Spa Junkie has just had a facial at Pennyhill Park Spa in Bagshot, Surrey.
The manicure that follows is speedy and does the job; and the 30- minute de-stress massage is deep enough to be reassuring. After a stop-off in the changing room, which is beyond luxe and roughly the size of my Knightsbridge apartment, I head down to the basement and indoor pool.
I’m beginning to feel the five-star tag. The vast, crystal-blue, ballroom-sized swimming pool comes complete with underwater music and a bubbling hot tub. One side of the pool area is glass and overlooks a sprawling lawn. It’s an airy, warm and serene space. Wrapped in a fluffy robe, with muscles lightly pummelled, I stretch out on a lounge bed, FT Weekend magazine in hand, and order a fresh beetroot, ginger and carrot juice.
The ahaaaah moment just kicked in.
After about an hour of total relaxation, I decide to experience the pools. There are eight of them, all thermal and of every conceivable size and type, with a warren of tepidariums and hot tubs, an ice cave, herbal saunas, a laconium, aromatic schnapps steam rooms and a Sensory Room upstairs from the main pool for relaxing.
There are women- and men-only sections to all those. Now, as I am sat in the communal steam room filled with couples yakking about their Friday night, I want to suggest they make at least some of this vast heat-steam-and-water area a silent place. I escape the prattle by retiring to the women’s-only area, which boasts three sequential steam rooms, two large showers and a sauna. I have it all to myself, and go from one steam to the next, as the programme is designed, to increase the levels of heat while my stress levels decrease in turn.
Each steam room is a cave of perspiration heaven, decorated with mosaic-tiled benches, light domes, crystals, aroma-filled steam and soft eastern music; I’ve swapped Surrey for Marrakech. I spend another hour or so lolling about in the heat before I venture into the icy plunge pool. The shock of the water (maintained at a pore-reducing 10°c) literally leaves me breathless, and I leap out and head straight for the outdoor hot tub and Jacuzzi, which is reached via a smaller interconnecting indoor pool. I finish suitably prune-like. It’s been a lovely afternoon. My only regret is not having started with the steam and pools – a fully booked schedule meant I had to ass-about-face it this time round, but on my return I will book my treatments in advance.
Spa visit wrapped for the day, I head for dinner. There are two restaurants: a Michelin-starred one, The Latymer, and a less expensive, but still two rosettes-worthy, brasserie. The fine-dining restaurant, much like the spa, is booked up by the well-heeled Surrey set. I decide to dine at the brasserie instead. The food is excellent, but as with the hotel, the décor doesn’t appear to have been upgraded for over a decade. There is an odd mix of clientele, too – young and moneyed sit among a “Gala Bingo” crowd on a flash-the-cash night out. There is a birthday balloon with the number 70 emblazoned across it floating gaudily above a centrepiece. I can only imagine which f-word Gordon Ramsay would deploy here.
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.