Although extensively extended, this ornate Elizabethan house – with its original beam ceiling rooms – has all the charm you’d expect from a Manor Hotel set in the delightful West Sussex countryside. The views alone of the South Downs are worth the room rate. We were here to unwind after a particularly busy work period for both of us. And unwind we did… From the moment we arrived into the grounds at Ockenden we could feel the pressures of everyday life easing away.
As we were staying in one of Ockenden’s Spa Suites, we were escorted from the hotel’s traditionally decorated reception to the Spa. The Spa, a recent addition to Ockenden, is housed in a contemporary building boasting clever architecture, making for a real contrast from the somewhat old-fashioned charm of the main hotel.
Our Spa Suite was spectacular: an open-plan bedroom and lounge, with shutters opening into the en-suite bathroom which includes a walk-in shower and roll-top bath. Along with fantastic views over the roof terrace garden, the room has a flat-screen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, air-conditioning and complimentary WiFi.
SPA AND GYM FACILITIES
Although set inside a 19th-century walled garden amid the Manor’s nine acres of garden, the Spa is very much a modern twist to Ockenden. It has a light, airy, relaxing environment with an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub and Jacuzzi, walk-through rain shower, steam room, sauna, gym, relaxation area, sundeck, guest lounge and café. I managed to grab an hour in the gymnasium for a workout. Although small it was fairly well facilitated – two treadmills looking out onto the countryside and a rower alongside a bench and dumbbells up to 40kg was sufficient enough to carry out a standard workout. There were no kettlebells and only a couple of leg machines, though. I’d prefer the gym to lose the Power Plate machine and use the space it consumes for some more typical gym kit.
I had opted for a deep tissue massage – I felt I owed it to my body after the past few weeks of intensive training – and was not disappointed. My masseuse was able to find those tense areas and knots without my guidance and applied pressure perfectly – I felt I was sufficiently rewarding my aching muscles for all their hard work. My wife chose an aromatherapy massage and almost floated out of the treatment room.
THE EVENING MEAL
The Michelin-starred restaurant at Ockenden Manor was a truly fantastic dining experience. We opted for the eight-course taster menu and it did not disappoint. Head chef Stephen Crane has incorporated the freshest ingredients sourced locally in Sussex. From the initial winter vegetable salad, through the hand-dived scallops, poached oyster, duck foie gras, venison – each course was immaculately created and presented. Then came the cheese trolley – a fine selection of local cheeses alongside some more traditional options. With two more courses to come, I thought I’d reached my limit – but oh, OK then, just a little warm pear fritter and a sliver of caramelised lemon tart. Wafer-thin mint anyone? It was belly-busting but absolutely delightful – one of the most considered and delicious menus I’ve tasted.
Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, Cuckfield, West Sussex RH17 5LD is a member of Pride of Britain Hotels, a consortium of 49 privately-owned independent British hotels. A one-night stay costs from £95 per person including breakfast. To book call Pride of Britain Hotels (0800 089 3929, www.prideofbritainhotels.com)
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.
Between 2014 and 2015, Ped Millichamp was the art director of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated and later shared a website with Coach. Ped undertook a body transformation challenge and blogged about it, as well as reviewing spa weekends.