Lemongrass and wood burning on a log fire aren’t two scents that you’d normally associate with one another – but both fill the air at Careys Manor Hotel and Spa. The Hampshire retreat is a curious mix of traditional country hotel with 19th century wooden staircase, open log fires, cosy sofas that are just begging for your bottom to settle on them with a hot chocolate … and the Thai-inspired Senspa with Buddha statues, orchids and relaxing Eastern chimes.
I escaped London on a direct train to Brockenhurst with my best mate for Careys Manor’s Zen Spa Escape Break. As soon as we arrived, we jumped straight in to spa life, changing into our bath robes and relaxing on a day bed with a book. The hotel makes things as easy as possible for guests, inviting you to arrive any time from 9am, even though your hotel room won’t be ready until later, and offering to store luggage for you while you head to the spa.
Lunch was at the Zen Garden Thai restaurant in the spa. I’ll be honest, I don’t have massively high expectations when it comes to spa restaurants. Often, the options are salads or paninis – nice but nothing amazing. Here, though, we were actually blown away by the food. Our spa package included a two course lunch – I ate pork dumplings followed by a Thai green curry (Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai). Both tasted amazing – easily some of the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten.
After lunch, it was time for some treatments. First up, the AlphaSphere Deluxe – a 25 minute sensory experience created by the Austrian artist and innovator SHA – which saw us lying on a moulded bed with netting around it, staring up at changing lights with music and vibrations, creating a strangely relaxing vibe. At first, it felt like being in a sinister alien movie but after a while, I found myself drifting off to sleep…
Next we had a Manuka Facial which saw warm Manuka honey being spread on the face and smelt amazing! It was also one of those facials that involved a lot of massage – on the face and the shoulders, but also on the arms and even legs. So I left feeling very relaxed and my skin felt so so soft.
By then, our room was ready so we went there for showers and fizz drinking whilst watching Strictly! Can you tell we were taking this girlie relaxation time very seriously?!
Dinner was a 3 course affair served in Cambium. The two of us sat nestled in a semi circular booth (would have been very romantic, had we been a couple!) eating our way through three courses. The amazing flavours we experienced earlier continued – my pumpkin soup with goats curd tortellini, lamb and chocolate mousse with toffee popcorn and banana all hit the spot. We drank Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and set the world to rights during our meal. Afterwards we found a cosy spot by a crackling log fire to have a drink – and got chatting to a couple who were planning to have their wedding there.
‘Scuse the grainy iPhone snap!
After a lie in (hello 9am wake up call – I remember you fondly from my pre-mum days!) we stuffed ourselves with pastries, crumpets and a full English breakfast before hitting the hydrotherapy pool. From there we experienced some of the different Spa Rooms, bravely hitting the ice room after the steam room and allowing a bucket of icy water to be tipped over our heads to cool us down. Brrr! The Tepidarium was, in comparison, a far more relaxing experience.
After some more tea drinking and magazine reading in one of the relaxation rooms, it was sadly time for us to get ready and head back to London on the train.
“You know how after some spa breaks, you feel you could do with another day just to properly unwind?” I asked my friend, as we left. “Well I actually feel properly relaxed now. I don’t need any extra time.” And that, I think is a sign of success. If you can spend 24 hours in a spa and leave feeling genuinely de-stressed and happy, it’s done its job.
Thanks to Careys Manor Hotel & Spa in Brockenhurst for inviting us to stay for the night, for the purpose of this review. The 1 Night Zen Spa Escape Break costs from £180 per person (£20 supplement on Friday or Saturday night) – see what it includes and book here.
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