Last weekend, Scarlett London writer Rachel Dixon was offered the chance to try out a complimentary weekend away at Champney’s, in Henlow Grainge (around 50 minutes away from Kings Cross). Very kindly, Rachel offered to take me with her and so I had the luxury of trialing the weekend for myself. Despite having never visited a Champney’s spa before, I was expecting it to be both luxurious yet not pretentious and relaxing, but not boring.
Champney’s has always given off a very luxe, professional yet affordable feel – which makes it the ideal choice for a weekend getaway, especially if you are treating yourself or your loved ones. After reviewing the experience, I wasn’t entirely disappointed with the weekend itself, I’m just afraid to say that my high expectations were not met – and although I hate giving negative (or slightly negative reviews), I want to be honest in the hope that Champneys might take what I say on board and improve what I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Upon arrival, you are greeted by the beautiful facade of Henlow Grange – the main building, which looked spectacularly inviting (partly to do with the miserable weather). The building itself is gorgeous and definitely does reflect everything I had in mind when I thought of Champneys. Once stepping inside, the overall image is a little dampened by the rather small and uninviting reception area, which all seemed a bit chaotic, with no-one actually there to greet you. After waiting around 5 minutes, Rachel and I were escorted to the next room, to fill out our card details (despite this being a press trip) and to await a tour around the resort. Although I’m sure this is common proto-call for all spas, as it saves you carrying around cash and a card for the duration of your stay, it did feel a little impersonal and definitely did not reflect the relaxing atmosphere I was expecting.
As we had a few hours to wait for our room, we decided to explore the resort and find something to do. Our complimentary facial wasn’t booked until the day after, so I had a while to explore and hopefully find something worthwhile. Unfortunately, apart from the pool and the jacuzzi, there isn’t many ‘free’ things to do at Champney’s, other than sit in the coffee bar and read a few magazines (which I guess is relaxing, but I could do that at my local coffee shop). I decided to pay for another treatment, in order to have a few more things planned to look forward to – and opted for the ‘luxury manicure’ at 9am the next morning. Champney’s were offering £20 off any 9am treatments, which I thought was a really good deal – especially as it brought the luxury manicure down to half price, however I did think it would have been nice to trial a few more treatments (unfortunately they were all fully booked or far too expensive for my student/bloggers budget).
I feel as though I’m being ever so negative about Champneys, and I do want to stress – it isn’t all that bad. I am being very picky and critical. There were lots of positives. For example, the food at Champneys (especially when you are on a healthy eating kick) is amazing. I don’t think I have ever been to a place that serves such tasty, low calorie dishes – with so much choice and no temptation to stray otherwise. If you book a one night stay (like we did) you will have the chance to enjoy the buffet breakfast, lunch and the three-course evening meal – which was my favourite. Although you do have to book each meal accordingly to your treatments, the service is fantastic and the variety of choice on offer is also very good.
During the three-course evening meal, I had the baked mushroom and roasted vegetable dish to start, a mackerel and green bean salad for my main, and the cinnamon apple pie with vanilla pod ice cream for dessert (shhh!). Each dish was brought out very quickly, and was extremely delicious – not a scrap was left. I wouldn’t normally go for such healthy options, as I am often tempted by pasta, pizza or rice dishes – however Champney’s encouraged me to try out new flavours and I actually really enjoyed every course!
The accommodation at Champney’s is also fantastic (although you can opt to just stay the day), and I would highly recommend a night’s stay. Rachel and I stayed in a superior room, which had a gorgeous little outdoor terrace overlooking the lake (it’s just a shame about the bad weather), as well as two very comfortable twin beds, an en-suite and a flat-screen television. The decor of the room was lovely, however not necessarily ‘out of this world’ or completely unique.
After a restful nights sleep, Rachel and I headed down for our manicures at 9am, and waited in the treatment reception. In my opinion, most spa treatment waiting areas I had experienced previously had always been one of the most relaxing spaces of the resort – usually darkly lit, with soothing music playing, perhaps a few magazines with some aromatherapy oils permeating the air. Unfortunately, the waiting room here had a very clinical feel, and was a very big, impersonal open space, with a jug of water and some cone cups.
The decor was very plain, yet the furniture and the carpet clashed and overall – it really didn’t create a relaxing looking room. The staff in the treatment waiting room were talking very loudly about their personal lives and at points, shrieked with laughter at one another. Although I am all for the staff enjoying their environment, it didn’t really create the relaxing environment I envisioned and so when my manicurist Justine came to take me away, I was slightly relieved.
The manicure was lovely (and I ended up choosing a gorgeous glittery red) as was my complimentary 25 minute facial at 12 in the afternoon. Although I didn’t have a chance to sample the other treatments, I’m sure they are just as fantastic! The treatment rooms, albeit very small are darkly lit, feature a heated bed (which is very relaxing) and do indeed smell as though I had imagined a spa should smell – a mixture of almond oil, incense and aromatherapy oils.
Overall, I did have a great weekend. It certainly wasn’t all disappointment. However I personally wouldn’t return if I was guaranteed the same experience as it didn’t ‘wow’ me enough. After working non stop for months on end, this was my first proper weekend off, so I guess maybe my expectations were a little too high or maybe I was expecting far more than I should have. I was excited by the prospect of trying out a Pilates class or yoga, but unfortunately participating in one of these classes required a £5 fee, which although isn’t completely out of my budget – I thought was a little cheeky considering it’s advertised as an all inclusive weekend (and by no means are the classes full).
I would say that this experience has dampened my love for Champneys a little, however I wouldn’t completely rule out returning. I am very grateful to be offered the chance of a complimentary weekend, and it was fantastic to relax and enjoy my weekend off – however I did want to highlight what I did and didn’t enjoy, as I am honest in my reviews and wouldn’t provide a false or incorrect article simply because something was provided to me complimentary.
**Since this was published, Champney’s have emailed me and apologized for what I felt was wrong with my stay, before going on to kindly offer me another complimentary day review. Unfortunately, I won’t be taking up this offer as I have a lot on my plate at the moment and simply don’t have the time to review it again, not to mention pay the travel costs. However, I do really appreciate Champney’s comments and I am sure another stay would have been more pleasant. In future, it might be worth noting down who is coming along for a press trip (although this shouldn’t alter the service, as anyone can give their opinion on TripAdvisor), so that they receive a great experience that they will enjoy writing about.