Congham Hall review | spa hotel Norfolk
Affordable small spa hotel in the English countryside
The Quick Read: This pretty cream-coloured Georgian house set just off a reasonably quiet road in tranquil Norfolk countryside has just 26 bedrooms but a surprisingly large and smart little spa with two saunas, a steam room, a large swimming pool with hydro jets and a lovely outdoor hot tub with pastoral views. Watch sheep graze the old parkland as you swim or soak, and in the summer pluck herbs straight from the garden – they form the basis for some therapies in the spa, which use Elemental Herbology products. It’s a great and very affordable place for a weekend escape – most especially with your children.
Who it’s best for: Couples, friends and families. Children are made to feel very welcome, though under 7 year olds can’t eat in the main restaurant and children’s swim times are a little on the tight side – 8 to 9.30 in the morning (giving you only 30 minutes to make it to the 10 am breakfast deadline) and 4.30-6 pm in the evening. Anyone living within striking distance should make a bee-line for the day spa and lunch deals, which are amazing value.
What you can do: Come here to relax, reconnect with your family, use the The Secret Garden Spa, go walking and enjoy the immense Norfolk skies. A 10 minute walk away along roads is Congham Heath, a lovely tranquil forest for good walks, or drive and stride wide open beaches at Holkham and Cley. There are also impressive country houses to explore at Sandringham, Houghton and Blickling. The hotel also has a self-guided garden trail which explores some of the best gardens in North Norfolk, from stately homes to nature reserves.
The Secret Garden Spa is a modern extension to the main house, reached from the central courtyard. It’s smart and unfussy, with a spacious reception area but rather cosy changing rooms, after which the floor to ceiling windows around the pool come as a pleasant surprise. As you swim in the pool – or soak outside in the hot tub – there are lovely views of open parkland with mature trees and sheep grazing.
Light and airy by day, the pool has fabulous hydro jets around it you can use to pummel your shoulders and legs. There are two slightly puzzling sit-down foot baths, a sauna and a steam room, and a very good menu of facials, massages and rituals using Elemental Herbology products at the spa.
Where you stay: Public areas feel spacious and comfortable, with polished stone floors, smart putty coloured sofas and coloured rugs. There’s a library and various small lounges with an open fires for teas and relaxing, a bistro-style restaurant and rather elegant little bar.
Choose from more traditional bedrooms in the main house, or more modern rooms in the garden, each with its own little terrace. Rooms are named after herbs and we stayed in Wild Sage, which was a spacious (if a little uninspiring) garden room looking over the spa courtyard filled with herbs and flowers, and had a large sleek black bathroom with freestanding bath, walk-in shower and Elemental Herbology toiletries.
There are two Suites in the main house hotel with separate sitting rooms – Dandelion faces the garden at the side of house and has wonderful views from the terrace, while Achillea on the ground floor is larger and wheelchair accessible.
How was it for us: I came here with my husband and daughter for a short break when we were travelling in the area and had a very relaxing time – most especially hanging out in the outdoor hot tub watching the birdlife by day and the stars by night. My daughter spent oodles of time bouncing on the trampoline and exploring the orchard, while I went for walks on Congham Heath, and took photos of the amazing tall trees and ferns for a collage I was making. We chatted, had tea and soup and played chess and other games in the lounge areas, sunlight warming our faces.
In the spa I had a super Herb Garden Signature Treatment (£75) with Monica, a 75-minute face, back and scalp massage which begins and ends with a herbal inhalation, and features rosemary, mint and lavender, handpicked from the hotel’s own plot of 400 varieties of herb. The back cleanse at the beginning felt a bit drafty, but warm flannels and hot stones soon got me warm again and the body and scalp massage left me feeling very chilled. I relaxed after in the Camomile Lounge, though this did feel like a bit of an after thought near the fire exit.
What we took home: A lovely pot of Elemental Herbology Cell Food – a serum with proteins vitamins and anti-oxidants for the skin.
Would we go back: Yes – if I was travelling in the area already.
People watch: Service was a little hit and miss, but everyone was friendly and helpful – especially the restaurant manager Karen.
Food watch: The hotel’s 2AA Rossette menu of locally and seasonally sourced food was on the whole delicious and nicely varied (if a little too salty at times), from the Slow cooked Breckland duck breast to the Aubergine and nut roast tian. Our Saute chestnut gnocchi starter was the tastiest vegetarian fare we’d had at a hotel in months.
What’s lowly: Given the gorgeous exterior and architecture of the building, interiors feel a little bit John Lewis, with not enough sparkle and individuality, though everywhere is very comfortable.
Insider tip: If you want to use the pool and spa facilities before the staff get in in the morning, get the door code from reception the night before.
Price: Room rates start from £135 per night room only and £219 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast.
Value for Money: Extremely good – particularly if you’re booking with your family.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
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