A visit to Virginia Water Lake always makes a terrific day out with or without kids. It’s a popular attraction all year long, but is particularly great for a walk in autumn. At this time of year, the autumnal landscape is breathtaking, and the lake is slightly less busy.
In summer, the landscaped gardens are awash with colour and the scenery is stunning, but it can get crowded.
A walk a Virginia Water Lake offers more than just walking. There is lots to see and do and the natural surroundings are just spectacular. In this post, you can discover what to expect on your visit, including the top features and practical information for your visit.
A brief history of Virginia Water Lake
Virginia Water Lake has a long history associated with royals. It was first dammed and flooded in 1753, making it the largest man-made lake of its time. Since then, it has been a royal playground, for both George 3rd and Queen Victoria.
Nowadays Virginia Waters is a fabulous outdoor place enjoyed by people of all ages. You will usually see families, joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists, going in both directions around the lake.
What can you expect to see?
Virginia Water Lake is so popular, as it always offers much more than just a walk. As well as spectacular scenery and nature, there are play areas and picnic spots. There are also a number of unexpected features along the way.
If you start at the café and go clockwise, you will soon come to the ornamental cascade. Originally built in the 1750’s, this 10-metre cascade is now one of the grandest remaining features at the lake.
Until recently children could climb on the surrounding rocks, but now admiring the waters from the viewpoint has to suffice.
The Roman ruins
The first surprise for people new to Virginia Water Lake is the unexpected sight of Roman ruins.
In fact, they are not real but a replica. Many of the stones for the ruins were imported from Leptis Magna, a Roman city in present day Tripoli.
They wanted it to look as much like a genuine Roman relic as possible, in keeping with fashion at the time.
After completing the first side of the lake, you will cross the stone five-arch bridge. The bridge built between 1822 and 1827 and has remained relatively unchanged since.
The Totem Pole
The second curiosity at Virginia Water Lake is the 100 ft totem pole. The government of British Columbia gave the totem pole as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.
They carved the totem pole from a single 600-year old log of Western Red Cedar. Look up at this immense monument to see carvings of birds, odd-looking men and animals such as a whale and sea otter.
There is a seating area around the totem pole and a circular pathway, which makes a popular runway for children.
Nature and wildlife
The vistas at Virginia Water Lake are spectacular. As well as the stunning views of the lake, there is an abundance of ornamental shrubs and trees to admire. You’ll see a good selection of water birds and if you’re lucky (as we were) you might spot deer.
Around the perimeter of the lake, historic trees provide a wonderful, natural playground for children. And even better, the rhododendrums create hidden labyrinths, perfect for hide and seek or tree climbing.
Extend your walk
The Valley Gardens
The perimeter of the lake is about 4.5 miles. If you take a slight detour from this circular walk, you’ll reach the Valley Gardens.
Here, the changing landscape looks outstanding throughout the year. And it’s no wonder, as the Valley Gardens boasts trees and shrubs from all over the world and is managed by a team of experts.
Various pathways and trails lead you down into the Punch Bowl, which always looks spectacular.
In spring, the Punch Bowl is ablaze with pinks, purples and reds from its extensive collection of rhododendron, magnolia, and azaleas. However, by autumn, the palette changes to a rich mix of crimson, golds and russets.
The Savill Garden
A short walk from Virginia Water Lake will take you to The Savill Garden. Here you will find every horticulturalists’ dream, 35 acres of immaculate landscaped gardens.
There is an admission charge to enter Savill Gardens, but access to the restaurant or food counter is free.
On the way down to The Savill Garden, there is a small playground for younger children. This has a wooden ship, swings and a sandpit.
For older children, there are a lot of good climbing trees behind the playground. In front of the playground, is Obelisk Lawn, a perfect spot for a picnic.
How to get to Virginia Water Lake
The easiest way to get to Virginia Water Lake is by car.
It is easily accessible from the M25, via the A30. It is also very close to Windsor (about 20 minutes from the town centre).
The nearest train station is Virginia Water Station, but the entrance to the lake is 2 miles away, so you would need to get a cab.
Parking at Virginia Water Lake
There are 2 car parks for Virginia Water Lake and one for Savill Garden. The sat nav postcode for the main car park is GU25 4QF and for Savill Garden is TW20 0UJ.
All of the car parks can get very busy during the summer months, so it’s best to get there early. Details of charges and opening times can be found here.
Virginia Water Lake Opening Times
The car parks are open from 7.45am (or dawn if later) to 7pm (or dusk if earlier) throughout the year.
Entrance Fees to Virginia Water Lake
It is free to get into Virginia Water Lake and the Valley Gardens, though you will have to pay by the hour for the car parks.
However, there is an admission charge for Savill Garden. It is currently £12 for adults and £6 for children (5-15 yrs) in the summer. It is considerably cheaper during the winter months (from 1st November).
Top tip: If you purchase entrance to Savill Garden, you can get a refund on your parking ticket.
There are a number of eateries at Virginia Water Lake. The Pavillion has been updated and provides a selection of snacks and drinks. There are a number of snack vans and ice-cream vans (seasonal). Picnicking is also a very popular choice, as there are so many great places to stop.
For more formal eating, you can head to The Savill Garden.
Alternatively after a great walk we stop at one of the many pubs surrounding the lake for a refreshing pint and family friendly meal.