Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa, West Sussex: a revitalising break away from city life

Taking time out from the hectic pace of London life, Joanna Reeves enjoys a revitalising spa break at Ockenden Manor, in Cuckfield, West Sussex. Thursday, 30 July 2015

By Joanna Reeves

As a London newbie, I'm a little bit in love with the city: still in awe of its fast-paced way of life and buzzing energy; not yet jaded by the unceasing hustle and bustle. However, with my roots firmly in the country, sometimes it can all seem a bit overwhelming, and I just want to take a step back — a moment out of the madness. So I jump at the chance to visit Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa with a friend, and from the moment our taxi reaches Cuckfield, a pretty Tudor village in West Sussex, I feel my shoulders start to relax. Tucked away off the village's main road, the Elizabethan manor house is charming in every way, from its intimate dining room overlooking the immaculate gardens with views of the South Downs National Park, to the inviting, wood-panelled sitting room with a log fire.

The modern design of the spa — an imposing wood, brick and glass structure — is striking against the backdrop of the countryside, and inside, it's nothing short of luxurious indulgence. Enveloped in fluffy robes, we settle into the padded recliners dotted around the spa, adjusting to the slightly odd sensation of just being still. It's no hardship, I admit, and we soon relax, looking out onto panoramic views of acres of parkland and gardens through the floor-to-ceiling windows. When the sun breaks through the clouds, we make a dash for the pool — a spa highlight, as you can swim from the indoor pool right through to the heated outdoor pool. Doing lengths in the fresh air, it turns out, are oddly therapeutic.

Our spa visit culminates in a 60-minute Kundalini back treatment. Normally a standard-massage type of girl, I'm curious about what I'll make of a therapy that seeks to increase energy and promote spiritual enlightenment. In a word, amazing. The combination of light massage strokes, fragrant essential oils and heated compresses on pressure points leaves me feeling as if I'm floating on air — like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. For me, what takes a spa from good to exceptional are the small touches, and Ockenden Manor doesn't fail to disappoint, with staff who can't do enough for you, luxurious REN Spa products in the changing rooms, unlimited free coffee, the softest blankets to curl up with in the relaxation room. The spa suite we're staying in leaves an equally favourable impression on us; an open-plan, stylish bedroom and lounge opens onto a roof terrace garden — the perfect spot to settle with a book and a glass of wine. After a delicious five-course dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, I sleep like a log — again, unusual for me, being so restless — and return to London the following day rejuvenated and refreshed.


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