Champneys Tring is a haven of tranquility, health and relaxation less than an hour outside London. I visited last week to find my zen ahead of London Fashion Week.
I should probably point out that I have an on-off relationship with relaxation. I love the idea of it, but in reality I tend to get bored and frustrated. I learnt this side of myself when I went on a yoga retreat last year. Emma and Mimi looked glorious as they chilled in the cosy basement of our Spanish villa, meditating successfully and – frankly – quite triumphantly. I know all this because my eyes kept wiggling their way to an open position for a wee peek. I guess you could say that my attention span needs a little work.
So I’m not exactly a regular at spa breaks. But Champney’s appeals because it has a strong focus on activities, too. Founded in the 1920s, Champney’s was the UK’s first ever health spa, and to this day, it is the household name for luxury staycations. Despite retaining a handful of prominent period features (the main Mansion House is over 100 years old), the Champneys resorts have recently undergone a something of a facelift, bringing back their competitive edge and monopoly of the wellness market. Take the addition of ‘Bootcamp’ breaks at selected resorts, and of course the very 2010s trend for slightly fastidious eating (each item on the Champneys menu has a detailed break-down of any possible allergens and irritant).
I visited Tring most recently (my second visit) as a Mother’s Day treat for my mum. It was mum’s first time – possibly her first ever visit to an overnight spa experience, actually. We approached by taxi from Berkhamsted station (37 minutes train out of London Euston, FYI. You can get a local bus to the resort, but in the spirit of all things pampering, I’d recommend our way) and I let mum coo over the manicured lawns and impressive water feature as we pulled up infront of the historic Mansion House. Check-in was a breeze – almost too quick actually, since the welcome drinks were next level yummy and frankly I could’ve sat there mulling my fresh juice over for hours.
Rooms at Champneys Tring are split into different areas. We were in the Mansion House, in number 26 on the first floor. Cue much excitement from mum: our family home has the same number. It felt like a sign. Some of the ground-floor rooms have direct access to the gardens, and their own private outdoor seating area.
The room was simply huge, sprawling over a total of three areas, each punctuated by very on-brand interiors – things like the green and gold velvet throws, towering orchids, and of course the infamous Champneys robes. Which obviously we changed into immediately, along with our monogrammed flip flops that’d been allocated according to size ahead of our arrival. To the left of the giant flat-screen TV was a drinks station with teas, cups and teapots (yay), and three different methods to create coffee (capsules, caffitiere or instant). And that extreme attention to personal tastes transpired to be something of a theme throughout our stay. No request was too fussy or too niche.
Similarly, the activities side of things catered for all sorts of different priorities, wants and needs. The gym is fully-stockerd with an impressive timetable of classes (literally everything from circuits & spinning, to yoga & aqua-fit), and there’s outdoor exercise options like ground walks and nature trails. Naturally I headed off to the gym, leaving mum to get started in the spa area.
Our treatments were booked for 10am the following morning, but we had full use of the facilities throughout the duration of our stay. There are two pools – one is a serious-looking lap pool, the other a thalasso pool with pressure jets and waterfalls. The later is obviously the less strenuous of the two – even the lighting is designed to have a positive affect on mood.
For treatments, we both went for massage – I opted for deep tissue, and mum had the slightly more adaptable Sweedish option. My therapist lead me into a dimly-lit room and gave precise instructions for arranging myself on the bed so as to achieve maximum comfort. Now. I’ve had mangy massages in my time but I really don’t think I’ve ever been quite so beautifully comfortable on a massage bed before. The attention to detail was pretty mind-blowing. Even the pillow slid under my head as I rolled-over half way was next level comfy. Squishy. Like, really squishy. Squishier than my already pretty squishy bed pillows at home. If I’d had a bigger bag I might have been tempted to take one with me..
Champneys Tring is set in a vast plot of land, which makes a stay completely unique depending on the time of year you are visiting. The last time I visited with my friend Pandora was summer, so we whiled away our days chasing the sun and finding new knooks we hadn’t spotted the day before. This time was a little more chilly and I ventured out (heavily wrapped-up) just the once before retreating back to the blissful warmth of the Thalasso pool. Note: there’s an outside jacuzzi, too, which is just magical as the sun starts to go down.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I went gluten-free about three years ago, and dabble with the whole dairy-free thing. You’ll also maybe know that I tend to have a slightly laizze-fair attitude toward just how strictly GF I want to go. So if it’s a hangover day / I have a cold / there’s something gluten I just can’t not try, I turn a bit of a blind eye. I have never actually been medically diagnosed with any allergy or even intolerance, so I feel I can do this. So when I arrived at the self-service buffet on our first morning, I had mentally prepared myself to bend my own rules. But then I saw the gluten-free cereal mountain. And the oodles of milk-and-yogurt alternatives to dairy. And suddenly I was back on the wagon. Because frankly it looked tastier than any gluten I’d ever seen in my life.
When it comes to dinner, it’s all a la carte. I can’t decide if this is because it’s sometimes nice to be a little more formal in the evenings, or if it’s to help us little glutonites away from the temptation of mounds of beautiful, fresh salads of every colour in the rainbow. Seriously tho, which one is it?
On our final day, we checked out of our room (they kept calling it a room but actually it really felt more like a suite) at 11am and were allowed access to the facicilites until 4pm. Which meant a spin class for me and a languorous steam-sauna-steam ritual for mum. I might start looking into commuter train deals – I could certainly make myself very much at home at Champney’s Tring.