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Break Away: TRAVEL IRELAND: Windsor splendour; HISTORIC ENGLISH CITY TOPS FOR ROMANTIC GETAWAY.

WITH cheap sunshine holidays to Europe 10 to the dozen these days, it's easy to forget how refreshing a weekend break across the water can be.

On a mission to relax, unwind and generally get away from it all, I set off with my fiancee to Windsor in England to sample the delights of the Oakley Court Hotel.

Situated just minutes from Windsor Castle, the Thames and the famous racecourse, the Oakley Court has become a popular retreat for couples looking for that romantic getaway.

Situated on the banks of the Thames, the historical building is instantly recognisable as you sweep up the grand driveway - not least because it appeared in numerous films including St Trinians, The Rocky Horror Show & Hammer House Productions including Dracula.

Within a few minutes drive are Windsor Castle and Eton College, the beautiful riverside town of Henley-on-Thames.

Driving into the Victorian Gothic mansion is a treat in itself - situated amid 35 acres of rolling countryside and meandering streams - it's easy to forget that the bustling city of London and noisy Heathrow airport are just half an hour away.

We were met by friendly staff on arrival and whisked straight to our impressive room, overlooking the Thames and the perfectly manicured gardens.

With TV, four-poster bed and marble bathroom, it was all too easy to slip straight into holiday mode.

But with the sun shinning outside and the promise of dressed Pimms served on the lawn, it was time to venture outside.

The beauty of the Oakley Court is that everything you could need is a stone's throw away.

Whether you want a work-out in the health club, a round at the on-site par three golf course or a cocktail in the bar, you won't need to stroll for more than two minutes to have it all at your fingertips.

We enjoyed our drinks watching the busy procession of barges and yachts sailing upstream and then, as the sunset, retreated to the award-winning Oakleaf Restaurant - which would be another impressive jewel in the hotel's crown.

TOP service and impressive food are the order of the day in here. At the weekends many travel from all over Berkshire to enjoy one of the finest restaurants in the area.

The following morning we took advantage of the warm summer sunshine to make the two-mile trek into Windsor town centre.

Windsor is still one of the best places to be in the south of England when the sun is out.

Whether you want to stroll around the grounds of the Castle, or sip a cold beer in one of the many riverside restaurants the world is your oyster here.

In the afternoon we headed to Windsor racecourse for one of the biggest meetings of the year. The track is only a five-minute walk from the Oakley Court and race-goers arrived in their droves, clutching bottles of wine, baguettes and cheeses to munch on during the day's entertainment.

After another sumptuous meal in the Oakleaf we spent our final day in the spa where guests can enjoy a relaxing swim, sauna or steam room.

All too quickly it was time to pack up and head back to the airport - with the stresses and strains of working life back home well and truly left behind.

TOP SPOT..

ONE of the best hotels in Windsor is the Oakley Court. To book, call 0044 1753 609988. Early booking is advised as the hotel is popular with wedding parties and couples on weekend breaks.

The hotel offers full spa facilities, tennis golf and other amenities close by.

Windsor is just two miles away and attractions such as access to the Castle and Legoland can be arranged by the extremely helpful concierge.

The on-site Oakleaf restaurant is well worth booking into and is widely regarded as the best restaurant in the Windsor area.

GET THERE..

SITUATED just half-an-hour from Heathrow and less than an hour from central London, Windsor is within easy reached of all England's main airports.

Ryanair operate regular and reasonably priced flights from Dublin to Stansted and can be booked at www.ryanair.com.

Aer Lingus operate daily flights to Heathrow from as little as e9 and can be booked at www.aerlingus.com.

Heathrow is nearer to Windsor than Standsted, which lies to the East of London.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 21, 2004
Words:716
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