Stylish Spy tries a Secret Garden Spa Ritual

May 21 2024

Stylish Spy

5 min read

Take me with you…

Congham Hall is a luxury hotel housed in a whitewashed Georgian manor in the Norfolk countryside, close to the market town of Kings Lynn. Accommodation - in 31 rooms and suites - goes beyond the norm with homely touches and a dash individuality: upgrade to one of five detached open-plan cabins for green views from your own alfresco tub.

The hotel also has a 2 AA restaurant with its own kitchen garden, all-weather tennis courts and apple orchards. Occupying a separate building, The Secret Garden Spa blends seamlessly with the garden on which it sits, with many of the herbs and flowers dotted around incorporated into treatments.

Shall we spa?

Walk through the petite yet oh-so-pretty spa garden – full of pink blooms on our visit – and push the pale blue door open to enter the reception area with its plum- and rose-hued sofas and chairs. Ladies in attractive purple outfits welcomed us and invited us to take a seat so that we could complete a consultation form and say a bit about how we were feeling that day.

The changing rooms just off from here and are small but functional with tiny wooden lockers operated by a good old-fashioned key – choose a locker with the key still poking out and you’re good to go. We were surprised to find nothing inside and we were later advised that guests tend to adorn the robes from their rooms before heading to the spa. What happens in the rain though, we wonder?

As well as two showers containing Elemental Herbology amenities, three loos, two sinks with mirrors above, two hairdryers and one pair of straighteners, there’s a basket containing white slippers, Elemental Herbology cleanser and moisturiser, and plenty of rolled up white towels to help yourself to.

A door from here leads directly to the star of the show: the 12-metre indoor pool with its high vaulted ceiling and entire wall of glass aluminium doors, some opening out onto a large deck with sunken hot tub – easily seating eight - and several dark grey rattan loungers. Push a button for gentle bubbles. The view is something to behold though – we loved watching birds fly by and spotting a rustic swing hanging from a large tree.

We managed 20 uninterrupted lengths in the pool before pummelling our shoulders under the most powerful jets we’ve experienced poolside (and so loud they could surely be heard from space).

You’ll find the thermal facilities at the other end of the pool with a two-person foot baths at the helm. Attractive in bronze and teal mosaic tiles, simply fill one of the sinks with water from the tap, push the button and let the bubbly water soothe those tired soles.

On the left is a traditional sauna with two levels of wooden seating; on the right a cooler, larger bio-sauna for those who don’t like it too hot. Cool down under one of two experience showers in the centre afterwards, each with four settings. Despite the sound of it, we preferred ‘drizzle’ – a nod to our northern roots, perhaps?

Our fave was the steam room with its mint green mosaic bench in two sections, each seating three comfortably (four at a push), and central salt crystal.

Treatment Talk

We tried the spa’s signature treatment the Secret Garden Spa Ritual (120 minutes, £165).

My therapist, Dawn, met me in reception and led me to one of five treatment rooms, each named after a herb growing in the spa garden. Mine, Myrtle, had a high ceiling with a Velux window and a shower.

Dawn explained the three elements of the treatment – scrub, massage, facial – and left the room so that I could put paper knickers on (for the scrub) and get comfortable on the treatment bed, lying face down.

The Elemental Herbology scrub contained an abrasive blend of sugar, salt and Macadamia nut; Dawn scrubbed my back, shoulders and arms before asking me to turn over so that she could apply the scrub to my stomach, thighs and carves.

She then pre-ran a shower and asked me to wash the scrub off using a mitt and body wash. Back on the bed – and sporting fresh disposable undies – Dawn drizzled hot oil containing refreshing lemongrass on my back before relaxing me with long, firm strokes. On discovering my knotty shoulders, she brought in the big guns: her forearms. 

Turning over, Dawn massaged my front, including my stomach, before seamlessly moving onto the facial which began with a double cleanse. While the tingly exfoliator that came next worked away, Dawn applied hot oil to my scalp and ran it down my hair with her fingertips.

The treatment ended with some eye cream, a good amount of moisturiser, some lip balm, a glass of water and some sound advice (leave the products on for a further 15 minutes before washing hair and body; stay hydrated).

How did it measure up?

Dawn is clearly an experienced therapist who performed a three-pronged treatment with grace and style, checking I was comfortable throughout and moving seamlessly through the steps. My skin felt soft for days afterwards and my face looked like I’d slept very well indeed.

Dinner deets

Despite its 2 AA Rosette status, the refurbished Samphire Kitchen is a casual space with a buzzy atmosphere and French doors letting the outside in. During the day, the space is filled with afternoon tea-ers and Sunday roasters; come evening, gentle candlelight adds a sense of romance. We loved the bright Orla Kiely plant pots gracing each table.

Dishes are created using ingredients from the hotel’s own herb garden, kitchen garden and apple orchards, of which there are five.

We began our meal with a light dish of grilled asparagus with Serrano ham and a drizzle of aged balsamic, served with a glass of Prosecco – a great way to start.

Our main course of pan-fried salmon with mushroom puree, asparagus and wild garlic served with a glass of NZ Sav Blanc was a triumph; our dessert of egg custard tart with poached rhubarb, ginger and earl grey ice-cream well worth loosening the belt for.

Got all day?

Celebrating? Extend your stay and explore glorious North Norfolk - with its big skies and pristine coastline - before returning to your open-plan cabin. Run a bath in the outdoor tub, pour yourself a cold beer or wine from the fridge, sink into the warm water and drink in those views. Our bath under the stars was a lovely reminder that nature is King.

Short on time?

Spend as much time as you can in the spa: swim lengths in the indoor pool, heat up in the thermal facilities, admire the view from the outdoor hot tub and enjoy a treatment. You won't be disappointed.


Stylish Spy

21st May 2024

Spy Likes:

Minimalist lines; organic products; facial massage; tranquillity; interesting people-watching.

Spy Dislikes:

Discarded towels on loungers; steam rooms that aren't steamy; mobile phones.

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