Reviewed by Louise Platt
As Christmas comes hurtling at us at a great speed, shopping for gifts is on the agenda once more. When it comes to shopping I for one prefer to avoid the crowds by doing the bulk of it online which is why websites such as buyagift.co.uk are such a great idea if you are looking for something special.
Buyagift.co.uk is a site dedicated to providing gift experiences at very competitive prices. You can find pretty much anything on this website from shopping experiences, makeover days, spa days, food courses, adrenaline sports, to name but a few. It’s a great place to come to if you are buying for someone who has everything already or you are looking for something a bit different and absolutely memorable.
The site is very easy to navigate. You choose what category you want to look at and then you have a list of options with varying price ranges. You find something you like the look of and then click on it to find out the finer details of what’s included, where it is located and if there are any restrictions.
I received a voucher for a Top to Toe Day for One at Champneys Spa in Henlow, Bedfordshire. The voucher arrived as a small plastic credit card sized card with the voucher details. It was nicely packaged and included the information I needed to first validate my voucher which was easy to do online and then book my spa day directly with Champneys.
Booking my spa day wasn’t as straightforward as I would have hoped but this was more down to Champneys and their oversubscribed telephone lines. It took a few frustrating attempts to get through but once I did manage it everything was quickly confirmed and I received the most detailed email from Champneys telling me exactly what to expect on my spa day.
When the booking date arrived it was very foggy so I was very glad to be escaping to the luxury of Champneys! I was to arrive at the venue for 9am. Parking was easy and I was given a very warm welcome at reception. I was offered welcome drinks and a light breakfast but as I had eaten before I left home I skipped that and went straight downstairs to be greeted by another member of staff who found me a robe and flipflops (the robes are returned at the end of the day but you get to keep your flipflops) and then gave me a quick tour of the venue.
I was also given my schedule for the day which included my treatment times, my lunch slot and a list of classes available so I immediately went to the fitness reception desk to book in for Zumba at 10am! This was the only class I managed to fit in but it was great fun and it certainly got my heart racing. Most of the classes are free (yoga is an added extra) and all must be pre-booked to guarantee a space). And there is a lot to choose from throughout the course of the day.
Next up was my Champneys facial and back massage, which were part of the package (as was a luxury manicure which was scheduled for the afternoon). There was a fifteen minute gap between Zumba and my treatment time which was plenty enough to change into my robe and flipflops, grab some water from the water cooler machine and head to the Spa reception area. My therapist was amazing. She started with the back massage which was one of the best I have ever had and she then moved to the facial which seemed to last forever and was so relaxing. Just lovely.
From there I made my way up to the restaurant for lunch. I was a little apprehensive at the thought of eating at a table on my own but I wasn’t the only one doing this and the staff are so attentive it didn’t really bother me. Lunch was a buffet and the choice was outstanding. The focus at Champneys is on good health and wellbeing and the food reflected this beautifully. All healthy, well balanced and beautifully presented. I went for the cold fish platter with green veggies, new potatoes and some quinoa salad. It was delicious. Pudding was “healthy” apple crumble which was also light and very tasty. They do serve alcohol and other soft drinks which are extra but filtered water was fine for me.
After lunch I had an hour before my manicure so I took myself and my Kindle off to the Conservatory for a while. The premises are stunning, especially the older part of the house upstairs which includes the very grand Conservatory and the cosy lounge. There are also lovely grounds outside for anyone looking for fresh air. I didn’t find the time in my day to get outside but I did admire the views from within!
Next up was my manicure which took 55 minutes to do and included a hand scrub, heated mitts, massage and then file, polish and paint. I loved the little extra touches such as the heated neck pillow although I was rather envious of the other clients having pedicures as they got to lie down and by this point in the day I was struggling to keep my eyes open!!
I was advised to let my nails dry for up to an hour before going to the pool so after my manicure I had more time to relax which meant time for coffee (and a very healthy bliss ball cake) from the coffee bar overlooking the pool. Yum. Then a browse around Champneys two shops – one a boutique selling lots of lovely sports clothing, shoes, jewellery and swim suits – the other full of the lovely beauty products that Champneys use. I was very tempted! When you arrive you have to give a credit or debit card which opens an account for you so any purchases made either from the shops or the bars are then charged to your account to be settled on departure.
Finally having deemed my nails dry enough to venture on I took myself to the pool and lay on a sun lounger for a while before forcing myself into the pool for another bout of exercise. The pool was lovely. Really big, really warm and very relaxing. There was also a Jacuzzi and sauna which were both mixed (male and female). The steam rooms are located in the changing rooms which are also worth a mention as everything has been thought of – shampoo and conditioner in the showers, towels a plenty, bags for your wet swimwear, hairdryers and hand cream and lockable lockers which work with a code system so no coins required.
Champneys operate a no mobile phone policy which I think is a great idea so you can really get away from the outside world for a while and experience ultimate relaxation. Everyone is so relaxed at Champneys and there is an expectation that you will be wearing your robe and flipflops wherever you are which really adds to the chilled out ambience. It is pure indulgence – a real haven and I absolutely loved my day there. All the staff were so attentive and friendly but discreet at the same time. And although there were other guests there it never felt crowded or overly busy. The day came to an end at 6pm when I handed back my robe, settled my bill and headed back out to the fog and my car to drive home.
My Top to Toe Day at Champneys via buyagift.co.uk was a fabulous gift idea and one that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes to indulge in themselves from time to time with some luxury pampering. This is a top quality spa with excellent service and facilities. It’s not cheap admittedly but you do get what you pay for and it’s a lovely, lovely idea for a gift for someone special who deserves a real treat.
Five out of five – more if I could give it!!
Available to buy from Buyagift.co.uk here.