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Grayshott Spa review
Civilised health spa in Surrey, England

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Retreat

The Quick Read: This is a privately-owned, peaceful and civilized health spa an hour’s drive from London with an unpretentious, holistic approach to health and excellent caring and professional staff. It’s set in 47 pretty acres, and adjoins 700 acres of National Trust land. Your base is a gorgeous manor house which the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson rented in the 1860s, and a less attractive 1970s extension which ivy makes a little less obtrusive. Come for a simple, two night rest with treatments or book onto a more specialist retreat.

£££

Grayshott heart doorMore on the spa: Grayshott has been tending to people’s heath since the 1960s – regulars have included British actors such as Judi Dench, Roger Moore and Joan Plowright. Indeed, one lady loved it so much she actually gave up her house in Surrey to live here permanently (she must be loaded!). People wander about in white robes – you’ll get into it after an hour or so. There’s a simple indoor swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool, with a few loungers around. It’s light and airy, looking out over the lawns. The rest of the spa facilities are in a separate area and divided into male and female spas, each having a steam room (with a huge amethyst crystal cluster), sauna and plunge pool. The showers have Aromatherapy Associates products and there’s a small relaxation room (no reading allowed). It’s all perfectly functional but doesn’t encourage lingering and lounging.

More on the wellbeing retreats: Grayshott excels at organising bespoke retreats that suit your budget and needs, but it also runs various dedicated health breaks throughout the year including a 7, 14 or 21 night Health Regime – read about our experience of Grayshott’s Health Regime.  The spa also runs a Recuperation & Rehabiliation programme to help you deal with sports injuries, illness, emotional upheaval or the effects of major surgery, and a 4 night Nurture and Support post-cancer treatment programme which aims to both relax and strengthen the immune system. It’s tailored to each guest and includes a healthy menu, consultations, therapeutic spa treatments and general health advice. The spa treatments have been created for Grayshott by Susan Harmsworth, founder of ESPA.

More on the fitness activities: Personal trainers are on hand in the gym – Ravi heads the team and takes no prisoners. Fitness classes tend to be no-nonsense and highly effective. We tried a legs, bums and tums class which had our thighs wimpering four days later. The conditioning classes tend to be based around HIIT principles – or straight interval training – and, although you can work at your own pace, they are a tough workout.

Head PT Ravi is serious about fitness

Head PT Ravi is serious about fitness

Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and Zumba classes are taken by external teachers and are charged at £6 per class – they need to be booked in advance. Different yoga teachers take each class and each works slightly differently – we found some much better than others (Sue Wood was our favourite with a focused yet spiritual practice and thoughtful adjustments). Carron, the Pilates teacher, is excellent. The deep relaxation class is blissful – when we tried it, snores were heard around the room.

There are three daily guided walks – two in the morning (gentle and power – on which the pace is very fast) and one after lunch (at a moderate pace). You can take golf or tennis lessons (the golf pro is considered ‘excellent’) or simply meander around the grounds or out onto the surrounding National Trust land.

More on the treatments & therapies: Treatments include a wide roster of complementary therapies – from shiatsu and acupuncture to reflexology and Reiki. You can book sessions in stress management, hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique as well as inviting range of massages. There is also a large menu of beauty and pampering treatments. Murad is the only beauty brand used at present – we were disappointed when they stopped offering organic ILA treatments, though they are looking for an alternative – watch this space!

It’s important to book treatments as far in advance as possible to ensure you get a schedule that suits your stay. The spa reception desk will try their utmost to fit everything in for you – and print off a handy updated schedule for each day. The holistic therapies are excellent (John Hopkins is singled out regularly as a superb therapist); the beauty treatments aren’t raved about so much, although the Rose Indulgence always gets a good reception.

The junior suites are located in the new extension at Grayshott

The junior suites are located in the new extension at Grayshott

More on the bedrooms: The bedrooms fall into two categories – those in the old house and those in the newer extensions. The newer extension rooms (singles, doubles, junior suites) are all pretty similar – standard rooms are much the same as junior suites but without a lounge area and with just a shower. Décor is pleasant if a little bland. Rooms on the ground floor are better as, if the weather is kind, you can fling open your doors and sit on loungers outside.

Rooms in the old house (Manor suites) are far more idiosyncratic. Some have enormous bathrooms; others only showers. Some have vast bedroom/sitting areas and smaller bathrooms; some vice versa. Some have stunning views; others look out over the car park or a tree. So do check when booking if such things matter. On our various visits we have stayed in room 6 – which had a vast bedroom, small but pleasant bathroom and an irritating permanent hum from the kitchen ventilation fan below – and in room 7, an enormous double suite with a spring-fresh green and white décor and lovely views over the gardens and golf course.

More on the inside: The public rooms in the older part of the house are lovely. You get a real sense of being in a traditional country house here. The elegant drawing room is light and airy with beautiful windows (including little stained glass portraits in some of the upper panes). Squashy sofas, glass coffee tables and a profusion of orchids make a soothing place to sit and read the papers or have a chat with friends. Next door is a small cinema where talks are held daily and films are shown in the evenings. There’s also Bubbles, the ‘bar’ which serves drinks and coffees for those not following strict regimes. The spa and fitness areas (in the newer extension) are less inspirational. Low ceilings and lack of windows make them less airy than one might like. Treatment rooms are also tiny and some of the couches feel narrow.

Grayshott Outdoor pool

Grayshott’s grounds are especially nice in good weather

More on the outside: Grayshott is wonderful when the sun shines. The outdoor pool is a little underwhelming and more care could have gone into landscaping and lounging areas. But the grounds are lovely – you can wander through the orchard, plucking an apple or even a fig; stride around the edges of the (quiet) golf course or lose yourself in meditation in any number of tucked away corners. We saw one woman performing perfect tai chi by a small pond one morning – and the little rock and woodland area makes a lovely meditation spot. Rabbits play in the extensive garden, which doubles as a small golf course, and it’s not unusual to see deer and foxes on the peripheral woodland.

Food and drink: There’s a continental buffet breakfast, a three course buffet for lunch and a more inspired three course a la Carte menu for dinner, all created in consultation with a dietician. We’ve always found the meals healthy, plentiful and delicious. You get colour-coded plates to portion control your protein, carbs and veggies – for menu options, think carrot and sweet potato soup, pan fried red mullet and aubergine goats cheese cannelloni. If you don’t want to detox during your stay, you can also enjoy organic champagne and homemade nibbles in the little bar area every early evening.

Grayshott Dining

Meals are served in a dining room or conservatory (above)

All meals are served in the main dining room or, when busy, also in the conservatory. There is a ‘sharers’ table set up for solo travellers who would like to socialise with other single guests at meal time – but this is totally optional and you will not feel uncomfortable if you have a table to yourself. You can also have room service during meal times at no extra charge. Vegetarians fare less well with many choices uninspiring and being vegan at Grayshott would be a serious challenge. Sadly the kitchen is too small to be as flexible as one might like and so you might have problems if you have multiple food intolerances.

Fellow guests: Very much a mixed bag. During the week it tends to be 40+,with quite a few couples and around a 70:30 ration of women to men. Come the weekend, a lot of younger females descend for pampering and gossip. People are very friendly – it’s a laid-back vibe.

crown What’s queenly: The light-filled dining room and sitting rooms with their pretty stained glass windows. The classy paintings of women in yogic poses by Caribbean artist Rosie Cameron Smith which grace the walls. The fact that many therapists have been here years – a session with naturopath and osteopath Elaine Williams is especially recommended.

What’s lowly: The pre-treatment waiting area is a little in want of light, and the decor in some areas needs updating. The steam, sauna and plunge pool area is in need of a revamp, and is nowhere near the swimming pool. The kitchen needs more imagination when it comes to catering for vegetarians and vegans.

The soothing drawing room at Grayshott Spa

The soothing drawing room at Grayshott Spa

Getting there: Grayshott Spa is a mile and half outside the village of Grayshott, two miles from Hindhead and 16 miles south of Guildford. Most people drive but you can take a train from Waterloo to Haslemere (taxis will take you to Grayshott). The spa is an hour’s drive from Gatwick or Heathrow.

Price: A stay at Grayshott spa costs from £330 per person for an all-inclusive 2 night à la Carte stay, inclusive of all meals and 3 spa treatments, based on two people sharing a standard room. The health programme costs from £1,295 for seven nights (depending on season and type of room). This includes all meals, consultations with nutritional therapists and a herbalist, tests and some treatments (three castor oil liver packs, two hydrotherapy baths and two abdominal massages). Treatments are grouped into four bands – from £35 – £85. For example, dry floatation or a Himalayan salt scrub costs £35. Reflexology, osteopathy, manicures and pedicures are £55. Hopi ear candling, cranial osteopathy and physiotherapy are £70 and deep tissue massage, reiki and the Murad signature facial are £85. Personal training costs £35 for a 30-minute session. One to one yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi classes are £55. Golf and tennis lessons cost from £55 – £85.

Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones and Jane Alexander.

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Spa reception at Grayshott complete with a painting by Caribbean artist Rosie Cameron Smith