“ Address: Pingewood / Reading / Berkshire RG30 3UN / United Kingdom / Tel: +44 (0)118 9 500 885 „
The Reading Lake Hotel (fka Copthorne Hotel Reading) is a delightful 4 star hotel located next to a 33 acre lake which is one of the reasons I chose to book this for a 3 night getaway for our wedding anniversary. The hotel has over 80 rooms all of which have private balconies overlooking the lake. At the time of our stay the hotel was called the Copthorne Millenium Reading (not to be confused with the other Copthorne in Reading - the Madejski)
I found the hotel quite by chance whilst browsing the internet to find a relaxing place to spend a few days. I found when trying to book through the website that I couldn't figure out exactly which package I wanted so I called them directly and spoke to an extremely helpful lady who as it turns out was Christina, Reception Shift Leader. She talked through the various deals they had available and I decided on a 3 day leisure break which included a Superior Room, full English & continental breakfast each morning, late check out of 4pm on the last day and club extras for 2 - all for just under £240 (including VAT). My credit card number was taken over the phone to reserve the room (but I was advised that I would not be charged until I checked out).
I asked if I could have an email confirmation and this was sent within minutes and everything about our booking was clearly explained in the email for which I was grateful (after having previous experiences at other hotels of being told an email would be sent and receiving nothing until chasing at least once). The email also clearly explained if the booking needed to be changed or cancelled this could be done up until 2pm on the day of arrival.
ARRIVAL AND CHECK IN
Several weeks later we arrived at the hotel after a rather interesting journey - the hotel is situated in a rather rural part of Reading. The actual area is called Pingewood and can be reached by leaving the M4 at Junction 11 and taking the A33 towards Basingstoke. Once you turn onto the A33 you need to turn right at the first roundabout - but here lies the problem - when we arrived at the roundabout, it wasn't there anymore (roadworks which I understand will be going on for quite some time); so you need to go to the next junction and do a u-turn and drive back to take the exit to take the road to Pingewood. It's a rather long and windy road for 2 or 3 miles but a mile or so down there are quite clear signs to the hotel so it was easy to find. Reading Station is about 15 minutes by taxi and will cost about £15-20 to reach the hotel.
As we drove into the car park, we were slightly dismayed not to see the 33 acre lake, for a moment we thought we'd been conned with the beautiful photos on the website but we didn't panic - the entrance to the reception looked very smart with a few steps going up as well as a slope for wheelchair and pushchair access as well as for those dragging wheeled luggage. We assumed (correctly) that the lake was on the other side of the hotel.
As we approached reception, we were met with a beaming smile from Ania who asked for the name the room was booked in. Our details were available promptly and we were given the room key and were advised what time breakfast was, asked if we'd like an alarm call and newspaper in the mornings. We were then clearly advised how to find our room which was on the first floor and pointed in the direction of the lift. We were also given a free drinks voucher for the bar and were advised that it was for a free drink each. The reception area had a few armchairs available and looked very smart and immaculate. As we got into the lift we said how nice it was to be greeted by such a cheerful person (in the past at some hotels, we've come across some rather glum looking reception staff; which isn't at all welcoming).
We were amused to see the lift only went down to the lower ground floor and up to the first floor. The hotel has no other floors! I would point out here that the lift was rather dated and some obviously stupid people had etched graffiti into the wooden walls with a knife which rather spoiled the look. When I saw the lift was dated, this is because it seemed to take quite a long time just going up one floor (yes, we were lazy - we had luggage to carry).
Our room was not far from the lift and as we entered the room we just stood there for a few moments in awe of how large it was and how lovely it looked. The bed looked very comfy (although it was a double bed and not a king as we'd hoped) but nonetheless it looked very welcoming and on the bed were 2 pairs of complimentary slippers and a bathrobe. There was a nice comfy chair at a desk where there was literature available about the local area as well as the guide to the hotel services and a hairdryer on the wall in front of the large mirror.
At the far end of the room were large ceiling length windows and door leading onto a balcony (unfortunately we didn't venture out onto the balcony immediately as it was pouring with rain). By the balcony windows/door was a small table and armchair. We did think it was strange to have just one armchair by the table and felt it was also strange that there wasn't a sofa or at least another chair to relax in but it wasn't a real issue as there was also the chair by the desk that we could use.
A large wardrobe with sliding doors and full length mirrors and ample hangers was available for our clothes and inside the wardrobe was also a safe with instructions for how to use it. On the top shelf of the wardrobe were extra pillows and blanket as well as extra towels.
Beneath the TV there was a cabinet hosting a kettle with tea / coffee / hot chocolate / sugar / milk / biscuits, etc, along with a fridge to store your own supplies or reception can provide a mini bar on request. The TV just had the 5 terrestrial channels available and 3 news and sports channels but to watch films you had to pay, there was a decent selection of new and old films with comedy and drama, etc. On enquiring with reception we found out that it was only £2.50 to watch a film and it would be available to watch over and over until midnight BUT unfortunately there was a problem with the system so we were unable to watch any films at all. Each room is supplied with a keyboard with the TV so you can access the internet at a cost of £5 for an hour or £10 for 24 hours. If you don't want to pay this and have brought your own laptop you can access free wifi from the bar and lobby areas. I don't think the internet prices were too steep but as many hotels are giving free wifi access in guest rooms as standard these days; it might be something the Copthorne should reconsider.
The bathroom was gleaming and spacious. Of the toiletries available were two small bars of soap, a small bottle of shampoo (but no conditioner), a bottle of moisturiser and a bottle of shower/bath gel as well as a shower cap, a couple of packets of cotton buds and a box of tissues. There was a regular sized bathtub with a shower available which we didn't find to be very powerful. To be fair though; as we have an excellent power shower at home - in recent years when staying at hotels we always find the showers lacking compared to ours at home. There was only one set of towels in the bathroom so I called down to reception to be advised that the other set was in the wardrobe. There was also a safety mat in the bathtub which is always handy if you feel you might slip in the bath when having a shower and there was a very well maintained shower curtain (i.e. no mildew).
On reading the guide to the hotel services we discovered that there was a fitness centre onsite but not a swimming pool (not that we wanted to go swimming in particular) but there was information advising that their sister hotel was a 5 minute drive away, the Copthorne at Madejski Stadium where guests at our hotel were welcome to use the pool.
The room service food prices looked quite reasonable but what we thought was the restaurant menu did not have as a selection of dishes as we'd imagined it would be although we found several items which we felt would suit our palate just fine and at very reasonable prices: on average about £8 per main course (served with salad and chips as far as I recall) and £3 for extras such as chunky chips.
On our second day in the hotel as we had the "do not disturb" sign up we had a note left under our door saying that they respected our wish not to be disturbed so would attempt to clean our room the following day. They very kindly left us a bag with extra towels and tea and coffee supplies as well as extra toiletries for the bathroom which we thought was a very nice touch. In all the years I've stayed at hotels this is the first time I have personally experienced this; generally if you don't want your room serviced I've had to specifically phone room service to request anything I've run out of.
It's definitely worth mentioning that during our whole stay we did not hear any external noise when inside our room as we've often experienced in other hotels such as doors slamming or even random bits of conversation of people walking past the room. This is a definite plus for me when staying in a hotel.
It's worth pointing out that all the rooms are non-smoking rooms and there were signs to remind you of this stating that a £250 charge would be added to anyone's bill if they smoked in the room. I didn't actually check if you were allowed to smoke on the balcony of your room although you were allowed to smoke out on the deck outside the bar (we know as we asked for an ashtray and were given one without any fuss).
I also must mention here that during our stay we tried to keep the balcony door open a few times to let in some fresh air but there were so many midges around that we had to close the door pretty quickly. I don't know if this is a problem all year around but for someone like me (who has a bit of a phobia with all flying insects, yes even flies "bug" me, excuse the pun) it was a bit irksome to say the least. Can't fault the hotel for this though, it's just all down to being surrounded by a lake.
BAR & RESTAURANT
We went down to the bar and used our free drinks voucher which surprisingly allowed us to have a large glass of wine and a spirit with mixer (as a guideline normally a large wine is about £6 and a large spirit with mixer about £8). The bar was fairly quiet with maybe 2 or 3 other couples enjoying a relaxing drink and a few other groups of 2 to 4 people that seemed like business people. The barman who served us who we saw over the next few days was a young man called Ross and he gave us fabulous service each time we went to the bar. He was even kind enough to bring up to the room some food my husband ordered whilst down at the bar on one occasion without charging a room service charge.
On our first evening we dined in the Lakeside restaurant which was very serene and posh looking and we were greeted by the lovely Amy who showed us to a table by the window so we could have a view of the lake (not really much to see on this evening though as it was still raining). We soon realised that the menu we had seen up in our room was for bar food as the actual restaurant in the hotel varies the menu from time to time which is why it's not possible to have the menu in every single room of the hotel.
We were given a couple of menus, one of which was a menu from where you could choose 2 courses for just under £17 or 3 courses for around £23 (NB: the hotel website seems to think it's £21.45 for 2 courses and £26.70 for 3). We opted for the 2 course menu as hubby wanted a starter and main course and I wanted a starter and dessert.
We were given some bread with balsamic vinegar whilst we waited and my husband's starter of fish goujons arrived shortly afterwards. We noted that we were given a jug of iced water as soon as we were seated at the table. Gareth, our server, was very cheerful and nothing was too much trouble for him. For the main course my husband had sea bass and vegetables and I had grilled chicken with new potatoes and vegetables and it really was a mouth-watering meal prepared for us. When it came to choosing dessert I was rather full up so I was sensible and opted for fruit salad and was presented with a HUGE portion which hubby had to help me with! Overall our dining experience was fabulous and we weren't rushed at all, we were asked a couple of times if everything was to our satisfaction (which it definitely was). Our bill came to around £50 which is what we expected as we had a few drinks with our meal. We left the restaurant very satisfied and went back to the bar for a nightcap. Dinner is available in the restaurant from 6.30 to 9.30pm according to the website, but I'm fairly sure we were there till about 10.30 without the staff trying to rush us out.
Breakfast is available from 6.30 to 10.00 on weekdays and 7.30 to 10.30 on weekends. The continental breakfast costs £15.75 and the full English breakfast costs £16.75 which luckily we had included in our room price. The continental was a huge spread including various cheeses, many different types of cereal, various chilled fruit juices, tea, coffee, croissants and other fresh pastries, several types of cold meat including ham and pastrami, and fresh fruit and as well as various yoghurts and toast and selection of jams, marmalade and honey. The full English allows you to have whatever you want from the continental selection but also a choice of bacon, eggs, hash brown, sausage, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and black pudding. On the Saturday and the Monday we had to order our English breakfast which was brought to us on a plate to our table but on the Sunday, the hot food was laid out buffet style so you could help yourself to whatever you wanted. We were pleasantly surprised to see the lovely Gareth and Amy serving the breakfast in the mornings on all 3 days as well as a couple of other breakfast staff.
THE GROUNDS/FACILITIES/OTHER INFO
We weren't really able to do a lot of exploring as the weather was quite poor for most of our stay but there are huge grounds around the hotel to wander around to your heart's content as well as the superb views of the lake you can just gaze at from your balcony or from the decking outside the bar.
There are several lifts around the hotel which is very convenient for disabled guests and I also noted there were sets of toilets very close to the restaurant as well as separate toilets near the bar. I noted that these were always well stocked and had extremely decent air fresheners in place as well as luxury toiletries.
The hotel also has conference and event rooms which can host up to 120 delegates and other business facilities such as faxing and photocopying and I understand they also have a license to perform weddings. The hotel also does a Sunday lunch which is also available to non-residents for just £7.95.
I'd like to mention to any potential guests that the hotel seems to cater for all age groups, we saw couples of varying ages from 20s to 60s or more, a couple of families with small children as well as business people.
Also worth mentioning is the fact the you can use the hotel gym for free, although it's rather small and you need to sign a form at reception to take responsibility for your own safety as the gym is not staffed. My husband used the gym on the second day or our stay and said it was cosy although quite small and had limited equipment.
The car parking available for the hotel seemed ample and I can't imagine them ever having issues with not enough spaces for guests even with corporate events or weddings taking place.
Local attractions include the London Tropical Zoo, the Living Rainforest, Reading Town Centre with its Oracle Shopping Centre, and Royal Windsor is not far away with the palace and charming town itself to visit. Also close by are Basildon Park, Bucklebury Farm Park, Reading Museum and Coral Reef Waterworld.
At the time of writing the hotel (and the rest of the chain as far as I'm aware) offers several packages for guests including "Leisure for Longer" which gives you 20% discount if you book for 3 nights or more, if you book breakfast too you get 30% off the recommended room rate (RRR). The Family Rewards package includes dinner for two adults with a bottle of house wine, one child dines free per adult dining, full use of the leisure facilities and discounted entry to local attractions. The Room with Breakfast package saves you 30% on the normal rate. The Weekend Break includes free breakfast with each morning of your stay and a late checkout with complimentary drinks voucher.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Copthorne Millenium Reading and would have no hesitation in recommending the hotel to anyone and am hoping it offers the same service and quality now it's changed hands. I'm happy to give the hotel a very strong 4.5 out of 5 stars and again point out what fabulous service was provided by all members of staff we dealt with during our stay. It's worth mentioning that the checkout process was very smooth with our bill printed within moments of our arriving at reception and it was 100% accurate.
All in all a very luxurious and clean hotel with very down to earth prices starting from around £43 per night depending on what sort of package you go for.
Reading Lake Hotel
Tel: +44 (0)118 9 500 885
Fax: +44 (0)118 9 391 996
Central Reservations: +44 (0)845 30 20 001
N.B. As of June 2011 the hotel changed its name to Reading Lake Hotel and is no longer part of the Copthorne Group.