I have a soft spot for Grayshott Spa in Surrey.
It’s where I came when I was in the grip of PTSD five years ago in an attempt to calm my whirring mind. I found it to be a peaceful haven from the outside world, and surprisingly suitable for single travellers.
Recently I finally returned, this time with the twin goals of recharging my batteries and rekindling my enthusiasm for fitness.
The hotel and spa is housed in a grand Victorian manor that was once inhabited by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It’s set in vast gardens and grounds – complete with a nine-hole golf course – which back on to hundreds of acres of National Trust countryside.
Grayshott Spa isn’t hen weekend pampering territory. It’s a medical spa, renowned for specialist recovery retreats and health regimes, and doesn’t make any claims to luxury. The superb treatments are delivered by highly knowledgeable staff in rooms that are rather more functional than zen. But what it lacks in opulence it certainly makes up for in service. The staff are genuinely friendly, which really helps to make solo guests feel at ease.
Check-in – and check out that view
Following a warm welcome at reception, I was shown to my room on the first floor of the annex. It looked out over the main house and lawns – what a fabulous view!
The room itself was comfortable, with a huge bed, lovely soft towels and convenient walk-in shower. I must say that the absence of air conditioning made it almost unbearably hot – but my stay was during a sizzling spell in August. Apparently half of the rooms do have aircon.
I felt more relaxed within hours of arriving at Grayshott. The hotel emanates a real sense of tranquility with its rural surrounds, hushed ambience and selection of peaceful indoor and outdoor spaces.
Kick-starting fitness at Grayshott
Don’t be fooled by Grayshott’s sedate aura; strenuous exercise is on offer for those who want it.
There’s a varied programme of classes ranging from HIIT, core conditioning and zumba to stretching, pilates and yoga – not to mention indoor and outdoor tennis courts.
I opted for a personal training session with one of the fitness instructors in the gym, who put me through my paces in a demanding but achievable workout. It successfully jolted many muscles out of their slumber and caused much aching the next day – surely a sign that I’d performed resistance exercises properly for a change.
Pre-breakfast power walks are held every morning, and they are pretty hardcore. The group leaves the enclave of the spa and tears along the heathland paths of Ludshott Common, led by an instructor who, believe me, will not dilly-dally for stragglers.
What better motivation to keep up with the group than the prospect of getting lost and missing the breakfast buffet? As first world problems go, it’s a daunting one.
Rest assured, walks of a more leisurely nature also feature on the daily schedule.
Alongside indoor and outdoor swimming pools, guests can make use of the separate male and female spa areas with a sauna, steam room and plunge pool. None of these have been at all busy on either of my visits to Grayshott.
I don’t know whether the large chunk of amethyst, twinkly ceiling and chromotherapy lighting in the steam room conferred any special healing properties, but they certainly made for a very calming experience.
The afternoon Relax and Unwind class is not to be missed. It centres around deep breathing and visualisation, a meditation technique that I’ve previously found very effective for stilling an obstinately active mind. At one point I even caught myself on the verge of sleep – a highly unusual occurrence. We all emerged from the class feeling peaceful, grounded and distinctly slower-paced.
Food – regaining control
What I love about the food at Grayshott is that it’s inventive and packed with taste yet served in portion sizes modest enough to justify a healthy eating label. The evening meals are a fantastic lesson in portion control.
On my first stay at Grayshott I remember eyeing each course with concern, foreseeing midnight hunger pangs – which didn’t materialise in the slightest. However, the fear was evidently etched on my mind as, ridiculously, I found myself stuffing emergency snacks into my suitcase for this visit, as if preparing for a gruelling expedition rather than an upmarket spa break near London.
In fact, the beautifully crafted menu allows guests to enjoy modern, fine food without feeling either deprived or overly full. What’s slightly more difficult to digest is the realisation that over-eating has simply become a mindless habit.
For spa guests, breakfast and lunch is served as a buffet. It offers a wide selection of creative and tasty delights descended from superfood heaven.
Some degree of self-restraint is required to keep portions in check, particularly if, like me, you pile your plate with quinoa and beansprout-shaped good intentions, and then tuck into the least virtuous options. Hello, parma ham and artisan breads.
Those on the health regime nibble on their presumably more meagre morsels in a separate dining room, removed from the temptation of overdoing it on coconut chia shots.
As all solo travellers know, it’s often the unexpected conversation and fleeting connection with a stranger that shapes your experience and memories of a place. On my first visit here, several other guests followed my lead in sitting at the sharers’ table and we all commented what a lovely idea it was. No such luck this time. Fortunately I had a good book (and trashy magazine) to keep me occupied.
Overall, Grayshott Spa’s restful surroundings and outstanding personal service make it a perfect place to unwind. I left rejuvenated, my appetite for fitness renewed. With its delicious yet nourishing cuisine and array of activities, treatments and therapies, it’s easy to see why so many guests return time after time. I’m sure that I will be back, perhaps even to brave the Health Regime – prohibited snacks at the ready, of course.
Grayshott Spa review – Personal highlights
- Location – a stone’s throw from miles of healthland trails
- Creative, nutritious, modern food
- Service – a special thanks to Ravi, who offered 30 minutes’ free PT after spotting my woeful stretching routine
- Wide selection of exercise classes
- View from my bedroom in the annex
Areas for improvement
- No air-conditioning in bedroom (around half the rooms do have aircon, apparently)
- Showers in the women’s spa area didn’t seem to warm up
- The huge bed was two mattresses zipped together – a little uncomfortable
- Could improve its solo travel credentials. Staff could highlight the sharers’ table when guests enter the dining room so they are aware of the option.
Classic 3 for 2. £640 including accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival to lunch on departure, use of the facilities, exercise and relaxation classes, two spa treatments, films, wellbeing talks. I was able to convert one treatment into a personal training session.
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