10 reasons to love Virginia Water

Virginia Water illustration by Emily Westwell

Virginia Water illustration by Emily Westwell - Credit: Archant

Home to one of the most expensive estates to live outside London, as well as the romantic lakes from which it got its name, Virginia Water has managed to retain its villagey charm despite the influx of wealth into the town

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Virginia Water Lake

Owned and managed by The Crown Estate, Virginia Water Lake is just a small part of the Royal Landscape, which includes Windsor Park and Savill Gardens. The lake itself is, astonishingly, the largest man-made lake in Europe, created in the mid-18th century by the Duke of Cumberland.

There is loads to see here including the Cascade, an ornamental waterfall loved by photographers, the Leptis Magna Ruins and a fabulous Totem Pole. The Virginia Water Pavilion is a visitor centre and café to keep you topped up with coffee while you plan your walk.

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The Totem Pole

We thought this deserved its own entry as this is one of the most famous features of the area. A gift to HM The Queen in 1958 by the people of Canada, this 100ft high totem pole sits towering above the lake. Carved from a single log of western red cedar by a renowned craftsman named Chief Mungo Martin of the Kwakiutl, a Federation of Tribes, the pole weighs in at 27,000lb and was cut from a 600 year-old tree. Each of the figures carved into the pole represents a mythical ancestor of a clan – see if you spot the Halibut Man, The Double-Headed Snake and The Sea Otter amongst them.

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Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial

Commemorating more than 20,000 airmen who died in the First World War, this memorial stands overlooking the River Thames just north of Virginia Water. The airmen, who served in various commands, have no known graves and are each individually named on the memorial. Designed by Sir Edward Maufe and unveiled by HM The Queen in October 1953, the memorial has several interesting features including engraved glass and painted ceilings and a gallery window featuring an engraved poem by Paul H Scott. Summer opening times (from April 1) are 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.

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Ascot Racecourse

Fancy a flutter on a filly? You’ll find a lot more going on just over the border in Berkshire than just horseracing – in fact, this month you can catch the inaugural Ascot Spring Garden Show (April 13 to April 15) where the gardening talents of students, designers and traders are on display. Back to the racing though and if you’re quick you can now book tickets for Royal Ascot 2018. June 19 to June 23 is the highlight of the racing calendar when you can dress and dine in style and rub shoulders with the great and good. Losing your shirt on the horses is, of course, still just as easy…

Great Fosters

Time to wind down a bit and have a spot of lunch. Runners up in our own Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards last year for Outstanding Customer Service, this fine Grade I-listed building set in 50 acres of gardens is a little luxury you must experience. There is a cocktail bar and terrace, two restaurants and their speciality afternoon tea. We have tried this more than once and the sight of a tiered platter of cakes, finger sandwiches and scones is almost too much to bear. If you go completely mad and book an overnight stay you can choose The Italian Room with damask-draped walls – or perhaps the Queen Anne Suite with a four poster is more your style.

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Wine Circle Restaurant

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This is more than just a restaurant. Located in the centre of the village near the railway station, The Wine Circle has a deli and a wine shop to browse as well as the restaurant. Specialising in modern British cuisine with a Mediterranean influence you can tuck into steaks, a Thai green chicken curry, wild boar ragu and, if you’ve just come from a successful visit to Ascot Racecourse, there is a serving of 50g of Sevruga Caviar for a cool £90. The deli has a range of delights including spiced jellies, artisan cheeses, cured meats and hams.

Wentworth Patisserie

No time to sit and eat lunch? Just nearby is this family run patisserie that specialises in all things delicious. Perfect for grabbing a takeaway you can have the Breakfast in a Box or maybe the doorstep bacon sandwich – we haven’t actually checked this one out but it sounds…large! Sandwiches, rolls, wraps and cakes are all waiting for you as well as the lip-smackingly good local ice creams. Celebration cakes are available too and they can also organise your party for you with buffet platters.

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The Savill Garden

Described as the jewel in the crown of the Royal Landscape, these 35 acres of beautifully designed gardens and woodland are rich with trees, flowers and wildlife. Created in 1935 there are a series of interconnected gardens to explore including the Spring Wood, Summer Gardens, Glades and The New Zealand Garden. You can treat yourself to an amazing horse drawn carriage ride as well, starting at the Savill Building and winding its way through parts of Windsor Great Park. Check the website for details.

The Rose and Olive Branch

A lovely pub with an interesting name – complete with a resident ghost who apparently wanders up and down a disused stairway in the building. The unique name comes from an historical treaty between the Roundheads and Cavaliers signed in the 17th century during the Civil War. The pub has a huge lunch and dinner menu and specialties include their homemade puff pastry pies and a range of Wellingtons – beef, duck, salmon and even a prawn Wellington are all ready to enjoy.

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Wentworth Club

The name Wentworth is synonymous with Virginia Water – surrounded by probably some of the most expensive properties outside London and with a gaggle of celebrities living here (the late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth was a resident) the club has an exclusive membership waiting if you have the bank balance to go with it. With a tennis club and health spa to go with the four golf courses you’ll certainly keep fit even if your credit card turns a bit pale.

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