Hidden Gems in Ascot
While Ascot may be known for its horse racing, a closer look at the surrounding county unveils a string of surprises outside of equestrian sports. Fine stately homes stand proud in the rolling Berkshire countryside, gastro pubs welcome diners in with gourmet food and rustic charm, and alternative museums open visitors’ eyes to another side of British history and culture. Discover the best hidden sights in this quintessentially English area with our two-day itinerary.
Start the day with a 40-minute drive to Hell Fire Caves.
Located deep beneath the Berkshire countryside, the Hell-Fire Caves are steeped in history and, allegedly, paranormal activity. The network of winding passages stretches for over half a mile and leads explorers into historic chambers, underground halls and the impressive Inner Temple. The caves used to be owned by the notorious Hell-Fire Club, and visitors can discover underground exhibitions dedicated to this notorious group.
Next, take a 25-minute drive to Waltham Place in White Waltham.
Waltham Place is a beautiful manor and its organic garden is considered one of the best-kept secrets in Berkshire. During the warmer months of the year, visitors are welcome to explore the estate, which includes a biodynamic farm, rich woodlands, a lake and several ornamental gardens. There’s also a quaint tea room and a farm shop selling produce made onsite.
Then, travel for 15 minutes by car to The White Oak in Cookham.
The White Oak
A modern gastro pub in the historic village of Cookham, The White Oak attracts patrons from far and wide with its daily-changing menu of local British cuisine. Browse the à la carte options, indulge in a three-course set lunch or, if it’s Sunday, sample the eatery’s first-rate roast dinner. Wash your meal down with a bottle from The White Oak’s excellent wine cellar.
To reach the next destination, it’s a 15-minute drive from Cookham to Dorney Court.
Dorney Court is one of the finest stately homes in England. Its historic charm hasn’t gone unnoticed, having been used as a filming location for movies and series such as The Other Boleyn Girl and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. While the house remains a family home, it’s open to visitors periodically throughout the year. Visit to tour the manor and discover historic furniture, impressive artworks and beautiful gardens. The Dorney Court Kitchen Garden is open all year.
The final stop of the day is located in Richmond Park, which is a 50-minute drive from Dorney Court.
While Richmond Park is most famous for its herds of wild deer, the Isabella Plantation is a highlight for nature lovers. Set within a woodland plantation that dates back to the Victorian era, the colourful garden is best known for its stunning evergreen azaleas, which are particularly beautiful when they bloom in spring, and its collection of rare and unusual trees, shrubs and flowers.
From Richmond Park, it’s a 45-minute drive back to the hotel.
Begin the second day of the itinerary with a 30-minute drive to the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk in Reading.
Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk
World-renowned Irish writer Oscar Wilde spent almost two years in Reading as a prisoner of the jail between 1895 and 1897. Take a walk along the shady Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk between the prison and the River Kennet and discover tributes and a ‘love seat’ dedicated to the writer.
Then, take a 10-minute drive to the Museum of English Rural Life.
Museum of English Rural Life
Built to challenge perceptions of rural England, the Museum of English Rural Life is dedicated to historical and contemporary country living from 1750 to today. The institution is packed full of interactive galleries dedicated to the environment, technology, culture and identity. With over 25,000 objects, 100,000 books and 1 million photos on display, there’s plenty to discover.
Next, travel for 10 minutes by car for lunch at L’Ortolan in Shinfield.
Hidden away in the picturesque village of Shinfield, L’Ortolan is Reading’s only Michelin starred restaurant. Head chef, Tom Clarke presents colourful, modern French cuisine with superlative fine-dining finesse. Opt for their two- or three-course lunch menu or indulge in the tasting menu accompanied by a flight of wines chosen by their expert sommeliers.
After lunch, drive for 10 minutes to Reading and make your way to the next destination.
Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology
Located within the University of Reading, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology contains one of the finest and largest collections of Greek ceramics in Britain. Antique Greek vases tell colourful tales of Greek mythology while ancient Egyptian artefacts, such as mummified cats’ heads and funerary boats, showcase one of history’s most fascinating periods.
Leave Reading and take a 35-minute drive to Sandham Memorial Chapel.
Sandham Memorial Chapel
In the quiet village of Burghclere is the beautiful Sandham Memorial Chapel, known for its 19 large-scale murals. Painted by English artist Stanley Spencer to honour the victims of WWI, the impressive artworks cover three walls, giving visitors the impression of stepping into an oil painting.
To get back to the hotel, drive for one hour to reach Ascot.
All journey times are approximate and subject to variation.