close to the airport?” Windsor is indeed only 20 minutes from Heathrow, so it’s an ideal place to relax as you begin or end your English family vacation. No wheels? Windsor Cars will pick you up at Heathrow and get you around Windsor for a fraction of the price of a London Black Cab…and they have a fleet of Mercedes, which is very nice!
Built in 1859, The Oakley Court was originally a neo-gothic country house, inhabited by several generations of Lords and Knights and their families. (Think Downton Abbey, or the board game “Clue” and you’re on the right track). The Oakley Court is about as grand as you can imagine, with mazes of sitting rooms, libraries, lounges and dining rooms…and even a Boot Room… housing lots of things for guests to borrow: croquet mallets, bike helmets and the eponymous (Union Jack-themed) Hunter boots!
Horror Movies Galore!
When it became nearly derelict in the 1960’s, The Oakley Court was used by the legendary British B-movie studio, Hammer Films, as a location for over 200 spooky flicks, including Dracula. Then in 1974, it was chosen as the location for Frank-N-Furters Castle for the American hit cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released in 1975.
“Didn’t we pass a castle back down the road a few miles?”
Rocky Horror fans who visit the Oakley Court will be totally thrilled to know that the crude gargoyles flanking The Oakley Court’s front entrance are not actually Victorian stonework, but plaster movie props from the 1974 set of Rocky Horror! But that’s not all: the hallway, stained glass and bannister are also all the same as when that Sweet Transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania hosted young Janet and Brad. Before you go, check out this Rocky Horror fan site for more Rocky Horror-Oakley Court connections.
One of the other weird and wonderful things about The Oakley Court is the butler service. My favourite butler was Nicholas, pictured here. He was everything a butler should be: reserved, polite, informative and helpful. During our stay, he directed us to the pool, stored our stroller, got us some bike helmets, gave us directions…and also shared his impressive knowledge of the Neo-Gothic arts movement as it relates to the Oakley Court. A credit to his profession. Thank you, Butler Nicholas!
Books and Games:
Yes, they have a beautiful heated indoor pool, but there are also so many other delights at the Oakley Court. We played Scrabble in the games room, surrounded floor to ceiling with books about Art. Despite the luxury, there is no feeling of “please don’t touch” at The Oakley Court. During our stay, we met plenty of other families with young children (some nearly as rambunctious as ours).
Bike Rental and River Cruises:
If your family enjoys cycling, there is a safe and well-travelled bike path from the hotel into the town of Windsor. It takes about 45 minutes along the river, and in case you get lost, the Oakley Court provides each guest with a laminated mini-map of the trail, attached to a lanyard, located on the back of your hotel room door. How thoughtful! You can also hire a boat, or join a boat cruise along the River Thames. What a gorgeous and exciting way to explore this part of England!
The Town of Windsor
You can’t get more British than Winsdor! Take a stroll along the River Thames, jump on a bus tour or visit Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world! Don’t forget about Legoland! And of course, Windsor’s big sister, the wonderful capital city of London, is only a short train journey away.
Whether, like me, you are sneaking in a mini pre-vacation, or like some families I met on the flight home, you always spend the night at an airport hotel near Heathrow before your flight back to Canada, take my advice and visit the luxurious Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor. It’s simply amazing…and yes, just a little spooky!
Click here for the Oakley Court Hotel Details:
Helen is a freelance travel writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her mini-vacation was sponsored by booking.com.