I wrote a week or two back about how desperate I’ve been for a bit of a break from … well, from other people, basically. I’m nothing if not misanthropic.
Luckily, I had been invited to review a One4All voucher, and after a bit of dithering, I used it to pay for a two day visit to Champneys. Turns out these vouchers aren’t just for the high street – I used it to buy a voucher from the Spafinder website, where you can use your One4All voucher like a credit card. I could then use the voucher from Spafinder to book a break at Champneys – bring on the peace and quiet!
I thought it might be useful to share a review – there are not quite as many photos as normal (sorry) because it’s hard to take photos in a health spa without looking like a weirdo stalker with a dressing gown fetish. Or something.
Booking and Check In
You can’t book online at Champneys if you’re using a voucher, but that’s no bad thing – when I called, the friendly assistant I spoke to told me that there was a far better value package than the one I was originally going to book, including three complimentary treatments rather than just two. Result!
Once you’re booked, the process is very slick – you’re sent very comprehensive instructions on how to check in, what happens during your stay, and the various rules and requirements, including details on what to wear during treatments (if you’re like me, this is a potential etiquette disaster waiting to happen every time you visit a spa). It’s really thoughtful.
Check in is generally at 2pm, but you can pay extra to arrive earlier, if you prefer. Upon arrival, the staff will happily bring in your bags from your car, and take you to your room, where you can change into your fluffy white robe and slippers, and settle in. The rooms are fine – not especially modern or lux, but clean, comfortable and well kitted out.
I recommend attending the 10 minute orientation tour, not just to get your bearings in the resort, but to pick up on the various ways things are done – like, you need to book into a fitness class, but don’t book the day before, because you’ll have to pay. You need to book a table for dinner, and book that at lunchtime, but book your lunchtime table at breakfast. If you want to have afternoon tea, you need to give 2 hours’ notice. Your robe is in your room on arrival, but you leave it at the front desk when you check out.
Tour complete, your time is your own. When you’re not having treatments, you can use the fitness facilities – there’s a gym, tennis court, dozens of fitness classes, and there are also guided walks, or you can borrow a bike to explore the local area. Or you can do what I did, which is settle yourself in one of Champneys’ many cosy seating areas, and read a magazine from cover to cover. I read pretty much an entire issue of Vanity Fair, while drinking tea and eating cake. I also managed to skim through Now, Look and The Lady, thanks to the communal magazine rack. Perfection!
Next up, I visited the pool – there’s a large, attractive swimming pool at Champneys Springs, with plenty of room for lengths. During my visit, the York FC team was visiting for a training session, and shortly after I got out of the pool and into the hot tub, so did eight footballers. I think that’s what’s known as “an unexpected bonus”.
Dining at Champneys
Breakfast is a buffet affair, as is lunch, and both were lovely – lunch in particular was great, with a wide selection of fresh salads, a hot station where a chef was making fresh chicken wraps to order, and plenty of fruit and vegetables. There’s something a bit lovely about eating meals in a dressing gown. Although I do always worry about dipping the sleeves into my food…
Dinner was in the spa’s main dining room and was lovely – healthy options only, one glass of wine (payable, if you choose) and unlimited tap water. You’ll feel very virtuous. Quick note: if you order the cheese for dessert at dinner, you pay a small “cheese supplement” which will be added to your bill. This made me laugh, a lot. Solo diners can ask to be seated at a table with other solo guests, which is a nice touch (although I was quite happy to eat by myself, and make a start on a new book).
After dinner, I took another swim (the pool is open until 10pm) and then settled down to watch a box-set in my room on my iPad. There is WiFi available throughout the resort, although signs do request that mobile phones are not used in public areas, and that you should only use them in your room or the resort lobby. From what I could see, lots of people blatantly ignored this request, and there were a lot of phones and iPads in evidence pretty much everywhere I went.
Of course, what people are really doing at Champneys is having spa treatments, aren’t they?
My treatments kicked off with a 25-minute aromatherapy back and shoulder massage – it was very pleasant. I did find it a bit odd that there was no pillow, or a little hole in the bed to put your face through – it meant lying with my face to the side, which I always think must throw your spine out of alignment to some extent. And there was no music, although maybe that’s a small niggle really. It really was a great massage. I must have been relaxed, because I retreated to a chaise longue with my book afterwards, and promptly fell asleep for an hour (honestly, it was MAGIC, there’s nothing like a daytime snooze, is there?)
My second treatment was another complimentary option – a 25 minute lime body buff, which was weird and sort of nice. You’re basically given some paper pants to wear, then slathered all over with a lime scrub. You take a quick break to shower it off, then you’re massaged with some lime body gel. It’s all very refreshing, if not dignified, and my skin felt AMAZING afterwards.
Next up was my third complimentary treatment – a 55-minute gold collagen facial. This was my favourite of all the treatments at Champneys – properly relaxing, and I loved the bit where they put a collagen face mask over your face – it looks like a pink version of the Iron Man mask, and it’s freezing. I’m not sure how much younger or glossier I looked afterwards, but it was genuinely lovely. There was a pillow, and music (which I find helps me to think of nothing), and even a second pillow for under my knees.
Finally, a pedicure. I opted for this because, heck, I had an hour to kill, and Flea said I should try a pedicure so we’d both know what they were like. Well, they tickle quite a lot, especially when they put a mini rotating sander (I suspect it’s got a prettier name than that, but let’s face facts – it’s a sander) on your feet and toes to “push back your cuticles”. Anyway, everything was buffed, moisturised, put inside heated plastic boots for 10 minutes, then wiped, polished and glossed to within an inch of its life, and I now have very pretty toes and I got to read all about the alarming rise of racist tensions in Paris in Vanity Fair, while I was being tended to.
I had to sit on a sofa for a couple of hours then, to let my toes dry. Then I decamped into the gardens where I found a lovely bench, all to myself. And guess what? I finished a book! A whole book, cover to cover. No interruptions, no phone, no email, no kids – I read a whole book. This represents nothing short of a miracle for most women I know.
If I’m being 100% truthful, I wouldn’t personally return to Champneys because of one (for me) major niggle. On the day I arrived at the resort, I left my mobile phone (as requested) in my bedroom. During the afternoon, there was an issue with the summer camp where I’d left Flea (she was homesick). Unable to reach me, the camp had called my friend Lindy, who called Champneys and left a message with the reception, saying there was no emergency, but could I call urgently.
For whatever reason, the message was never passed along – it would have been very easy, surely, to have known which treatment room I would be in at various times, when I was having dinner, or even pop a note under the door to my room? I mentioned it to the staff when I checked out, but there was no record of a message having been left. I’m not sure how relaxed I’d feel on a future visit, and I might be less happy to leave my phone behind… just in case! To be fair, it was perhaps just a one-off mistake and I don’t think it should put anyone else off – maybe just ask when you pass reception if there are any messages!
Overall, Champneys was a great experience, and one I’ll probably repeat somewhere a bit nearer to home – the staff were friendly, the food and accommodation were both great, and I enjoyed my treatments. It’s not necessarily where you’ll find lots of cutting-edge facilities or uber-lux surroundings, but the traditional setting feels very English and cosy, and I can’t think of a more perfect setting to remember what it feels like to read a whole book, from cover to cover, without someone saying, “Mum, can I just…”
I was provided with a voucher towards the cost of this experience by One4All. A one-night, two day stay at Champneys Springs to include unlimited use of resort facilities, two 25-minute treatments plus 1 complimentary 55-minute treatment along with dinner, breakfast and lunch costs £294 based on one adult in a standard room. Treatments mentioned in this post are the aromatherapy back massage (£38), energising lime body buff (£40), collagen gold facial (£60), luxury pedicure (£40). Book and magazine model’s own (natch).