Hotel Review: Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa, Bagshot in Surrey
If it’s good enough for the England Rugby Club – then it’s good enough for me. Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa, in Bagshot, is a beautiful escape in the rolling Surrey countryside just an hour south of London. The five-star retreat – an Exclusive Collection hotel and spa – is set in 123 acres of pretty parkland, meadows and lush golf greens.
The site was first referenced in 1609 as Pennyhillfield and the first building rose from the ground in 1849. The property – then known as Bagshot Park – was home to a string of different dignitaries before becoming a hotel in 1973. Exclusive Collection purchased the 17-bedroom country house hotel in 1982 – the first property under the prestigious hotel group’s umbrella – before embarking on a grand and bold transformation of the estate. Pennyhill Park now boasts 124 rooms – including 22 luxurious suites – and has become the home of the England Rugby Club’s training centre.
Arriving at Pennyhill Park via the hotel’s grand entrance and long drive – past the shooting ground and rugby pitch – it’s clear this is a hotel made to cater to a large number of exclusive clientele at any one time. The car park is vast (we take a golf buggy from reception back to the car when we check out 24 hours later) and reception is located at the heart of the hotel at the end of a long, covered walkway lined with trees and draped in pretty flowers like a magical enchanted wood.
Check-in was efficient and easy, and Joe showed us to our room – one of the hotel’s beautiful, whimsically-named suites (ours is Tulip Tree). He was smiley, friendly and enthusiastic as he pointed out the beautiful view from the exquisite, air-conditioned suite. The voluptuous suite is an explosion of purple and velvet, gold finishes giving it a lavish feel. The vast space is bigger than most London apartments boasting three TVs (one for each room, even the bathroom!) and pretty views over the terrace and lily pond; a popular spot for wedding receptions – in fact we watched two parties in full swing during our stay.
The last of the afternoon sunshine gave us an hour to relax by the pool and enjoy a quick swim. The outdoor pool, encircled by loungers, is a sun trap while busy staff zip around providing table service and delivering glasses of Champagne and cocktails to spa guests soaking in the other pools. The huge indoor pool and sun-drenched outdoor pool aren’t the only options for guests who enjoy the water.
The hydropool leads outside with jets, air benches and bubbles to massage the body. An indoor and outdoor hot tub provide quiet spots to relax while guests can choose from more than a dozen steam rooms and saunas including Schnapps – a soothing minty aroma room that’s like sitting in a comforting bowl of vapor rub – and the rose herbal steam room, in an exclusive ladies only section of the spa.
The 45,000sqft spa is also home to a fitness suite, 23 treatment rooms, a nail bar, Themis restaurant and changing rooms (that, alone, are bigger than most spas!) No expense has been spared with high-end touches such as Roman-style statues, Italian marble and mosaic features, and electric sun loungers. And for those spa guests who want an extra luxury treat, treatments include a gold and pearl peel-off face mask or a gold and caviar moisturizer.
There’s a three-hole golf course, pistol shooting and archery, tennis courts, and baking masterclasses are all on offer for guests for an additional cost. The hotel’s afternoon tea – recently named an Award of Excellence regional winner at the Afternoon Tea Awards – can be enjoyed in the bar or lounge as a tasty treat or for spa guests visiting for the day. We headed back to our room to get ready for dinner (if soaking in the bubble-filled roll-top bath watching The Big Bang Theory on the AquaVision bathroom TV counts as getting ready!) before heading down to the bustling Ascot Bar for a quick aperitif.
Guests can listen to live music on a Friday and Saturday night and we enjoyed the acoustic guitarist and singer hums upbeat, feel-good tunes such as I’m A Believer. Bar snacks are available for a quick meal or dining is available in Matt Worswick’s Michelin star restaurant The Latymer restaurant. For guests looking for something a little less formal, The Brasserie offers an appetizing menu, which is where we headed for dinner.
The Brasserie is contemporary and simple but the menu is appetizing, with lots of options for all tastes and dietary requirements. I opted for the deep fried goats cheese fritters to start , the plate was inventively presented and deliciously flavoursome. My husband had the mushroom parfait followed by fillet steak while I chose the smoked salmon pasta with white wine and dill sauce.
The salmon was smoky and the sauce was rich and creamy, washed down beautifully with a cool, crisp bottle of Ridgeview sparkling wine. For dessert, I was excited to try the white chocolate millefeulle but was sadly disappointed in a distinct lack of layers or white chocolate cream, and burned shortbread. However, my husband’s millionaire shortbread delice was sweet and velvety.
We returned to The Brasserie the following morning for breakfast. It was extremely busy and, unfortunately, staff seemed a little flustered. We had a 20-minute wait in the bar before being shown through to a table, having to grab waiter after waiter for a coffee or teaspoon. The buffet style breakfast was fresh and enticing. The fruit was fresh and sweet, the homemade yoghurts were smooth and silky, and the cooked options were all warm and filling.
We headed outside to enjoy the weather and walk off our breakfast. Walking routes twist around the hotel’s land so we followed the pathway (reception had run out of trail maps). Nature trails runs across the golf course and parkland, spot the beehives and peek at the rugby training centre, or just soak up the sunshine and enjoy the views across the hills.
There’s a sense of calm, confident ease at Pennyhill Park, the staff are friendly and relaxed, safe in the knowledge that they have a beautiful hotel and can offer guests an exclusive experience. The problem with Pennyhill is that it’s a victim of its own success. The hotel has grown and grown exponentially while the staff seek to maintain a five-star luxury.
But, the wonderful staff and beautiful setting make up for the slightly impersonal feel with ostentatious effort and flamboyant finishes. Enormous displays of lilies and orchids decorate hallways, glittering chandeliers hang in staircases and sprawling tapestries adorn the walls. As you walk the halls and explore the gardens of Pennyhill you feel like a million dollars. And who wouldn’t want to feel like that?
Cosy rooms at Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa are available on a bed and breakfast basis from £295 per room per night while suites are available from £595 per room per night.
Address: London Rd, Bagshot GU19 5EU
Phone: 01276 471774
All images courtesy of Amy Murrell