HISTORY buffs will know Runnymede as the riverside site of the sealing of the Magna Carta.
Seen by many as the birthplace of modern democracy, this unassuming location in leafy Surrey, which sits alongside the River Thames, was witness to King John's historic sealing of that document over 800 years ago on June 15, 1215.
The royal charter of rights, which was agreed upon by the then King and a group of rebel barons, is now one of the most famous documents in the world, but at its heart, it was merely a practical solution to a political uprising faced by the King.
Nonetheless, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the King, was subject to the law and it remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.
All in all, that makes Runnymede a pretty significant location in Britain, if not the world.
And that would be reason enough to pop the area onto your travel to-do list.
But there are many more reasons a staycation in the Surrey beauty spot should go on your list – as we found when we recently stayed at the area’s grand riverside hotel The Runnymede on Thames.
The area is an ideal place to relax outdoors, or to pause and reflect on the history of the struggle for freedom.
As well as a monument to the democratic legacy of the Magna Carta, you'll find further memorials to John F. Kennedy and the Commonwealth Air Forces, and a unique installation by artists Hew Locke and Mark Wallinger, all in the relatively small area that surrounds the hotel.
But there is plenty more to see too.
Our arrival at the modern four-star hotel revealed an idyllic venue located right along the banks of the River Thames.
And its outdoor space is as inviting as its charming interiors – which follow a duck theme inspired by its feathered friends that live along the river.
Outside the hotel a peaceful river vista awaits, complete with sailors making their way along the water, canal boats navigating the nearby lock system and a variety of wildlife watching on.
The hotel’s al fresco bar and dining area leads onto their very own portion of the riverbank, which boasts a giant Connect 4 game, an outdoor jacuzzi and plenty of colourful beanbags for you to set yourself down upon while you enjoy watching the leisurely pace of life on the water.
With 180 bedrooms - each more than comfortable with their modern décor and all the required amenities – the hotel also has a popular spa which is enjoyed by residents as well as members from across the local community.
And that comes with the additional bonus of having two pools – one indoor and one outdoor, much to the excitement of our three young children when we visited on a very sunny summer weekend.
There was so much on offer to enjoy at the hotel that it took us a good few hours before we started to explore our local area.
When you do decide to take a wander you can walk – or cycle – all the way along the river to all manner of interesting spots.
Turn left out of the hotel and a 30-minute walk will bring you to the nearby Magna Carta monument, which is great for a sobering dash of national history.
About 10 minutes prior to that you will come to the Runnymede Pleasure Park – which is a delightful spot boasting an ample playground, paddling pool, café and children’s amusements.
It’s fair to say, with the weather continuing to play ball during our visit, that we spent a nearly excessive chunk of time here – but, in all honesty, it’s a park worth exploring whether you have children or not, as its riverside location adds an additional depth to its natural beauty.
Bring a picnic and settle in for some top-notch people watching as the locals go about their daily business, traversing the water in boats of all shapes and sizes.
If you turn right along the river outside the hotel you will soon find yourself in the vicinity of the charming traditional pub and restaurant The Swan – which offers great food, refreshing cocktails and perfectly positioned deckchairs dotted right along the riverbank.
What more could you ask for?
Once suitably refreshed you can walk further to The Two Rivers leisure and shopping complex, which has plenty more restaurants, bars and high street stores, if that is something you are after.
Of course, as an alternative to the riverside walks you can go all out and rent yourself a boat and sail yourself down the river.
We did and our hour on the water was a highlight for us all.
For us there proved to be many ways to work up an appetite for dinner while staying at The Runnymede – which offers a buffet style arrangement allowing you to choose from a selection or starters, main dishes and desserts.
The freedom of choice at dinner was welcomed by our group – particularly our little ones, who got to sample plenty of their favourite dishes over the course of our evening meal.
That we followed with post-dinner drinks taken outside the restaurant.
We settled along the riverbank and watched as the sun set on our brief Surrey staycation – which was fun, relaxing, and full of historic charm.
There is plenty to do on your doorstep while staying at The Runnymede on Thames – but it is also a great base for those who want to explore the area further. Here are some of the best attractions locally…
Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world and home to the Queen of England.
Just a 15-minute drive away from the hotel, it makes for the perfect day trip.
There you can observe the Changing the Guard ceremony, tour the State Apartments and Semi-State rooms and admire St George’s Chapel, set in the grounds of the majestic Castle.
The Chapel hosted the royal weddings of HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in 2018.
Discover the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew Gardens, which are located just 16 miles from the hotel.
The spot is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site which offers visitors the chance to discover an incredibly diverse collection of plants.
Explore a variety of different gardens, from Japanese to the Mediterranean, and wander through the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse. Climb to the top of the pagoda, or walk through the tree canopy for amazing views, then explore The Hive art installation that recreates life inside a beehive.
Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage also lie in the grounds of Kew Gardens and guided tours are offered.
Located just seven miles from the hotel is Legoland Windsor – which offers over 55 amazing interactive rides, attractions and live shows for the whole family.
Land of the Vikings, Lego Ninjago World, Kingdom of the Pharaohs and Duplo Valley are but a few of the theme land areas in the park packed full of fun, perfect for children aged 2-12 to explore.
Miniland is a must-see, featuring over 40 million Lego bricks where you can spot model versions of famous landmarks such as Windsor Castle, Canary Wharf and Big Ben.
There’s also a collection of educational workshops where children can learn through play and those aged eight and above can design and program robots.
Just a 40-minute walk along the river you can visit the historical site which witnessed King John's sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.
This was a charter to make peace between the King and a group of barons and it is seen by many as a vital step in achieving what we know as democracy today.
To commemorate the history of the area, a collection of monuments and art installations have been installed at Runnymede which visitors can explore on foot from the hotel.
Thorpe Park is widely deemed the nation's ‘Thrill Capital’, with some of Europe's most extreme rollercoasters and rides. The theme park offers an adrenaline-fuelled day out with over 30 rides, attractions and live events.
Brave ten loops on the mighty Colossus, ride on the UK’s first winged rollercoaster The Swarm and be catapulted 205ft high launching at 0-80mph in under two seconds on Stealth! Be prepared to get splashed on Rumba Rapids, Depth Charge and Tidal Wave.
For those really looking for a scare, there’s Saw – The Ride – themed on the horror movie, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train or The Walking Dead ride. For younger children, Mr Monkey’s Banana Ride, the Flying Fish rollercoaster and the Angry Birds 4D Experience provide endless fun.
Open seasonally, Thorpe Park is just 10 minutes away from The Runnymede by car.
Special ‘Fright Nights’ events run during the autumn to celebrate Halloween – prepare to be spooked.
The JFK memorial is a pleasant 30-minute walk along the river from The Runnymede on Thames. Following the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963, a large stone memorial was installed halfway up the Cooper’s Hill Slopes at Runnymede, on an area of land donated to the United States of America by Queen Elizabeth II.
It commands splendid views of the area and consists of a garden and memorial tablet inscribed with the famous quote from his Inaugural Address.
Runnymede Pleasure Grounds are just a short walk from the hotel along the Thames Path and make for a fun family day out.
Situated on the banks of the River Thames, the Pleasure Grounds are the perfect spot for a picnic.
This lovely park features a children’s playground, paddling pool, cafeteria and boat cruise pick up point.
Visitors can also take a stroll further along the river and see the Magna Carta memorials.
Whirlpool on the Weir
Whilst staying at The Runnymede on Thames, guest enjoy complimentary access to our outdoor whirlpool.
With a glass of Champagne in hand, enjoy an indulgent dip in the whirlpool which sits on our private jetty, right on the banks of the River Thames.
Nightly rates at The Runnymede start from £190.00 for a Standard Double non-riverside Room, on a bed & breakfast basis. For more information or to book click here, email [email protected] or call 01784 220600