I really, really suck at relaxing. ‘Shutting off’ and ‘chilling out’ are phrases that rarely pop into my vocabulary. There’s always something to be done, and I sometimes hate myself a little for my insistent urges to be productive. To DO THINGS. The idea of a spa day has always been something that’s played on my mind though – perhaps putting myself into a situation where I’m forced to take a breather would be the catalyst for more me-time.
Conveniently, back in late 2016, I won a competition with the Telegraph. The prize? A spa day for two at Champneys. With lunch and robe hire and included treatments. HELLO RELAXATION. I’ll finally get the chance to get to know you. Those were my thoughts as I flipped through my diary, trying to find a date that worked. Because as I said before, being busy is pretty much a given.
We chose the Henlow location to visit, because it was the easiest for us to get to from our bit of London. In less than 40 minutes on the train from King’s Cross, we rocked up at Henlow station. We’d been told by someone who’d been before that you could still get Ubers out there, and it was easy and cheap to get one from the station. So I opened up my app, requested a car to take us to the spa in style…
And nada. No taxis. Clearly, Uber isn’t as much of a thing out there than it is here.
So we walked. It wasn’t too far on Google Maps, and there looked to be a shortcut road that would get us there in no time. It just so happened that the shortcut road was actually a muddy path (there’s definitely something with us and muddy walks of late…). We probably should have just taken the long way round. Thankfully, we managed to wipe our muddy feet on the grass before heading in.
The venue itself is absolutely stunning – a country house set in sprawling grounds. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t that great, so we weren’t able to fully appreciate the beautiful outside areas. But it was just as lovely inside too.
As we’d arrived relatively late in the morning, by the time we’d had a welcome coffee, grabbed our robes and got changed, it was pretty much time for our midday lunch reservation. Starting a spa day off with food? Perfect.
Included in the day was a three course lunch in the restaurant room, overlooking the stunning pool area. Because it’s a health spa, the options in the buffet were all pretty healthy, with fish, salad and cous cous for a starter. It was actually really delicious, although there were a few small bones to be found in the fish. Unfortunate, but sometimes unavoidable, I guess.
With it being a Sunday, the main course was a proper Sunday roast, Champneys style. Lean cuts of turkey, plenty of fresh veg and some light and fluffy roast potatoes. I was quite fascinated by the plates, which had marked out areas for protein, veg and carbs – making sure visitors eat the optimum amount of all the food groups for well-being. I did definitely go outside the lines with my turkey though…
For dessert (yep, a healthy menu with dessert!), we had the choice of a chocolate orange mousse or a berry-based, light, creamy dessert pot. We may have had both…we’re at least trying this healthy eating business. The chocolate orange mousse basically tasted like mixing instant hot chocolate with Quark (Slimming World style), but the berries filled a sweet-craving hole.
Once lunch had gone down a bit, we headed into the main pool area. Which is gorgeous. We’re talking high ceilings, baroque architecture, and one massive, blue pool. There’s also a small jacuzzi set into the space, as well as steam rooms and a sauna. Aka standard spa business.
After taking a dip and getting some lengths in, I kicked off my flip flops and took a seat in front of the full length windows to alternate between gazing out at the countryside and read some of my book. FYI, this one’s a good’un – if you like twist-y, crime-y thrillers, give it a go. The majority of my reading is done on the tube, where I’m constantly getting distracted/trying not to miss my stop. So the opportunity to completely immerse myself in a good book was a fantastic one.
At 3pm, we headed to the treatment area for a Body Wrap and Head In The Clouds scalp and neck massage. Yep, that meant it was paper pants time. The Body Wrap involved some serious exfoliation, then being smothered in a creamy body butter and quite literally, wrapped up for it to soak in and work it’s magic. Once wrapped up, the therapist started on getting the stress out of my scalp and neck. There was probably a fair bit of it in there. Honestly, I wish I’d been able to have a full body massage, but this was still pretty good. Plus, my skin felt like it was actually new afterwards. SO SMOOTH.
I didn’t really feel like working out my muscles with any more swimming after that (yeah, my standard couple of lengths and a sit down is definitely a workout), so we grabbed a drink in the upstairs cafe bar area. I gulped down a delicious fruity smoothie, which made me feel super refreshed. As we were getting to the end of the day, we headed back to change and check ourselves out, before tackling the muddy path back to the station.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Whether my spa experience has kicked the relaxed, chilled out side of me into action, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not wired that way? I did, however, feel a LOT better after my time at Champneys Henlow. The location was beautiful, food was filling and delicious and the treatments definitely worked some magic on my slightly life-tired body. If I have to send myself away to get into the relaxation zone, this was definitely one of the best places to do it. It’s not something I’d do regularly, but I’m definitely inclined to head back again in a few months to treat myself a bit when it all gets busy. I’d even be tempted to stay the night, as the hotel rooms with doors opening into the stunning grounds looked really lovely.
Prices for a day at Champneys start at £69 including day spa access from 9am-6pm, robe and flip-flop hire, access to gym and fitness classes and a three course buffet lunch. If you’re the kind of person who can happily stay there for the whole day, it’s pretty decent value. Treatments cost extra, starting at around £35-£45 and upwards, so kinda on a par with your standard spa treatment costs.
Coach Rd, Henlow SG16 6BT