The Runnymede on Thames set the scene for a much-needed pre-Christmas break for Danielle Harvey...
Located on the banks of the picture-perfect River Thames in Surrey, just 10 minutes from Windsor, The Runnymede on Thames is a modern four-star hotel with an award-winning spa offering. Now, I've been lucky enough to stay at The Runnymede once before, although the warm summer's day certainly wasn't comparable to the wintry, grey November day I found myself in when visiting a second time. I wondered; did it alter my view having been before? Could I honestly find enough about it to tell all my lovely readers about an authentic experience – well, read on, because you'll hear why it was second time's a charm for me!
As previously mentioned, the ominous grey skies of this winter's day (and the M25 car park), hadn't set me up for the most relaxed of mindsets to start my night away at The Runnymede. Arriving at the hotel, I was a tad deflated to say the least. However, no sooner had I trudged my way through the hotel's revolving front doors was I warmed to the bones with a cosy ambience exuding from the lounge and lobby area. A true winter-warmer, there was a huge log fire keeping everyone toasty, Christmas trees and decorations glistening in abundance, low lighting complementing the hum of people relaxing and chatting away – I was instantly enthralled.
The modern aesthetic of the hotel has been sympathetically considered so that style never surpasses comfort. The large sofas and seating areas are all strategically placed to provide snug yet social spaces to catch up with loved ones or enjoy as a romantic twosome. Attentive waiters attend to your needs immediately; it wasn't long before I was relaxing on a plush sofa next to the log fire, looking out at the river – still picturesque even in the winter – with a cocktail in hand. My morning was forgotten, a distant memory, although I think the cocktail helped with that too!
Our spacious River View suite was more than enough for two people on a much-needed night away. Armchairs and a table perfectly poised to watch the river run by, an enormous bed offered a perfect night's sleep, and the bathroom was a suite in itself: two sinks and mirrors, walk-in shower and bath – it was like your very own beauty parlour! I could have easily whiled away an hour or two in our suite, but I swiftly changed into my robe, grabbed my book and headed down to the spa.
The spa is accessible from the main hotel, with its own entrance and reception area it feels like a luxurious members-only retreat. Whether you want to get the endorphins going in the fitness centre – which boasts river views – or while away the time in the swimming poolorJacuzzi it's got something for everyone. There are also adult-only times for the facilities which is perfect for minimooners.
After reading a few chapters in my book while enjoying a fruit tea in the spa's lounge area, I was greeted by a therapist to take me for my complimentary treatment an ESPA Back, Neck & Shoulder Massage.
Now, I'm a bit of a tough nut to crack, not just because I'm knotted up like a coil, but I also find it hard to practice mindfulness and enjoy the experience. I'm also out of my comfort-zone sat there in only a towel – I even hide in the bathroom at home! My therapist Claire was amazing, putting me at ease, she was incredibly knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions I had; it speaks volumes that I was able to nearly doze off! I also felt the knots in my back disperse for the first time, I knew I'd had a thoroughly wonderful and beneficial massage. The Runnymede is perfect for a spot of pre- or post-wedding pampering, treatments include manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing and a variety of massages as well as half-day and full-day spa experiences.
When staying in hotels, I'm always keen to book into the restaurants rather than venture out. Both dinner and breakfast were served in Leftbank, the hotel's renowned buffet restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the river. At night, the dark winter evening was interspersed with intimate lighting, and the hotel's festive décor really came in to its own with an extra splattering of fairylights and shimmering tones. The food was insatiable, for even the most discerning of critic who may shy away from the word 'buffet' but this is not an average offering!
With all kinds of culinary delights from delicious antipasti boards and salads to a variety of meat and fish options there's something for everyone for starters, mains and desserts. As it was a Sunday we delved in to a hearty roast dinner (which was also on offer) and, not that I really had room for dessert but they certainly went down a treat – I tried three of the delicacies on offer! The open kitchen, wood-fired oven and rotisserie also provide a visual extravaganza too, cooking right before your eyes. Breakfast the next day didn't disappoint either. Due to the light flooding in, the Leftbank feels bright and airy in the mornings, energising you for the day ahead. Again, there was possibly too much choice of fare from continental to hot cooked options, sweet and savoury, healthy fruits and muesli. There was not one fault in the dining experience on offer here.
After a final coffee, gazing at the river, we were thinking about our day ahead in Windsor complete with a visit to the castle to see the Christmas decorations! Alas, it was time to say goodbye. I couldn't quite believe the whirlwind 24-hours I had here and that was all down to the wonderful experience The Runnymede had given me. From the surroundings to the staff, the wellbeing ethos to the mouth-watering food, I was looked after, rejuvenated and ready for the world again. Thank you!
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