Parental Escape: A Weekend at a British Gastro-Spa
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Parental Escape: A Weekend at a British Gastro-Spa

Victoria Lambert abandons the school run to enjoy a weekend away at a luxurious British gastro-spa in Surrey

By Victoria Lambert | 1 month ago

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A Stay At Pennyhill Park, Surrey

Come spring term, come the turn of parents for a little bit of self care. After family Christmases, bad weather, chauffeur duties, and mocks – and before the serious revision period starts – don’t we deserve a mini-break, too? 

Rhetorical questions aside, because of course we do, the real concern is where to go: home or away.

Starting here in the UK, where better to book than a spa and dining experience barely an hour from London?

Pennyhill Park, Bagshot

Pennyhill Park, Bagshot

The obvious value of this type of weekend away is location; no travelling as such, barely the need to pack, the thrill of a spur of the moment decision. 

But the benefits go much deeper and last longer. A weekend where the focus is on recharging the batteries with deep sleep, exquisite food and relaxing in extensive spa facilities is surely in the whole family’s interest. (Well, that’s my excuse and you are very welcome to borrow it.)

Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey is an ideal example; set in 120 acres of parkland, the spa and hotel retreat takes luxury to a new level. A favourite with sport stars – it hosts the England Rugby team for training – the spa and sports facilities are mind-blowing.  

So yes, you could play tennis but it’s damp out so let’s take a journey through the award-winning spa. Noodling about the range of steam and sauna rooms – of subtly different temperatures – makes you feel like a goddess parading through the Diocletian baths of Rome. Here is a gently heated laconium – large enough for a spot of warmish yoga, and here is the ice igloo, for a short sharp cold shock (also achievable under the nearby Drench Bucket). There are the Tropical showers, a mud room, food spas set in a row where you can soothe your toes while chatting to a neighbour – toga or fluffy robe of your choice. The saunas themselves range in temperature from  42 to 45 degrees plus a 90 degree intense dry hot option. And of course there are indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs. 

Pennyhill Park baths

Pennyhill Park baths

Indoor fitness comes in the shape of a 3,000 sq.ft. gym with classes also on offer; you will even find a yoga mat in your room. And the wide range of therapies are not to be missed, like Natura Bisse facials or a Comfort Zone Tranquillity Pro-Sleep Treatment. 

But getting away from the children – Pennyhill does welcome the whole family, but spa facilities are for over 16s only – isn’t just about chilling out. It’s also about living it up. 

Outdoor cabana at Pennyhill Park

Outdoor cabana at Pennyhill Park

So a spa that does just health food – however delicious – is not what we want, is it?

Thankfully, Pennyhill offers a fine dining experience in one of its restaurants, Latymer, where head chef Steve Smith claims one Michelin star and 5 AA Rosettes. You’re advised to allow three hours for the six-course tasting menu which also offers snacks and amuse bouches en route, with magical wine pairings.

Barely 30 minutes in, my companion and I lost count and gave ourselves up to the whim of the food gods. Every dish was delicious and unexpected; for example, Brixham Crab Salad came with Custard, Mango & Coriander, Sea Bass nestled up to Roscoff Onion Smoked Eel and Mustard and who would want to miss the Tiramichoux, Hazelnut & Wiltshire truffle. Not me. 

Food at Latymer, Pennyhill Park

Dining at Latymer, Pennyhill Park

And so to bed. Because when you choose a spa break, you’re also making time for eight hours’ kip, with no interruptions and no need to set the alarm. Look for a spa that offers king-size beds with plump duvets and a pillow menu. En-suites – as at Pennyhill – need to offer walk-in showers; extra points if you swing a bathroom with a TV or a free-standing copper tub.

The key to a perfect February escape is to make life as dreamy as possible. Ahead lie months of exam angst, exeats with mounds of washing and Saturdays spent on damp touch lines. Trust me, this is a parental non-negotiable. You’re worth it.

Book it: The Latymer Dine and Stay package starts from £750 for double occupancy and includes a six-course tasting menu, bed and breakfast and spa access. More information: exclusive.co.uk/pennyhill-park