Thursday, 29 August 2013 10:56 AM
There’s nothing quite like a spa break to escape the stresses of daily life and recharge your batteries and Careys Manor & SenSpa, nestled in the quaint village of Brockenhurst in the heart of the New Forest, proved to be just the ticket.
I knew I would be in for a treat when researching the multi-award winning SenSpa – recently voted the Best Spa in the South at the Good Spa Guide Awards – which, inspired by age-old traditions, combines eastern and western treatments and philosophies. Some of the best spa experiences I have ever had have been in exotic Eastern locations in Thailand and Indonesia and to get the same treatment within an hour and a half from London was a real attraction. What’s more, I was looking forward to exploring the ancient woodlands and open heathland of the New Forest, on the hotel’s doorstep, where herds of wild ponies roam the land.
The New Forest was first created by King William the Conqueror in 1079 for the pursuit of the ‘beasts of the chase’ – red, roe and fallow deer and wild pig – and the pretty red-brick Careys Manor was once a hunting lodge, before passing through the hands of various prestigious families through the ages. It’s present owners bought the property in 1975, refurbishing it several times to become what it is today – a luxurious country house hotel and one of the best spa hotels in the UK.
Feeling achy, tired and in need of a serious pamper, I decided to try their Essential Relaxation Massage on arrival at the spa – a one-hour treatment using medium pressure and traditional Swedish strokes which promises to soothe tired, strained muscles and improve circulation. My masseuse was Thai, adding real authenticity, and she led me to a spacious and dimly-lit room with flickering candles and a musical backdrop of gentle tinkling chimes, making me feel immediately at ease. At times the room felt a tad chilly, but the subsequent hour was nonetheless utterly blissful and my masseuse worked her way from the tips of my toes to my head, expertly kneading out every last ache. The products she used were from their bespoke organic therapy range (which, I later found out, you can now buy in Waitrose!).
The rest of the afternoon I spent leisurely working my way from one area of the spa to the next. I especially enjoyed their hydrotherapy facilities including a wonderfully warm and bubbly Hydrotherapy Pool with powerful water jets – ideal for aching shoulders – a Herbal Sauna, Crystal Steam Room and Laconium. My favourite area was the Experience Showers and Ice Room, where you could choose between a Caribbean Storm, Sea Storm or Ice Storm (plus there’s a bucket of ice-cold water and ice chippings for those that are brave enough). Each ‘storm’ came complete with different ‘rain’ (lovely and warm for a monsoon-style Caribbean storm and misty and sheet-like for the sea storm). The experience even came complete with sound effects of whistling winds and crackling lightning. It was very reinvigorating (and quite fun!).
Rejuvenated and refreshed after an afternoon in the spa, I was looking forward to a meal at the two-rosette Manor Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant offering British fare with a French influence. Sitting down in the large, formal dining room, listening to the soothing sounds of live piano music, I scanned the menu and could have ordered anything; it all all looked delectable. I eventually decided on seared Shetland scallops (golden brown on the outside, wonderfully soft on the inside) served with a parma ham foam and mushroom velouté to begin, followed by a hearty sirloin steak (tender and pink), with triple-cooked chips and creamy béarnaise sauce. I polished off every last morsel. The highlight was the dessert: a perfectly-formed caramel and white chocolate fondant (a mini sponge volcano which at the touch of my spoon exploded into a pool of utterly mouth-watering caramel goodness). It was served with a neat apple pavé and creamy Armagnac Ice Cream.
The next morning, I awoke from my slumber looking forward to a healthy breakfast at Zen Garden Restaurant in the SenSpa. Light and airy with Thai furnishings, the Zen Garden Restaurant offers the usual cooked breakfasts from English Breakfasts to Eggs Benedict, alongside a healthy spread of cereals and yogurts. I went for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs followed by natural yogurt with a berry compôte. For a real vitamin kick I also tried a Vitality Smoothie – a nutritious blend of banana, pumpkin seeds,wheat germ, yogurt and peanut butter. It was surprisingly tasty!
By Sarah Gibbons
Fact box: An overnight stay at Careys Manor starts from £158 per room, based on two adults sharing including breakfast. A one-night spa break costs from £175. The 60-minute Essential Relaxation Massage costs £75. For more information visit the website.