Despite sounding like a heavenly way to work, spa reviewing isn't always as serene as it sounds. There was the time when a rather large naked man joined me in my hot tub-with-a view, emptying half the water out on entering and causing me to flee to the hills. Then there was the freak out on the treatment table during a collagen face mask which brought on a bout of claustrophobia so strong I had to down tools. And not forgetting the gaggle of girls by the pool, who drank everything in sight before chatting up anybody that passed by.
In a bid to avoid random interruptions of the naked/claustrophobic/girlie kind, I booked myself in for a spa day with a difference at Sandpiper Pool and Spa, a private spa that guests have entirely to themselves during their visit.
Armed with two friends, Connie and Natalia, we drove through several pretty Cambridgeshire villages until we hit Somersham, and a random looking house making me think we had come to the wrong place. But owner Emma rescued us and walked us through her own garden to the once chicken coup-turned spa, before showing us round the Tardis-like space.
As well as a changing area with shower, loo, two changing cubicles and a vanity area, the spa has a large thermal area (below) with experience shower, a sauna and a steam room. There's also a relaxation room with two water beds, a hot tub on an outdoor deck overlooking a small garden, a snow room (with bench for the brave) and a surprisingly large swimming pool.
There's also a large, well-equipped lounge with open fireplace (not lit), comfy sofas, books, games and magazines; an open-plan kitchen where you can help yourself to drinks and snacks all day; and two treatment rooms.
Clad in our robe and slippers, we made our way to the kitchen to make cups of coffee from a machine, pour glasses of juice from the fridge, and munch on yoghurts, cupcakes, and cheese and crackers.
Connie pouring juice before tucking into a cupcake
Sated, I hit the steam room, which was super-hot and steamy, before heading off for my treatment. You won’t find staff in the spa during your visit so treatments come courtesy of a local lady who performs one at a time while the rest of the group enjoys the facilities. While I had my Seaweed Facial, Connie and Natalia hit the hot tub before braving the snow room (below). Both experiences, I later learned, hit the spot.
Having the entire pool to myself felt very smug-inducing indeed; having to keep my head above water while swimming lengths wasn’t so easy (note to self: never have a facial before going swimming… Have I learnt nothing over the years?).
The highlight for me was definitely the large hot tub (seating around six) with its garden view, choice of bubbles (very bubbly please) and absence of naked men.
A facility like Sandpiper has 'intimate birthday or Christmas party' written all over it, with space to be as quiet or as sociable as you like while relaxing in the garden, wallowing in bubbling waters, swimming without being splashed (by strangers, that is) or hopping in and out of thermal rooms.
Help yourself to food and drink whenever hunger strikes, and choose from an array of treatments - from hot stones and Indian head massages to manicures and Swedish massages. There's also treatments for mothers-to-be, men and cancer patients, as well as couples' treatments and 20-minute express taster sessions.
Three-and-a bit-hours definitely wasn’t long enough to truly take advantage of everything on offer, and we were soon getting changed and saying our goodbyes.
“I think I might have to sleep on the way home,” proclaimed Connie after her De-stress Scalp, Face and Neck Massage, despite being the navigator of the group. “I could definitely do with a snooze on that water-bed.” Next time…
Having the place to ourselves: with Covid still circling, this felt like a very safe way to spa.
The facilities: there’s a lot to experience in a small space – the outdoor hot tub is fantastic.
Being in control: guests can change the music and alter the lighting at will, with one channel taken over entirely - and somewhat refreshingly - by Pink Floyd.
We didn’t love:
Whilst good value, the treatments were sadly a little underwhelming.
Luxury spa-ing should always have food to match – a bottle of wine in the fridge would elevate the offering, as would some freshly-made sandwiches.
The one and only shower is totally see-through - how well do you know the members of your group?
Prices start at £120 per person for three hours, rising to £280 for eight hours, including a buffet lunch or tea. Treatments start at £38 for 30 minutes, rising to £80 for 90 minutes.