If you’re looking for a luxurious weekend break, and don’t want to venture too far from London, look no further than the rather Camelot-esque Pennyhill Park near Bagshot in Surrey. It’s a hotel that has been mentioned to me countless times over the years as a luxury Estate of note, and so I felt it was time I experienced it for myself.
Purchased in 1982 by ‘Exclusive Hotels and Venues’ it has undergone a gargantuan transformation from a 17 bedroom family run hotel to a 123 bedroom country house hotel with an impressive host of state of the art facilities. To be honest with you, my first thought as I stepped into the spacious lobby was the extraordinary amount of money that has clearly been spent on the place. As with many of the UK’s best hotels, the secret to it’s long running success is the tasteful fusion of original period character with modern luxury features. It is the archetypal British country house, but on steroids.
The bedrooms boast individual styling and design with beautiful hand commissioned furniture, and therefore no two rooms look the same. The divinely comfortable mattresses are hand made, and if your pillow is not to your taste, there is. . . wait for it, a ‘Pillow Menu’ with a dizzying selection of differently structured pillows to please even the most picky of guests.
For me however, the stand out offering of this hotels has to be the facilities. As an avid gym goer, I consider myself to my somewhat of an expert in this particular field, so you can trust me when I say that the gym is not only extremely capacious, but it is full to the gunnels with BRAND NEW ‘Technogym’ equipment that sets Pennyhill apart. It caters perfectly for both the cardio fiend as well as the ‘wanna be Geoff Capes’ enthusiast, with an impressive free weights are that is often absent in so many decent hotels.
The piece de bloody resistance is the spa. Ive been in some good ones over the years, but this Spa facility actually made me feel mildly embarrassed, such is it’s decadence. I felt like some kind of Roman Praetor, casually lounging on a heated and ergonomically satisfying, hand tiled chaise longue, admiring the calming vista. The swimming pool has to be one of the largest and most beautiful I’ve ever seen, framed by corinthian columns, and a lovely stand-out feature is the soft, relaxing music that is piped under water. This really tickled me, and I spent a fair amount of time diving under the surface like some kind of excitable seal. It’s this kind of detail that Pennyhill does so well. There is a delightful hot spa pool that starts indoors and makes its way outside into the fresh country air, and another massive outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. Even in the cold Winter air, it was really special to be looking up at the stars, and I can only imagine it to be the most epic place to luxuriate in the summer sun. Indoors there are an array of different steam rooms and saunas, all set at different temperature and humidity levels, and decorated with shiny little pearlescent tiles, another lovely design detail. You can jump into a plunge pool to cool down after you’ve enjoyed a good sweat. I did so and, for a moment, felt like the sub zero depths might just finish me off, giving me a brief idea of what is must be like to fall into an icy lake. Not everyone’s cup of tea, granted, but I loved it.
Our stay at Pennyhill Park was not entirely perfect however. I dined in the Brasserie in the evening and they forgot to process the order properly and left me waiting for quite a while, and so I decided to eat in my room rather than wait another 30 minutes until the food was due to arrive. (I had venison, and when it did arrive, it was delicious). And then the TV in the room didn’t work. And nor did the air conditioning unit.
A cocktail is £16.50, which I feel is a bit much for any English Country Hotel, and that was mirrored earlier in the day when I had a protein shake which cost £7.50 and it was in a half pint glass. I think if you’re going to charge £7.50 for a shake, make it a grossly oversized American sized shake in a metal cup, just to make me feel better won’t you?
These minor niggles aside, Pennyhill Park is a marvellous place to escape the rat race to. Play a little golf, relax in the exceptional spa facilities, and walk around the stunning grounds of ‘Camelot’, feeling like royalty for a little while. You won’t regret it.
Visit www.pennyhillpark.co.uk to book your stay.