Pennyhill Park in Surrey has been voted England's leading spa resort, so you might expect it to cost an arm and a leg - but if you're savvy, you can enjoy a budget(ish) weekend of pampering.
We all love to treat ourselves from time to time but sadly my budget doesn’t stretch to the likes of The Grove or one of the Cowshed spas. However, this hasn’t stopped me and the girls from chilling out at some amazing places - it just required a bit of bargain hunting! We managed to have a weekend at Pennyhill Park for less than £170 per person, and it certainly didn’t feel like we were depriving ourselves.
Situated deep in the Surrey countryside, near Bagshot, Pennyhill Park is within a stone's throw of London. On arrival it feels like a real hideaway destination – and a very luxurious one at that. Just seeing the cars in the car park was telling enough.
One word: huge. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a hotel room this size. Our twin room had two queen-size beds, with the best memory foam mattresses and pillows/quilts to die for. I cannot stress how amazing the bed was. The bathroom was massive too, with a shower that had water coming from the sides as well as overhead. Decor was in a country house style, which felt a little dated. However, I quickly got over that once I’d tried the bed. Have I mentioned the bed?
Given that the spa has been voted 'England's leading spa resort', I had high expectations. And my expectations were met: the facilities were tip-top. With indulgent changing rooms (swinging seats and the biggest lockers ever), things were good from the start. Down in the ‘Ballroom’ pool, there were plenty of loungers to accommodate our group together, and a distinct air of relaxation. With underwater music and never more than four or five people in the pool, it was ideal. Add to that the outdoor pools, hot tubs and massage jets, and you’ve got plenty to keep you busy while submerged. However, it was the sauna area that truly stole the show. With three distinct areas (women/men/mixed), each with four saunas/steam rooms, there were enough rooms to work up a good sweat. The steam rooms are beautifully tiled, with really comfortable seating (you’d be amazed how many steam rooms have upright uncomfortable seating), while the ice cave gives you the wake-up call you need. For the truly lazy, there is waitress service for drinks around the pool - just use the telephone to call your order through and your drink is brought down to your lounger. Champagne, anyone?
We truly indulged. Afternoon tea on arrival in the bar (c£20 per person) was lush, and the service exceptional – I think we were there for a good two and a half hours working our way through the feast of finger sandwiches, cakes and scones. Given such over-indulgence, we swapped our dinner reservation from the main restaurant to the bar, with the intention of having just a small snack. The meals we had were very tasty, brought out incredibly quickly and, again, the service could not be faulted. Breakfast (c£20 per person) was pretty standard for a hotel of this class, with an array of choice regardless of your diet or fancies - and with the bonus that they didn’t seem to mind that we squirreled away some muffins for lunch.
If you've heard of Pennyhill Park before, you’re probably wondering how on earth this could ever be considered a budget spa break. Well, it’s all about finding the right package. We booked the ‘Perfectly Chilled’ package at £175 per room. Yes, it’s not cheap, but considering that we had full use of the spa on Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t think that was bad. I believe they also do some great Sunday night deals, including treatments for a bargain price – you just need to keep an eye out for the best offers.
Pennyhill Park is the training home of the England rugby team (you drive past the training pitch as you come down the winding driveway). Apparently they have their own private spa, but you never know...