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Race to the altar; TRAVEL ELAINE O'FLYNN lives life in the fast lane on a girlie driving weekend in Surrey.

THRILLED as I was to be asked to be my sister's maid of honour, I'll confess that the prospect of organising a hen party was causing some sleepless nights.

My sis - a 27-year-old doctor - had banned me from the tiaras, Tequila slammers and Tenerife, insisting on a classy affair fit for a princess.

Escaping the cliches usually associated with hen parties was a tough call - so I was delighted to test drive a girly weekend organised by the Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel to solve this conundrum.

Located in Surrey, this four-star hotel is situated just minutes from Heathrow airport, and takes under an hour to reach by train from London Waterloo.

I felt on top of the world.

Jenson The hotel has teamed up with the nearby Mercedes Benz World, a museum and test track dedicated to the German automobile giants, and Button, eat your heart out....

suitable for adults and children keen to put their pedal to the metal in some of the best cars around.

Already popular with stag-dos and corporate events, the managers are keen to embrace the fairer sex - and give girls the chance to show which gender really is better on the road.

So after a blissful night's sleep, I met the rest of the group over a bacon sandwich.

We were a varied bunch, including some speed freaks with several points on their licence, but also complete novices who had never got around to taking their test - but we were quickly reassured that this experience offered something for everyone.

One quick transfer to Mercedes Benz World and soon we were enjoying a whirlwind tour of the museum, which showcases a range of classic cars to make even the least likely petrolhead purr with appreciation.

Next, the moment we'd been building up to: the driving.

Our experience package included 30 minutes of track driving, where you can embrace your inner Stig and test out the Mercedes Benz AMG performance cars, capable of zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds.

A very patient instructor guides you round the course, which includes a wet circle to simulate black ice (and where I confidently sent the car into a 360-degree spin), and a 'dynamic straight' where you put your foot to the floor to see how fast you can go in 100 metres.

Finally, there's the track itself, which includes adrenaline-filled twists and turns designed for only the most adventurous wannabe racing drivers.

We then swapped into the 4x4 to take on the off-road challenges, and here the cars really come into their own.

I'm able to drive through two feet of muddy water, conquer a 60-degree set of terrain stairs and descend at an even steeper angle, all a stone's throw away from the original Brooklands racing track.

Barely an hour after I stepped onto the track, I felt on top of the world. Jenson Button, eat your heart out.

With all the adrenaline pumping around our bodies, the group re-convened for a welcome break and to share our tales of trepidation and bad driving at the museum's restaurant. And after a gin and tonic to settle the nerves, plus a taste of the Gullwing Restaurant's chocolate brownies, it was time to return to the hotel.

The Runnymede's 'piece de resistance' is its spa and pool.

With our private room within the spa facilities as a base - complete with magazines, afternoon tea and Pretty Woman on the DVD player - I enjoyed a dip in the pool before indulging in an incredibly relaxing full body massage, succumbing quickly to my therapist's calming and professional touch.

Suitably pampered and preened, I met the rest of my group for dinner in one of the hotel's restaurants, the Lock Bar & Kitchen, where we tucked in before retiring to the bar. Here, we quickly eyed the Scottish international rugby team enjoying a pint.

So for thrills on the racing track and in the spa, have a look at Runnymede-on-Thames for your next girly weekend. Rugby stars not always included.

TRAVEL FILE | ELAINE O'FLYNN and pals were guests of The Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel. | THE Mercedes Benz World package costs from PS330. | THIS includes a three-course dinner in the Lock Bar & Kitchen and overnight B&B stay for two, and an hour's track driving, or 30 minutes track and 30 minutes off-road driving for one adult at Mercedes Benz World. | Spa treatments start from PS75 for an ESPA aromatherapy massage. To book visit www.therunnymede.co.uk or call 01784 220960.

I felt on top of the world. Jenson Button, eat your heart out....

CAPTION(S):

| Mercedes Benz World allows visitors to power around the test circuit in a high-performance car

| Enjoying a massage in the spa

| The Runnymedeon-Thames Hotel
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2014
Words:786
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