Stately home spa breaks
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It’s great not having to hop in the car for hours to escape somewhere for the weekend, so having Champneys just five minutes down the road – well, up the hill – is an absolutely brilliant bonus to living, as I do, in Tring. That said, it’s not really that far from anywhere in Herts and it’s a drive worth taking.
Though there’s something to be said for super-new spas, with their glass and chrome and modern lines, there was something rather lovely about staying somewhere that used to be one of the Rothschild’s stately homes. No, I wasn’t swanning around getting all Downton in my dressing gown, but it does help with the whole ‘stepping outside everyday life’ thing. The grounds – all 170 acres of them – are gorgeous, too, and you’re positively encouraged to explore them with various trails for walking or, if you must, running, as well as neat little places to lounge around and just enjoy the view. Or nod off.
My room was in the main mansion house, and it was gorgeous: king size bed , bathroom big enough to swing a very relaxed cat in, and a gloriously blingy chandelier, as well as a beautiful view out through ceiling-high windows. There are 91 rooms, and even though the car park was fairly full when I arrived, the place never felt crowded or busy. Quite the reverse, in fact.
My skin has been showing all too clearly the effects of too many late nights recently, so I took advantage of Champneys’ 25-minute facial – and my wrinkles are thanking me. Champneys uses its own range of Spa Skin and Spa Facial products, and they really do the trick.
The thalassotherapy pool is something else altogether. Jets of water pummel, in the nicest possible way, various bits of you, although the best one is definitely the waterfall which does things to your shoulders that a week of massage could probably only hope to achieve. I could stand under there all day. Even better, the water is chock-full of all sorts of lovely minerals (so they say) which leave you feeling all soft and lovely afterwards. And, more than likely, a bit sleepy – I could definitely have nodded off afterwards on one of the many loungers by the windows. Good thing I was too relaxed to wonder how their gardens were looking so damned tidy in late October while mine looks like a compost heap.
The focus is definitely on health and wellbeing at Champneys. There’s no bar, for a start – I know, stick with me – but you can order wine or champagne (and I did!) with your meal. The menu has lots of information about fat and fibre and so on, and if you’re there on one of the health or weight-loss breaks, that’s got to be a great thing. If you’re just there for a bit of pampering, don’t let it put you off. You’re not going to find Michelin stars swimming in butter, but it’s definitely the place to eat well and healthily and not feel hard done by.
I had duck breast on a bed of delicious lentils (not a contradiction, I promise you) and a champagne, strawberry and peach terrine – sort of grown-up jelly, only much more sophisticated. No pics to show you, as I had a malfunction (grrr) but this is the kind of thing you can expect.
The breakfasts are good, too. There’s a whole array of fruit and cereals on the buffet, a scrupulously healthy cooked breakfast, and smoked salmon and so on too. No bacon sarnie, mind you, but a girl can’t have everything.
If you’ve not made it to Champneys yet, it’s well worth a visit. They’ve been doing this whole health spa gig for more than 85 years, so there’s a real sense that they know what they’re doing. It’s comfortable, welcoming and flippin’ relaxing.
Booking is best done through the Champneys website – and the further in advance, the bigger the discount, which could be up to 30% if you book more than 90 days ahead.
Pamper days start from £149, with the Champneys ‘Top to Toe’ day starting at £189. Mid-week week spa evenings cost from £35. Overnight stays from £249 per night. Champneys also offers breaks targeted at specific issues and residential packages focused weight loss and fitness.
Chesham Road, Wigginton, Tring HP23 6HX. 0843 3162222. champneys.com/tring