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LUXURY HOTELS: Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa, surrey, uk
Style: Country house meets corporate weekend retreat
Scene: English countryside just outside London
Seen in the lobby: The English middle classes at play (bring your green wellies)
As we swing into the hotel drive way I count three Jaguars, several BMWs and a Bentley. Pennyhill Park is in what is known as the Surrey Greenbelt (people who live here have easy access to London but bigger gardens), otherwise dubbed the "gin and jag" belt. So it is the perfect place for the English middle classes to stay and play in their weekends away from City finance deals. I arrive late in the day after a long-haul flight from the other side of the world so thank goodness that despite its leafy setting, Pennyhill Park is also only a short taxi ride from Heathrow.
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My attention is caught by an elegant red brick building with high, wide windows and an impressive entrance way. Jetlagged and spacey I head off in that direction when I realise, this isn't the hotel - it is merely the spa. To be fair even the un-lagged might have made the same mistake because this massive and magnificent building is an impressive monument to the art of pure indulgence which few hotels can emulate.
No wonder The Spa at Pennyhill Park has been voted England's leading Spa Resort. It's no contest really. How could you top this? Down its wide marbled corridors you'll find 21 treatment rooms and eight (count them, eight) different pools and spa pools. This is the UK's largest resort spa and one of the main reasons why the English moneyed classes and a whole clutch of celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig regularly check-in to Pennyhill Park.

Yet there are better reasons to indulge in this sublime spa than the possibility of catching a glimpse of 007 in a towel. The Spa's treatments are as impressive as its size. Try sampling the 90-minute Chocolate Therapy, complete with chocolate and hazelnut sugar body scrub, or the three-hour Terra Magica Calm and Sensual pleasure ritual (who could resist that?) which includes a massage and facial using Thalgo products.

You have to stay a couple of nights here just to do justice to The Spa's Thermal Heaven, "the UK's most advanced thermal sequencing experience"- that's saunas and steam rooms to you and I - but not just any old Swedish sauna, oh no. You can choose from herbal saunas, a laconium, a tepidarium, plunge pool, aromatic schnapps steam room and an ice cave, so cold that British politeness really comes to the fore, "after you" "Oh, no please after YOU, I insist." The rooms, should you ever drag yourself from the soft bathrobe-clad delights of the spa, are similarly extravagant. Butlers in tailcoats and pink cravats greet you at check-in, although mercifully their manner is far less formal than their clothes. The staff are to a man (and woman) helpful, warm and friendly. The reception area has a large baronial fireplace and the common areas are full of oil paintings, statues and quirky antiques (did that suit of armour wink at me?).

Not all the 123 rooms are as historic as pictures of the ivy-clad exterior of the main house might lead you to believe. Much of the accommodation is in more modern annexes but all are created in keeping with the original. My vast room comes complete with terracotta floor tiles, wrought iron chandeliers, and a huge bathroom with a claw-footed bath. Each room has individually designed and crafted furniture, so no two are completely alike.
I count Jaguars, BMWs and a Bentley [we are] in the Surrey Green Belt, otherwise known as the GIN & JAG Belt.
If you want to make like the natives, swill a decent amount of gin and tonic down your throat in the bar before you head to The Latymer, with its Michelin star ( and 4 rosettes) to order such hearty delights as suckling pig with lavender, or to the more mainstream brasserie for sizable steaks. For breakfast try the kippers or the kind of boiled egg Nanny would have dished up.
To work off all that rich food within the hotels 120 acres (48 hectares) there are tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, which is free to hotel guests (you can hire clubs), and a number of walking and cycling tracks. For a quintessentially English experience why not have a game on the croquet lawn. Other activities screaming out for a tweed jacket and brogues are clay pigeon shooting, archery (very Robin Hood) or fishing nearby.

Check in: Pennyhill Park Hotel & The Spa, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5EU.,UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1276 471774, Rooms
Ultimate Luxury: Deluxe suites all offer a little extra feature such as a huge four poster bed ,lavish walk-in shower or winding stairs to an upper floor.
Most Indulgent Moment: Never leave the spa, move in, live there! It's big enough.
Insider Secrets: Room 343 has silver walls. Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Russell Crowe and the entire English rugby team have all stayed.
The Little Things: A pillow menu (try the Perfect Pillow -keeps your head cool all night) , decent tea in tea caddies in each room
Junior Luxies: No special facilities but children are welcome
Dress code: Country casual; cashmere jumpers draped around neck, green wellies, Sloane Ranger pearls
Perfect luggage: Battered leather that once belonged to great uncle Henry
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Links: www.exclusivehotels.co.uk www.pennyhillpark.co.uk
Hilary Doling 1/4/10
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