Travel review: Champneys, Tring
- Credit: Archant
“Isn’t that the place where they put you on a diet and feed you salads,” my mother mused when I told her I was going to Champneys.
I scoffed at the thought, but she was closer to the truth than I could have imagined, as the oldest spa hotel in the country does still have a menu based on calorific intake.
Any hotel worth its while will have a spa nowadays, but when resort in Tring was set up by Stanley Leif in 1925, he was a pioneer in the field.
People with health problems were checked in by a nurse and put on a special diet and exercise regime according to their needs.
Now the obligatory medical test has been scrapped and the dozen or so exercise classes a day are entirely optional, but the concept of healthy food is still based on low fat options and every menu choice lists its calorific content.
I found the portions filling enough, but my boyfriend, who had come along for the ride, was suddenly thrust into a state of enforced calorific restriction.
He was still hungry despite paying an extra fiver for the “special” - three lamb chops and some lentils.
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He hoped to fill up with desert and ordered some ice cream, which was tantalisingly listed on the menu as such, but was told by the waiter: “That’s frozen yogurt.”
“No ice cream,” he insisted, wanting a bit of forbidden sweet indulgence.
“That’s frozen yogurt Sir. The ice cream is frozen yogurt,” he was told, although it turned out to be just as tasty as ice cream.
In all fairness we weren’t looking to lose weight, but one group of women were evidently taken with the food concept.
“Bravo mon chef,” they cheered, clapping the cook as he entered the restaurant to greet them at their behest.
“We wanted to meet the man that can make something so tasty from such simple ingredients,” they enthused.
We were allowed a bottle of wine to enjoy with our dinner, however guests are told there is specifically no bar so they can “get a full night’s beauty sleep”.
But if you wish you can put a “hot lemon” sign outside your bedroom door for a delivery of cleansing water at 7am sharp.
On arrival you are handed a white bath robe, and people can be seen milling around everywhere in them, even chilling out in the stately drawing room or wearing them to breakfast and lunch, although the majority do get dressed up for dinner.
In our grand bedroom – located in the stately home with a view of the fountain and a wonderfully majestic bathroom - a brochure detailing the latest cosmetic surgery techniques had been left for guests to peruse.
“Needle or knife?”, it asked.
While I don’t agree with cosmetic surgery, I do think health is Champneys unique selling point.
There are a plethora of other spa hotels which have cropped up in the past decade, but how many of them have a doctor’s waiting area next to the spa?
It makes sense that anyone who comes here for a break can get their health problems sorted in the same fell swoop.
Personally I arrived at Champneys with am uncharacteristic headache that had been knocking about for days.
But a stress-buckling osteopathic treatment with Paul Harmes made it disappear, and I walked out of the treatment room feeling totally rejuvenated, and was still feeling the same way when we pulled out of Tring’s stately driveway the next day, headed back to the rat race.
A one night “relax break” at Tring costs from £119 per person, including access to up to 20 exercise classes a day, a three course evening meal, healthy buffet breakfast and three course buffet lunch.
For more information see www.champneys.com.