Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa - The perfect place to relax
Albert Camus famously observed: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
Too often, that winter represents neither season nor climate. It refers to the seemingly endless stress to which modern living shackles us.
Incessant 24/7 e-mails, corporate demands, and the juggling of family life within the brutal glare of social media, mean that even if we can snatch the time, true relaxation is often an elusive aspiration.
That’s why destination hotels see a spa as an essential ingredient - to reveal once more that internal and invincible summer within us all.
Great spas can achieve in a day what other forms of diversion will take months to capture.
And the spa at Ockenden Manor near Cuckfield is truly a masterpiece in every sense.
Architecturally, it is a stunning cubist combination of natural woods, spring fed waters, traditional stone, and contemporary glass.
With an outdoor theme throughout, even its internal doors are crafted from life-size woodland photography and tree branch handles.
The extension of its pool and tranquil areas to the outdoors is almost seamless - with glass alone acting as a divider - and in consequence there is an immediate sense of light and returning to the natural-born the moment you arrive.
Yet there is another dimension, too, which gives the spa a sense of sanctity. The hotel - like its sisters the Spread Eagle and Bailiffscourt - remains family owned. That sense of family pervades everything, not least the gloriously spacious and luxurious spa suites named after the latest generation of the owners’ children.
That enduring sense of value is reflected in the sheer quality of the build, the attention to detail with all the facilities - there is even a walk-through rain shower - and the very high standards of customer service.
Our spa suite - like the others - comprised an open plan bedroom and lounge with walk-in shower and rolltop bath, toiletries and exceptional views over the roof terrace garden. It was fitted with flat screen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, air-conditioning, complimentary WiFi and an Ipod docking station.
In the general shower areas there are generous selections of REN products; the lockers all contain flipflops, robe and towel.
The facilities are wide-ranging from heated indoor and outdoor pools, outdoor hot tub, indoor spa bath, sauna, steam room, gym, ice fountain, a unique flotation room and eight treatment rooms.
My wife had a pedicure and manicure during our one night stay while I sampled the Kundalini back massage - described as an indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system.
Both were delivered with professional warmth and friendliness.
Of course, the spa is something of an architectural curiosity given that it is set in the grounds of the Elizabethan hotel itself. But here too, the 19th century walled garden acts as camouflage to ensure the striking design of the building blends with the serenity of the nine acres of peaceful gardens and parkland.
The hotel contrasts in every way from the spa - except in the quality of its restaurant which is Michelin-starred and offers a menu packed with contemporary gourmet dishes.
The building here is more homely and weathered. Behind the extraordinarily imposing oak front door, there is once again the sense of being in comforting and comfortable surroundings rather than a pristine museum piece.
The service wasn’t quite perfect - a waiter started to pour the wine into a glass he had just filled with water - but the food was sublime and all the staff irrepressibly good natured; not least young Charlie new into his job on the reception desk who told me what a great place it was to work.
Rates at Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa start from £199 for a standard room and from £489 for a spa suite. Ockenden Manor Spa, Ockenden Lane, Cuckfield, West Sussex, RH17 5LD. To book visit hshotels.co.uk or call 01444 416111.