Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Pennyhill Park Hotel and The Spa

31 Mar 2009 by Sara Turner

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Pennyhill Park is one of four country house hotels in southern England within the Exclusive Hotels group, the others being Lainston House Hotel in Hampshire, South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex, and The Manor House Hotel and Golf Club in Wiltshire. The property is a mixture of old and new, with the original building dating back to the 1850s, and a new-build extension adding rooms and the spa facilities. There is a total of 123 acres of grounds, including a nine-hole golf course and a rugby pitch – this and the hotel’s proximity to Twickenham has made it a favourite with the England rugby team. There are quirky features throughout the property, not least the confessional box and bronze lions in the reception area.

WHERE IS IT? In Bagshot, Surrey, 53km from central London and 27km from Heathrow. Nearby Sunningdale Station has direct services into London Waterloo, and Ascot and Wentworth are both within easy reach of the hotel.

ROOM FACILITIES Each room at the hotel is individually designed, and particularly in the original building room layouts and dimensions vary considerably, so it’s worth asking for more details when making a reservation. The overall décor is described as “traditional Mansion House style”, and entry level Traditional guestrooms average 24.5 sqm, with Deluxe guestrooms averaging 29 sqm. All rooms feature flatscreen TVs, DVD players (guests can choose from a free DVD library), free wired and wifi internet access, tea and coffee facilities, iron, hairdryer, and a separate bath and shower. Over and above this there are a wide range of facilities that depend on which room you are in. I was staying in Aintree (rooms are grouped under themes including racecourses, flowers and rugby stadiums) on the top floor of the original building, a room that included views across to the spa, a four-poster bed, and a huge bathroom with under floor heating and roll-top bathtub.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel’s fine dining restaurant The Latymer opened just over a year ago, and recently received its first Michelin star as well as four AA rosettes. Head chef Michael Wignall describes his dishes as “complex, carefully crafted and very technical”, and among the choices is a ten-course tasting menu including loin of Lakeland hare, Hereford snails, poached quail egg, eucalyptus ice cream and fig tarte tatin. The restaurant itself is located within a cosy part of the original building, and is open for dinner from 7pm to 9.15pm (except Fridays and Saturdays when it’s open until 9.30pm). The Brasserie is a more informal eatery housed with the new extension, where a comprehensive breakfast buffet is also served. There is also a chef’s table within the main kitchen, and Ascot Bar is located next to the Brasserie and serves light snacks as well as afternoon tea from 2-5pm.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The hotel has a total of  22 meeting rooms, all with natural daylight and wifi internet access, and several with garden terraces and private entrances. The largest space is the Balmoral suite, which can accommodate up to 200 delegates theatre-style. One of the most interesting rooms is the Library (with a capacity for up to 92 delegates), which is located within the original building and features original fireplaces, wood paneling, stained glass windows and a conservatory. Other choices include the Fairway, with doors which lead out onto a terrace overlooking a lily pond, and the converted Lyndley Cottage, with an oak beamed ceiling and a terrace overlooking the spa facilities. The hotel’s website has a comprehensive meetings section, with details on the unique features in each room, as well as floor plans and capacities.

LEISURE FACILITIES There’s something for just about everyone within the hotel’s grounds, from a nine-hole golf course, to a fishing lake, floodlit tennis court, archery and croquet facilities, jogging trails, a shooting lodge and of course the rugby pitch used by the England team.

But the highlight of Pennyhill Park’s leisure offering, and indeed the hotel in general, is undoubtedly The Spa, to which guests have complimentary access during their stay. There are a total of eight indoor and outdoor pools, including a 25-metre indoor pool complete with Roman-style columns, loungers and a hot tub in one corner. There is also a large outdoor pool, which opens during the summer months from the start of April. One great feature is a heated pool split between indoors and outdoors – guests swim through a hole in the wall to a steamy outdoor area which has underwater seating around the sides and several individually-controlled spa baths.

There are 21 therapy rooms offering a wide selection of treatments ranging from a 30-minute tonic facial (£55) to a 120-minute detox ritual (£350), and products used in the treatments include exclusive French brand Terraké, and the aboriginal-influenced Li’Tya. Other facilities include the 280-sqm fitness centre, an exercise studio, and Thermal Heaven, a “thermal sequencing experience” with sauna, laconium, tepidarium, ice cave, steam room and heated stone loungers which look slightly uncomfortable but once on them you won’t want to get up again. The changing rooms are also impressive, with large separate walk-in showers and plenty of seating, and finally there is a spa restaurant called Themis, serving snacks, light lunches and freshly-squeezed fruit juices.

VERDICT Picturesque surroundings and with a wonderful spa offering, Pennyhill Park ticks all the boxes for a luxury weekend stay or upmarket conference. Its proximity to Heathrow will also interest business travellers looking for somewhere with character away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Fact File

HOW MANY ROOMS? 123 individually-designed rooms

ROOM HIGHLIGHTS Features differ from room to room, but in the room Business Traveller occupied (Aintree) the highlights included the four-poster bed and huge bathroom with roll top bathtub.

PRICE Internet rates for a Saturday-night stay in May start from £295 for a Guest room. See online for offers.

CONTACT PennyHill Park Hotel, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey; tel +44 (0)1276 471774;

Mark Caswell

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