Tucked away within a couple of minutes of the M25 and little more than 10 minutes from Heathrow is a haven of calm and relaxation that you’d scarcely know was there as you whizz past in traffic. The Runnymede on Thames Hotel and Spa is an absolute oasis of peace, calm and first-class facilities. I got the chance to stay there during the summer and, as you’ll read, it vastly exceeded expectations.
Anyone who is used to travelling and has had stopovers near airports will well know how uninspiring and soulless such hotels can be. Here is an exception to that norm.
Seated on the banks of the Thames above Bell Weir Lock, the Runnymede makes a choice spot to sit out and watch the water-borne traffic on the river go by. This is a four-star hotel that covers all bases; it has two restaurants an exceptional spa and extensive grounds and leisure facilities, including tennis courts and an outdoor pool.
Those with an interest in history will know that Runnymede was the location where King John put his seal on Magna Carta, the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government was not above the law and which remains a cornerstone of our constitution some 800 years later.
With views out over the terrace to the river, the Deluxe Double rooms are light, spacious and well-styled. There’s plenty of wriggle room in the super king-sized Hypnos beds so much so that I failed to notice the merits of the top-of-the-range Dacron non-allergenic Comforel Allerban duvet (so says the hotel blurb) – because as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out. Perhaps that is a measure of the product!
Given its proximity to Heathrow, the M25 and busy A308, you’d expect there to be constant noise – you do get the incoming and outgoing aircraft noise, but other than that the screening trees keep out the hubbub of the roads. The noise-reducing double glazing works a treat, indeed on the weekend, we stayed, a wedding reception was being celebrated directly under our room and you wouldn’t have known they were there had we not seen them arrive. In addition to being spacious, rooms include a complimentary coffee maker, kettle, and a fridge with free mineral water. The bathroom is modern and well-appointed, guests are provided with luxurious white cotton bathrobes and the ESPA toiletries are a nice touch.
Accessible rooms: The Runnymede has rooms for people with disabilities or limited mobility, which are excellent. Located close to the lifts, these rooms include call-assistance alarm systems, wider doorways for wheelchair users and large-print documents for guests who are visually impaired.
The Runnymede has both formal and informal dining with the Lock Bar and Kitchen offering contemporary chic in a compact, intimate setting – with a wonderful dining terrace for the summer months. Winner of a 2019 AA Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence, the menu at the Lock Bar is thoughtfully constructed – conservative palates can go for old favourites such as fish and chips or craft burgers, but the star turns are the dishes on the seasonal and daily specials menus.
We sat out on the terrace and enjoyed an excellent evening meal and service over a nice chilled bottle of white. The seared tuna with melon and squid was absolutely delicious.
Both the Lock Bar and Kitchen and Leftbank are refreshingly sensitive to customer needs and have a range of vegetarian and vegan choices that put other establishments to shame. There is a full veggie/vegan menu on request or from the current seasonal Lock Bar menu you might pick a rich starter of beet and ricotta hummus, roasted chickpeas and flatbread, followed by delicious herb-marinated cauliflower, crispy paneer and mango chutney. In a nutshell. really good quality, carefully thought out menu options that are well executed and presented with aplomb.
The Leftbank is an altogether different eating experience, relaxed and informal with a hugely varied spread of traditional favourites, light bites and buffet-style options.
Waking after a wonderful night's sleep and looking forward to breakfast, this is where the Leftbank restaurant came into its own with a massive spread of continental and traditional English dishes. It's a really nice a la carte set up in a lovely naturally lit space with views onto the river (and outdoor seating on the terrace for those who fancied it). The price on the rate card has breakfast down as £18.95 per head, which seems a bit steep, but the quality was excellent and certainly hadn't deterred the table next to ours who were planning on booking for Christmas so impressed had they been with their stay.
Staff are ever attentive with tea and coffee refills, even though it is serve yourself dining. Breakfast at the Runnymede is an eclectically comprehensive mix that caters for all tastes: there's an assortment of whole and cut fresh fruits with a selection of coulis and homemade compotes; a cereal and yoghurt bar which needs no further explanation; ham, mortadella and smoked salmon, partnered with a selection of cheeses, ham and cheese croissants, cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs make up the continental bar; there's a bread board of rustic buns, croissants and muffins with jams and marmalades to accompany; the cooked breakfast bar is a thing of beauty with just about any combination imaginable from full English to omelettes and kippers. If you still have room, you can top this off with fruit juice or a smoothie and as with the Lock Bar, there is a comprehensive menu of options for vegan and vegetarian guests. In short, a first-rate way to start the day!
Spa and leisure facilities
The past 20 years have seen huge growth in the spa and leisure industry – and while some hotels/resorts like to say they have a spa, the reality is a bit further from the truth. The Runnymede has clearly invested in delivering a superlative service with a whole wing of the site devoted to its leisure facilities.
With floor to ceiling glazing throughout, the whole space is awash with natural light, which is perfect for the relaxing ambience of facilities. The indoor pool complex is modern and well laid out with loungers and break out areas to relax. A large elevated jacuzzi is adjacent to the main pool while infrared sauna booths are also available on site.
The fitness centre was not my thing, I haven’t been to a gym since my school days and don’t plan on changing any time soon. However, for those who are that way inclined, you’ll find state-of-the-art Technogym equipment and personal trainers aplenty here. There are also daily fitness classes in the studio – and in the grounds – while we were there. Classes include yoga and Pilates and, if you’re feeling more energetic, Zumba.
The Runnymede has dedicated a lot of energy into getting its spa offering right and have put together a menu of breaks, spa days, half days and treatment experiences that are both high quality and affordable.
I enjoyed a full back massage, plus scalp and facial (1 hour 10 mins) with an excellent therapist who talked me through the treatments and offered pointers for how to keep London's daily commuter grime out of my pores. We also had a nice chat about the changing face of the spa industry and how you are now as likely to have guys in for beauty treatments as you are girls.
I'm at the age now when I'll take any advice going because the skin elasticity around my eyes is going and the wrinkles are now becoming unwanted 'character features'.
My treatments started with body brushing the back, back exfoliation with exfoliating body polish, followed by a deep, relaxing back massage with Restorative body oil.
I confess to never having had a facial before, which I suspect isn't that unusual for guys, however, I found it to be an extremely refreshing and invigorating experience. The skin was cleansed with ESPA Hydrating Cleaning Milk, followed by a Floral Spafresh toner. Exfoliation was performed with Refining Skin Polish mixed with Hydrating cleansing Milk and massaged with a Balancing FaceTreatment Oil (to help with open pores on nose and cheeks). Being follically challenged and also suffering a dry scalp, I particularly enjoyed the scalp massage using Pink Hair and Scalp Mud.
My therapist recommended Balancing Foam Cleanser for daily use to remove the dirt and grime from working in London, plus Age Rebel Moisturiser to help with the firmness and hydration of the skin. It was a very instructive session as I'd never considered the health of my skin before or why I generally feel so caked after returning from work.
Things to do
If you are using The Runnymede as a base for your break, you’ll find plenty to do whatever time of year you visit. Staff are super helpful and will be able to tell you how to make the most of your time. Within easy reach of the hotel are Hampton Court Palace, Richmond Park, Windsor and Kingston upon Thames – and then there is everything London has to offer, which is only 40minutes ride into Waterloo.
For us, a slow walk along the Thames Path was all we needed. Out past Bell Weir and on to Runnymede meadows where you'll find Edward Maufe's monument to Magna Carta on a slope overlooking the river. It is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The walk to Windsor is about 6 miles and well worth doing year round.
If that sounds a bit too much or if you have limited mobility, during the summer months this route is covered by river boats – in both directions – so if you don’t fancy all of the walk, you can halve it or do the whole thing on the water.
The Lounge will be offering a traditional festive afternoon tea with a festive twist that includes all of the trimmings. The offering includes a selection of tasty finger sandwiches including roast turkey, chestnut and sage stuffing; Wensleydale and cranberry cheese, red onion chutney and Smoked salmon and dill cream cheese. Alongside homemade pastries including cranberry financier, candied orange chiboust; dark chocolate and cherry mousse, spiced shortbread and apple and mincemeat streusel tart, Chantilly cream. Guests can wash that all down with a glass of Robert Rose Champagne or sparkling elderflower and mint presse. Festive afternoon tea is priced at for £28 per person and available Monday – Sunday until 5th January 2020*.
Younger guests can also tuck into their very own selection of finger sandwiches and sweet treats with a babycino, hot chocolate or soft drink for £15 per child (aged 3-12 years), available Monday – Sunday until 5th January 2020. More information here.
To sum up, I'd say The Runnymede is a modern, contemporary leisure space and hotel that couples style with high-end service without ever becoming pretentious or aloof. Highly recommended as a destination for the spa experiences and as a base from which you can explore the wider area. Excellent!
The Runnymede can be found at Windsor Road, Egham TW20 0AG, England.
Spa Treatments and Experiences
The spa is open 6.30am to 10.00pm Monday to Friday and 7.00am to 9.00pm Saturday and Sunday.
All spa products used were ESPA Skincare. Read Spa Treatments Menu.
Current offers: Winter Whirlpool Experience
You can enjoy a luxurious dip in the outdoor Whirlpool by the Weir followed by an indulgent lunch or Afternoon Tea until 20 December for only £50 per person.
For more information on dining and staying at The Runnymede, using the Spa or the hotel’s regular offers visit https://www.runnymedehotel.com/
Last modified: December 15, 2019