Nestled in the pretty Tudor village of Cuckfield lies Ockenden Manor, a charming country house hotel with roaring fires, wood panelled rooms, an award-winning restaurant and a stunning modern spa with sweeping views over the tranquil West Sussex countryside. In other words, the perfect grown-up getaway for anyone in need a pamper break or some indulgent downtime 😉
Although it very much feels like a countryside hotel, it’s less than an hour’s drive from London, and it’s easily accessible by train too, with frequent trains to nearby station Haywards Heath.
Looking for an antidote to the loud, hectic chaos of London city life, I arrived at Ockenden Manor after just a short 45-minute drive.
Pulling up outside the main entrance, the Elizabethan manor house feels cosy and welcoming, and you’re immediately enveloped in the faint smell of burning firewood.
The hotel dates from the 15th century and boasts an elegant drawing room, oak-panelled bar, wood burning fireplaces, and 22 bedrooms set in nine acres of grounds.
The five-star hotel also has nine acres of gardens and parklands which you can explore, with further surrounding countryside in the South Downs National Park.
Then, down a long, curved driveway from the main entrance sits the striking contemporary spa and the spa suites – a surprising and startling contrast to the Elizabethan manor. The modern block-like building looks like something out of a 1960’s bond movie from the outside, but is sumptuous, modern and slick on the inside.
Floor to ceiling windows flood the space with natural light, and the focal point is on the indoor heated swimming pool, which flows into a heated outdoor pool, with uninterrupted views over the hills.
I checked in and was taken up to my spa suite; a light-filled room set above the outdoor heated pool, with contemporary interiors, a pampering bathroom with an enormous stand alone bathtub, a large walk-in rainshower room, lovely Elemental Herbology products. Not too shabby!
The room also has its own private terrace area with stunning views over the South Downs.
The bathroom has a window into the bedroom, so you could even watch TV from the bathtub if you wanted to!
After a spot of bathroom pampering and a long soak in an Elemental Herbology filled bath, I wandered over to the manor house for dinner. I was fortunate enough to dine in the gorgeous 16th century private dining room, with an attentive maître d’ topping up wine glasses and bread baskets, and explaining each delicious dish in detail.
The head chef Stephen Crane put together a delicious country inspired menu with game meats (think wood pigeon and pheasant with truffled chestnuts), fish (exquisite cod served in a mussels sauce) and vegetarian options, all sourced locally from Sussex.
After a quick breakfast (there’s a small continental buffet, or you can order scrambled eggs and smoked salmon off the menu), I hit the spa.
On arrival, a receptionist hands you the key to a locker already prepared with the fluffiest robe, a towel and flipflops, then you’re free to enjoy the indoor / outdoor pool, fitness studio and gym, outdoor hot tub, sauna, steam room, rainforest walk through shower and of course spa treatments.
The swimming pool was empty as it was still early in the morning, so I enjoyed some peace and quiet, and took in the uninterrupted views over the surrounding countryside, swimming from the indoor space to the outdoors, then warmed up in the hot tub jacuzzi (where you can enjoy a cup of herbal tea or something stronger to mix bubbles with bubbles, if you want to).
When it was time for my Elemental Rebalancing Ritual treatment, I was taken upstairs, through the glass mezzanine corridor (with views over the pool areas) to a room with pale green walls, dark wood floors and a waft of herbal aromas.
I filled out a questionnaire about my body and lifestyle to help the masseuse determine which oil to use, then lay face-down on the towel bed in anticipation of the two hour long treatment.
Elemental Herbology has developed this signature 120-minute treatment exclusively for the spa, and it aims to restore balance to the whole body using the five elements; wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each treatment is tailor-made following a consultation that determines which element is the best match for each guest. Elemental Herbology combine natural ingredients with plant oils to counter the skin damaging effects of ageing, lifestyle and the environment. I was also happy to hear that they don’t test on any animals, and even refuse to sell to China due to their laws that mandate that all products need to be tested on animals. Which makes them pretty cool, if you ask me!
After choosing which oil to use, the masseuse got to work on my shoulders and back. I warn you now that if you’re looking for a firm massage to ease out any knots then this is not the treatment for you! The aim of the treatment was to release tension and eliminate toxins through a series of gentle movements, and the various different oil blends. After my back, neck, shoulders, and even arms, legs and tummy were massaged, I was given a soothing facial to cleanse, exfoliate and nourish my skin. My face felt so squeaky clean afterwards!
I really loved the earthy scents of the oils so I made sure to bring some extra goodies home with me for a spa night at home.
I left Ockenden Manor feeling so rested and relaxed, and the feeling stayed with me for days! And when I get a little tired, frustrated, stressed out and irritable, I take a bath with my Elemental Herbology products and the feeling comes straight back.