This Spooky English Castle Is a Hot Horror Film Location
Stay at Windsor's posh Oakley Court Hotel—seen in scores of horror movies and the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show—if you dare.
Now a friendly, fun hotel that welcomes families and pets, Oakley Court Hotel retains its Victorian-Gothic stylings that made it a favorite location for horror films.
Zombies, vampires, interstellar Transylvanians, Napoleon IV and Queen Elizabeth II – the Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor, England, has boasted an eclectic guest list since its 1859 construction. It has also made the perfect backdrop for some of pop culture’s most iconic horror films. Fans of Hammer horror films have undoubtedly already seen Oakley Court. The British horror studio rented the property beginning in the 1950s, and made several classic horror films there, including Dracula starring Peter Cushing (1958), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Plague of Zombies and The Reptile (1966). Amicus Productions filmed its Theatre of Blood starring Vincent Price at Oakley in 1973, and The Vampyres was made the following year.
But Oakley was perhaps most famously put to use in 1975’s horror movie send-up and long-running cult film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
By the time Oakley doubled as Dr. Frank 'N' Furter’s castle/laboratory in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Richard O’Brien, the roof was caving in. The one room that was heated for the actors caught on fire. Sarandon caught pneumonia during the October and November 1974 filming.
Guests who are fans of the movie will recognize the gargoyles by the front entrance (plaster props left from the cult classic), the staircase, front lobby, library (Dr. Scott’s office) and Drawing Room where the famous Time Warp is performed. The Time Warp Picnic takes place annually in August, when Rocky Horror fans take over the regal property for a weekend of costumed fun and antici...pation.
The back of Oakley Court has been featured in many horror movie exterior shots. Its 33-acre grounds contain gardens, trails and a half-mile of bank along the Thames River.
Oakley Court was built in 1859 by Sir Richard Hall Say and his wife, Ellen. Napoleon IV and King Edward VII were among the dignitaries who were guests of the Says. The 14-room estate passed through the Say family until the last member died in 1965. Without clear ownership the Oakley fell into disrepair, but this only enhanced its horror-movie setting. More than 200 films have used Oakley Court as a location.
But you don't have to be a movie star on location to stay there. Anyone can stay in this fancy-yet-fun hotel and enjoy its 33-acres of grounds along the Thames.
In 1981 the dilapidated property was purchased and extensively renovated while preserving Oakley Court’s interior and exterior features. It was purchased again in 2014 and is now the 118-room Berkshire country retreat that gives a nod to its fun cinematic past (modern wings have been added on to the original Say home). Still an extraordinary honor for the property, Queen Elizabeth II stayed here for the 2009 Swan Upping, a ceremony during which the health of swans throughout the UK is checked.
Today's Oakley Court features modern rooms with regal amenities including writing desks, wingback chairs and heavy curtains. The common areas in the original home retain their Victorian and Edwardian charm with ornate stone and wooden fireplace mantles, wood paneling, leather furniture and oak bookshelves filled with books and board games available for guests' use. Oakley Court is 12 miles from Heathrow Airport, and Windsor Castle is only 3 miles away.
Guests can take afternoon tea in any of the nooks of the common areas, and can enjoy cocktails and light meals on the terrace overlooking the back lawn with a view of the willow-lined Thames or in the bar. The Dining Room at Oakley Court serves modern European fare using herbs and vegetables gathered from the kitchen garden and meats from its own smokehouse.
Paths wind through the grounds to the banks of the Thames where boaters often pass by. A gym, sauna, pool, 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet lawn and bicycles are made available to guests as well. Whimsical details abound, such as the neon “The Butler Did It” sign and the staff’s penchant for placing seasonally appropriate hats on the driftwood animal statues on the property.