The Elizabethan Ockenden Manor sits among nine acres of parklands and gardens in the West Sussex countryside. The dramatic, cubist spa structure contrasts and complements the historic hotel. The spa has a wealth of facilities including an indoor/outdoor pool, steam room, sauna and outdoor hot tub, and spa suites with serene views of the South Downs. Treatments are courtesy of . Elemental Herbology.
- Family swim times
- Eight treatment rooms
- Walk-through warm rain shower
- Indoor and outdoor linked swimming pool
- Outdoor hot tub
- Indoor spa bath
- Steam room
- Ice fountain
- Floatation room
- Poolside relaxation room
- Post-treatment relaxation room
- Gym with personal trainers
- Fitness studio with classes
- Spa lounge
- Spa shop
- Elemental Herbology
- Electric Body
- Lava Shells
Our Spa Spy review
Ockenden Manor is a much-extended sixteenth-century manor house in a pretty village near the High Weald AONB. The main house is Tudor beams, open fireplaces and four-poster beds. Hidden behind the hotel is an almost-Cubist modern spa which backs onto ancient trees and pastoral land. The spa is bright, calming and makes the most of its green views.
What's on offer?
Spa reception sets the tone for the rest of the spa with glass doors and high ceilings. The walls are taupe, the wooden furnishings are honey-coloured, and the soft textiles are cream and green; all very natural. A member of staff welcomed us at the central reception desk, gave us a consultation form to fill in, and showed us to a light relaxation space, letting us know we could help ourselves to tea, coffee from a posh machine, water and fruit. Six sets of comfortable seating overlook the main pool and spa garden.
Ockenden Manor spa is set over many different levels and half levels; most are accessible by a series of lifts. The changing rooms are on the same level as reception. Separated into three changing areas, they afford a sense of privacy that many do not. There are three large showers with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, a WC, and one private changing cubicle. A vanity area has a large mirror, stools, hairdryers and tissues. Help yourself to the shelves of robes, towels and flip-flops if you need to refresh during the day. Just by reception are more WCs and a large accessible shower and changing room.
The modern architecture comes into its own by the pool; double-height glass walls flood the area with light. The 15-metre pool continues outside to the spa terrace. The glass wall makes the transition feel almost seamless (sadly, you will have to swim under a plastic curtain: spa atmosphere does not trump physics). A small hot tub at the entrance to the pool is lined in pretty pebbles, and a U-shaped rainwalk is a series of gentle mists in a walkway lined with pictures of trees.
The thermal facilities are up a few steps from the pool; the floor can get very slippery here, even with flip-flops on. The enclave has a large wooden sauna with a central hot-stone feature so you won't be staring fellow sauna guests in the face. The eucalyptus steam room is tiled in taupe and white with twinkly lights in the ceiling. Both were piping hot during our visit and would comfortably seat six to eight people. Cool off in the experience shower or rub flakes of ice from the fountain into your skin. There are plenty of towels and fruit-infused water available so you can stay hydrated.
Up a spiral staircase is the wet relaxation area. Long comfortable loungers and bucket chairs with footstools look out over the pool; help yourself to the small stash of magazines. Down a couple of steps is a mini coffee bar with good coffee and tea. A glass door leads to a very sheltered hydro-pool, which would seat six happy spa-istas.
Running almost the length of the building, the outdoor terrace has a glut of loungers, chairs and tables. You can even take a slightly hidden set of stairs to the rooftop seating areas.
The treatment rooms, manicure studio and post-treatment relaxation room are up another flight of stairs, along a very quiet corridor. The taupe, green and brown palette runs through the entire area including the relaxation room which has six velvet loungers, a sideboard with water, and a window covered by a gauze curtain to protect your post-treatment haze.
Tell us about the treatments
We had the Pre-natal Wellbeing Massage (60 minutes; £99) and the Isopod Floatation (60 minutes; £49).
Jessy, my therapist, met me at reception and guided me to our treatment room. We discussed how I was feeling and whether I had any aches and pains. Jessy explained that she would start the massage with me on my side. I settled on the wide treatment bed and propped up my bump with a pillow.
Jessy asked me to take three deep breaths and began the massage on my back. She gently massaged down my spine using long flowing movements and the odd pressure-point manipulation with her fingers. Jessy removed the pillow and asked me to turn onto my back, elevating the head of the treatment bed until I was comfortable. She massaged the front and backs of my legs, arms, bump (she checked I was comfortable with this beforehand) and décolletage without me having to turn over; divine.
Jessy finished by massaging my scalp and face, a blissful way to end the 60 minutes. She reminded me to take my time while getting up and, once I'd put on my robe, took me to the relaxation area. I felt relaxed and looser; my skin was grateful for the boost of hydration.
It was my first time floating, so I was unsure what I would make of the Isopod. The floatation room has a large white pod which glows blue inside. The therapist told me I could choose to have the lights and music on or off depending on how comfortable I felt. I got into the pod, closed the lid and went through a series of meditation exercises to quieten my mind. I spent the rest of the hour just floating in the dark; it wasn't trippy or a revelation, but I left 60 minutes later with a clearer, focused mind.
You can choose to eat in the area behind reception -- you'll need to pre-order when you arrive -- or dress and head to the grander restaurant in the main house. We chose to stay in the spa and eat in our robes. The menu includes salads, wraps, sandwiches, smoothies and sweet treats. Gluten-free wraps and a free-from menu are available if you ask. We tried the salmon salad and lemon drizzle cake; both were fresh and generous.
The restaurant in the main house uses fresh, local produce to create haute cuisine. For dinner, we tried velvety white onion soup followed by locally landed cod. We were so happily full, dessert barely got a look in.
We loved / we didn't love
The calm, bright, positive space: The clever design allows you to feel warm and cocooned whatever the weather.
The Elemental Herbology treatments: Each is tied to your element, which could be earth, wood, fire, metal or water. A questionnaire will find the element appropriate for how you are feeling that day.
The large outdoor space with Weald views would come into its own in the sunshine.
We didn't love
The spa is beginning to show some wear and tear, including scuffed paint and robes with broken belt loops.
The spa also got rather busy on the morning of our visit; there were no loungers available or they were reserved with towels.
Who do you think would like it?
Couples, best friends, mothers and daughters. You could go solo but we saw many happy people enjoying their time together.
Spa retreaters: Ockenden Manor hosts yoga, fitness and Nordic walking breaks throughout the year.
Elemental Herbology fans or anyone who loves the idea of your treatment being tailored for your ever-changing mood.
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
We awarded Ockenden Manor Spa a Good Spa Guide Bubble Rating of 5 bubbles. The spa is well-designed for a restful spa time with calm spaces, good facilities and little extras such as plentiful towels and on-demand coffee. The spa suites and excellent dining are the cherry on the top.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, mid-morning coffee or a full afternoon tea. Led by award-winning Head Chef, Stephen Crane, the Restaurant serves some of the finest food in Sussex, and is a beautiful space with far-reaching views over Cuckfield Park. You may like to sit in their elegant drawing room and when the sun shines head outside to the terrace.
Elizabethan manor house with twenty-eight bedrooms set in nine acres of beautiful grounds in the heart of the South Downs.
See the hotel's entry on Pride of Britain Hotels.
7am - 9.30pm weekdays; 8am - 9pm weekends
Travel and Parking
Arriving by car:
From north (London Gatwick) follow the M23/A23 south towards Brighton.
Exit A23 on to A272 towards Haywards Heath.
Follow A272 until signposted Cuckfield.
Follow road into centre of Cuckfield Village and follow signs to Hotel in Ockenden Lane.
Arriving by train:
From London Victoria to Haywards Heath takes approximately 45 minutes with a further 10 minute taxi ride to the hotel.
Gatwick: 12 miles;
Heathrow: 45 miles
Central London: 50 miles
M25: 20 miles
Free parking at hotel
Disabled access available in to hotel.