I’ve always thought of Champneys as something of a spa-lovers’ Mecca. A place for pure indulgence, relaxation and pampering – with the price tag to match. So when I saw an offer for a half-price spa beak (HALF PRICE!), I jumped at the chance. I’m all about the luxe for less, after all.
It was perfect timing, too. My Mum and I have a long-held tradition of going on an annual holiday together, usually for a few days, and normally with the sole aim of fitting in as much as we can. This year, we fancied something a little different – a few days of doing absolutely nothing, other than figure out what treatments we wanted, what food to eat, and when we could fit in a trip to the pool.
So, when the email popped into my inbox (thank you, Champneys newsletter sign up) and I realised we hadn’t yet booked our holiday for the year, it was pure serendipity.
I checked a few dates and booked us in – and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. And did I mention it was half price?
At first sight you’re greeted by an imposing beauty of a building, all sash windows, water features and elegant topiary. You drag your wheely case through the immaculate shingle – which will hastily be levelled out afterwards, natch – and walk up the stone steps into a stately home of a hotel, spying mahogany furniture, ornate mirrors and imposing oil paintings at every turn.
Then you catch a glimpse of a few ladies shrouded in white bathrobes, lolloping along in equally as white flip-flops, their unmistakable footsteps the soundtrack of Champneys. The uninitiated may wonder how anyone could be comfortable walking around, in public, in little more than pyjamas, but it doesn’t take long to realise that they had it right all along.
Pretty soon, you’re one of them. You’ve joined them wholeheartedly. You’ve unpacked, tentatively pulled your robe from the wardrobe, and experienced an immediate transformation.
In a matter of hours you’ve become part of the spa family, and wonder how you’ve managed to walk around fully-clothed for so long. This is how you are to live from now on. Dressing for dinner feels like more effort than you can imagine. Stepping out of your robe and away from your cocoon creates instant emotional turmoil. You silently mock those that are still fully dressed, yet are jealous of the fact that they’re only just starting on their journeys – they’ve yet to experience the subtle, blissful immersion of the spa.
After that, everything else comes naturally. Taking a post-breakfast walk through the grounds in the crisp (yet surprisingly warm) autumn sunshine is pure bliss, stopping every now and again to loll in a sun lounger and soak up the last few rays of summer. The chandelier-adorned, tree-filled conservatory became my second home, the perfect place to while away an hour with a magazine.
The treatments are sublime (I can particularly vouch for the massage and facial, and my Mum can do the same for the manicure), the list extensive, and the therapists supremely helpful and friendly. There were additional demonstrations throughout the day (think “Skincare for life”, footcare demos and “Wow your brows”-style offerings), and the fitness classes – if you’re that way inclined – certainly seemed to grab the crowds. We opted for something slightly more sedate and went for a mediation class, but that similarly exceeded my expectations.
The more general spa facilities were everything you could wish for – a pool, whirlpool, steam room and sauna, as well as a laconium (aka my new favourite thing ever), together with plenty of sun loungers, many positioned in yet another conservatory.
The food was out of this world, belying its healthy eating status, and the afternoon tea? The best I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I have a soft spot for afternoon teas and I can honestly say I’ve never been more impressed – you simply wouldn’t know that it was all designed for the health-conscious (my pictures seriously don’t do it justice!).
Gone are the stodgy sandwiches with limp garnishes; in its place are crab salads on lettuce leaves, salmon scotch eggs, carefully filled wraps, a duck and cucumber concoction and chicken coleslaw on rye. The cake selection was to die for – the lightest chocolate cake I’ve ever had, a perfectly tangy lemon curd, a seed-filled cake pop and two full-flavoured smoothie shots, topped off with a decadent dome of chocolate, melted with raspberry sauce to reveal a creamy delight beneath. There were even scones, which had to be wrapped for a sneaky picnic the next day.
The fact that you get all your food included in the price (bar the afternoon tea), not to mention access to the spa facilities and fitness classes, adds to the appeal of the place, and dare I say it the value. Granted, if you’re paying full whack it’s a pricey experience, but for half price? You can’t beat it! Sure, the individual treatments are expensive, but they’re all on you – you don’t have to book them, and it’s perfectly possible to enjoy your whole break without spending an extra pound.
All in all, it was one of the best breaks I’ve ever had. I’ve never been more chilled out – for an entire hour one morning, my most difficult decision was whether to continue reading my magazine or sit and enjoy the view from my lounger. I could quite happily live in a bathrobe for the rest of my days, and the sound of flip-flops and the gentle swish of a bathrobe will be forever etched in my memory as a precursor to all-out bliss. I’ve never been more saddened to leave a place and get back to reality, and I’m counting down the days until I can go back. Champneys, if you’re thinking of sending out another offer, I’ll be waiting…