Wellness tourism put the Surrey hamlet of Grayshott on the map decades ago, and its eponymous mansion remains the venue of choice for well-heeled ladies who lunch lightly and enjoy a bit of pampering.
Today, Brits no longer talk of health farms, and the former Grayshott Hall is doing its best to break out of that niche by renaming itself the Grayshott Spa Hotel. The management is trying to tempt in more men with their own spa, and the medical emphasis has been ramped up with The Grayshott Regime, an excellent gut health re-education programme.
Smaller rooms have been enlarged, making for more comfortable, contemporary accommodation within a beautiful old mansion which was once home to Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A less attractive modern wing incorporating an indoor swimming pool comes into its own in summer, thanks to patio rooms which open directly onto the expansive grounds, which contain a 9-hole golf course and outdoor pool.
The Light Diet room where fasters were once consigned while others tucked in next door in the dining room has thankfully gone. Weight management is now addressed with portion control and phenomenally good spa cuisine which makes gourmet grub out of very low-fat ingredients. But for non-dieters there are also baked potatoes, slugs of olive oil, bowls of macadamia nuts and a wine list, though those on the wagon will appreciate the beautiful glassware, which makes drinking bottled water feel like a treat.
Spa treatments include some interesting holistic options using natural products and a blend of east-west therapies. Dream Time is designed to redress sleep patterns with deep massage, while Oriental Wisdom invokes shiatsu and Thai massage principles to stretch out the limbs, help drain the lymph system and rebalance the chakras. Classic Guinot facials are supplemented with signature treatments like the English Rose, involving all-natural Ila products by Ila, a cosmetics producer who actually sings to you on CD during your treatment.
There are separate single-sex spas including steam, sauna and plunge, with a delightful relaxation room, always the arbiter of a good health retreat. But it’s a shame these are so far from the swimming pool, and also that no evening treatments are available, even on busy weekends.
A well-equipped gym and exercise studio where yoga, Pilates and other classes are held are complemented by Swiss balls and the services of a personal trainer. There are daily walks in the grounds, but a better hike would be to drive to the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl, the pride of rural Surrey.
LIttle niggles include a crowded self-service tea area less inviting than the beautiful drawing room. But little extras not seen at most wellness centres include complimentary juice cocktails with healthy canapes, and a small cinema. Overall, Grayshott carries on the health farm tradition pretty well; I left feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and determined to eat better, exercise more and get a proper night’s sleep.
The Grayshott Regime costs £1,495 including seven nights full board and treatments, but short a la carte breaks are also available.