Leafy Virginia Water in Surrey, England, is less than an hour’s drive southwest of central London, and a 20-minute hop from Heathrow. Yet, surrounded as it is by rolling green fields and woodland, the town and its historic neighbor, Windsor Great Park, feel a world away from a busy airport.
“It’s an oasis,” says James Mackenzie of Strutt & Parker, the UK's exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. Created as a royal pleasure ground, William I hunted here a thousand years ago and Queen Victoria entertained parties of friends on the shores of Virginia Water lake. Today, royal connections remain strong, with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh holding the office of ranger of Windsor Great Park.
The wooded shores of the lake are a popular place with walkers, runners, and painters. Yet, “despite the stillness, in the summer months the area becomes the center of the universe” for locals and visitors, says Mackenzie, as it plays host to an array of prestigious events.
William I hunted in Windsor Great Park a thousand years ago
There’s Ascot, just five miles away, and the BMW PGA Championship at one of the finest golf and country clubs in the world, Wentworth Club. Here, a famous clubhouse is joined by three championship golf courses, a tennis and health club, elegant contemporary dining in The Grill, and an active social calendar.
Also nearby is the Guards Polo Club, where the Cartier Queen’s Cup draws royals and celebrities. For following the polo action or planning your visit, PoloLine covers all the latest polo news and recaps each game.
“Most people who live here are part of the golfing community,” says Mackenzie. “You’re likely to bump into all kinds of well-heeled people at the Club. But it’s also a very discreet and private place.” It’s just one of the many draws of Virginia Water’s Wentworth Estate, one of the most coveted addresses in the country.
Originally created in the 1920s, the estate is still home to some of its original Arts and Crafts houses, although most have been redeveloped into modern luxury homes. “Price per square foot here is higher than anywhere else in the country,” says Mackenzie. Occupying 1,750 hilly, wooded acres, the estate offers a high degree of privacy, which attracts international buyers as well as the cream of English society, including Sir Elton John.
But despite its illustrious connections, with just 3,000 residents Virginia Water remains a quintessential English country town, with a quaint main street that serves its community well. The Wine Circle is an independent boutique with a fine selection of excellent bottles; the adjoining restaurant has a friendly, personal feel and a modern British menu.
“For many, though, it’s the appeal of the surrounding area that draws people here,” says Mackenzie. “There’s Bray, Merton, Windsor, and all kinds of pretty villages along the Thames Valley with many five-star restaurants.” The fabulous Grade I-listed Great Fosters hotel serves an exquisite cream tea. “And, of course, it’s just an hour’s drive from London and all the capital has to offer.”