I don’t say this lightly, but I think I may have just stumbled across the best spa in England.
Driving down winding lanes under autumnal sun-dappled trees, Everleigh, John and I arrived at the 16th century Ockenden Manor in West Sussex, and it was hiding the most spectacular secret.
I had been expecting to stay in one of the Elizabethan manor’s ‘ye olde’ bedrooms, with low, dark beams, creaking floorboards and heavy drapes.
Instead we got this…
Turns out Ockenden Manor is also home to a new, super-modern, new and ultra-luxurious spa retreat, where beautiful suites sit atop a massive indoor-meets-outdoor swimming pool, hot tubs, sauna and walk-through rainforest shower.
We soon filled the enormous space of our gorgeous junior spa suite with baby-related paraphernalia and retired to our private terrace, where sunlight beamed over the tumbling countryside, for a celebratory glass of wine*
The spa offered a raft of treatments designed to relax, de-stress, revitalise and restore. I opted for a 45-minute session in the Isopod floatation tank, where saltwater suspends the body – kind of like the Red Sea, I guess – as part of our spa stay.
I’ve heard from people who have raved about the muscle-relaxing effects of floating on salt water but I think I struggled to switch off enough to reap the benefits. I also had a much-needed eyebrow shape, which was probably the most relaxed waxing treatment I’ve ever had!
Guests had free use of the spa facilities -something I was very keen to make the most of. Everleigh is a bit of a water baby so we walked from our room in our robes (!!) to have a quick dip in the gorgeous swimming pool. Babies were very welcome and the staff made such a fuss of our mini-explorer but there were times when John and I wished it was just the two of us! Perfect for couples, romantic breaks or a mini-moon, we tried hard not to get jealous of the loved-up duos enjoying a glass of fizz in the outdoor hot-tub.
We also hadn’t been prepared for the award-winning restaurant located within the main hotel. We didn’t realise that the head chef Stephen Crane was awarded a Michelin star for 13 consecutive years until 2016, so it was a bit of a whoops when we rocked up in our casuals with the baby in her carry-cot.
Everleigh may be only six months old but has already had her first taste of fine dining, hopefully not bothering the other (childless) guests as we enjoyed the faultless, locally-sourced menu.
Breakfast was also delicious – and cooked fresh to order. John said his smoked salmon and scrambled eggs were the best he’d had, yet he couldn’t stop staring with jealousy at the couple next us with their Full Englishes. I lived in France for two years and I know a croissant when I see one. It’s not often in England you find one that gives that the French a run for their money – so well done, Ockenden.
And the crackling log fire in the hotel’s wood-panelled drawing room was the perfect place to relax afterwards.
Ockenden Manor is situated in nine acres of grounds in the quaint village of Cuckfield, about 30 minutes north of Brighton and just an hour from London. It really is an idyllic rural retreat right on your doorstep.
I can’t wait to return but next time see if Everleigh fancies a trip to grandma’s house instead…