Sunday lunch : The Wheatsheaf Hotel

The location of The Wheatsheaf Hotel is truly idyllic, overlooking Virginia Water Lake and surrounded by lush English countryside in the majestic setting of Windsor Great Park. The Wheatsheaf pub’s history has a distinctly regal flavor due to its location within The Royal Landscape on the Crown Estates – a thousand acres of landscaped gardens, lakes and woodland, incorporating The Savill Garden, The Valley Gardens and Virginia Water Lake.

Virginia Water is a man-made lake that was created on the site of an ancient stream by William Duke of Cumberland in the first half of the 18th century, and the development of the inn or ‘beerhouse’ was central to the development of the Royal Estate. In 1768, when the lake burst its dam and flooded the neighbourhood, The Wheatsheaf was rebuilt by John Atkins in a new location closer to the Great Western Road turnpike, on the south edge of Windsor Great Park. This is where it remains today.

George III was a frequent visitor to Virginia Water while construction on the Royal Estate was taking place, and his head foreman, William Tough was based at The Wheatsheaf Hotel. Tough’s memoirs recall a time in 1795 when the royal family stopped by at The Wheatsheaf, the Queen and Princess relaxing in the pub while the King and Prince Adolphus went to inspect progress at Virginia Water. Today visitors can still admire an ornamental cascade from the 18th century and a ‘Roman temple’ built from columns and lintels brought from the ancient city of Leptis Magna in the early 19th century. One of the area’s more recent additions is a towering 100-foot high Totem Pole, a gift from the government of British Columbia.

Both Virginia Water Lake and village are believed to have been named after the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. Today Virginia Water is one of the most prestigious places in England to live, incorporating the Wentworth Estate and the famous Wentworth Golf Club. Over the years, a whole host of celebrities and professional golfers have called it home including Elton John, Nick Faldo and Bruce Forsyth. Virginia Water’s picturesque shores also featured in lakeside scenes in the Harry Potter films.

The area is very popular with walkers and nature lovers alike, the 4.5 mile walk around the lake being the perfect way to work up an appetite for some traditional pub food and drink. The path around the lake is flat and in good condition, making it ideal for prams and pushchairs. Consequently, The Wheatsheaf Hotel is always a popular choice for Sunday lunches.