Hotel review: Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa is perfect antidote to city life

The stunning indoor pool at the spa

The stunning indoor pool at the spa - Credit: Archant

Luxury retreat Ockenden Manor’s 24 hour ‘Escape from London’ package will reinvigorate weary London souls.

The Elizabethan manor house of the hotel from the picturesque gardens

The Elizabethan manor house of the hotel from the picturesque gardens - Credit: Archant

It was a bit like being cocooned in some sort of spaceship, at first. This was apt, given that the feeling of weightlessness in an isolation tank is apparently the closest to that experienced by an astronaut.

The Isopod Floatation tank

The Isopod Floatation tank - Credit: Archant

Although floating in a shiny white, salt-water-filled capsule with mood lighting was an initially odd experience, after just a few minutes I was oblivious of my surroundings, falling into a deep state of relaxation and hovering on the brink of sleep.

One of the spa suites

One of the spa suites - Credit: Archant

The warm water creates buoyancy similar to the Dead Sea, removing the effects of gravity on the body, allowing every single muscle to relax – conserving vast amounts of physical and mental energy, relieving pain and boosting your immune system.

As a result, an hour spent in this tranquil pod is supposed to be the equivalent of about four hours of sleep – and I certainly felt enormously reinvigorated for the rest of the day, allowing me to enjoy the stunning spa facilities and grounds at Ockenden Manor.


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We headed to this five-star hotel – part of the luxury Historic Sussex Hotels chain – on the Saturday morning to enjoy its ‘24 hour escape from London’ package. We drove there in under one-and-a-half hours, but it’s easily accessible on the train via National Rail too, despite its remote location.

Nestled in sweeping countryside in the small, quaint Sussex Tudor village of Cuckfield, the main hotel is a charming Elizabethan manor house, alongside a modern and impressive spa complex, in nine acres of beautiful gardens overlooking the South Downs.

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Our spa suite was breathtaking – huge, with a terrace boasting stunning rural views, bright and sumptuous furnishings and a roll top bathtub from which you could even lay back and watch the television through the bathroom’s retractable side panel.

It was also just a few steps away down to the sanctuary of the purpose-built spa which boasts an inviting pool flooded by gorgeous natural light thanks to the water to ceiling windows, with swim-through access to the warm outdoor pool. There’s also a rainwater shower, steam room, sauna, spa baths both inside and outside, and soft loungers to melt into with a good book between dips in the water or treatments.

Therapists offer a range of indulgent treatments across eight suites, and I enjoyed the organic brand ila’s Kundalini back treatment which works to release dormant energy in the base of the spine. It began with a reinvigorating scrub using Himalayan salts to banish any dead skin, making way for a deeply soothing oil massage which left me feeling balanced and tranquil.

And while I was kicking back relaxing, my partner was taken to the small but well-equipped fitness studio.

For the evening, we headed over to the manor house to enjoy a fine three course candle-lit meal in the Michelin-starred restaurant, after a quick aperitif in the lounge.

Just as our day had been, the food was divine and indulgent.

My starter of scallops and main course of Newhaven landed cod were off-the-boat fresh, the latter served on a delicious bed of cabbage and smoked salmon, and topped with a gratin of crispy potatoes. My partner was equally blown away by his assiette of Sussex beef followed by ox cheek with mash and roasted veg, with all dishes presented with all the finesse you’d expect.

Desserts were also delectable – including a masterfully executed soufflé – and the wine list offered extensive choice while also celebrating local vineyards.

After coffee, we waddled back over to the spa complex for what was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages.

It was a good job, because we needed to be up with a delicious breakfast in our bellies in time to meet our Nordic walking guide at reception for 10.30am the following morning.

Originally a summer training regime for cross-country skiers, it’s based on using walking poles that harness the power of the upper body to propel you forward and provide a full body work out. There are even Nordic walking clubs in London now, apparently.

While feeling as relaxed as I did thanks to the previous day’s pampering, the prospect of a nine mile walk initially seemed like a bit of a chore, but once we were on our way and I found my stride, it was pretty invigorating.

Our guide took us through mossy woodlands, alongside rocky streams and across lush green fields until we reached our destination about three hours later – a vineyard, which made it all worthwhile (even if the wine did undo all the calories we’d burned).

Kicking back in the glorious winter sunshine, we enjoyed a glass of the Bolney Wine Estate’s intriguing but delicious sparkling red. Luckily, we didn’t have to walk all the way back and a taxi came to collect us to return us to the hotel for our departure.

So, off we went back home – thoroughly relaxed, having enjoyed a perfect weekend.

The 24 hour Escape from London package starts at £455, based on two people sharing a standard room and includes dinner, breakfast, an hour’s spa treatment, an isopod flotation tank session and a fitness class each. For reservations click here or call 01444 416111.

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