THE VIBE: Contemporary buildings, treatments and facilities but set in the countryside, catering for city peeps who want a temporary escape and a lungful of smog-free air.
BEST BRIDE-TO-BE TREATMENT: For the ultimate in relaxation – it’s safe to assume you’ll need it, no? – we recommend the ESPA personalised massage. Your therapist won’t crack out the oils before providing a sensory consultation to determine which massage blend is suitable for you as an individual, then it’s 55 minutes of pure you-time. There’s also the option of including hot stones into the massage, and why the devil wouldn’t you?!
HIS ‘N’ HERS TREATMENTS: Lifehouse have a private couples treatment room, which is perfect if your groom isn’t au fait with spas and would prefer you by his side for his virgin experience! Any of the spa’s ESPA treatments can be enjoyed in the couples’ area, and we don’t know about you but the Gentlemens Reviver (a personalised facial based on his skin’s needs) sounds just the ticket for a dashing groom-to-be or newlywed.
BEST AMENITY: Do the grounds count as an amenity? At Lifehouse they do, because it’s set in 130 acres of grounds and 12 acres of that is listed garden, which are jaw-droppingly beautiful. We were lucky as the weekend we visited the weather was mild and we could wander by the lake and sit in one of the woodland alcoves both in our robes during the day and dinner clothes come evening. They’re so fabulous, a bride and groom made the trip to have their wedding day photos taken in the grounds while we were staying!
MUST DOS WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Erm, eat. The food in the hotel restaurant is great – the Caesar salad was of mammoth proportions and brimming with white anchovies and pancetta and the other half enjoyed his fish – plus the service is impeccable. We sat next to a right grump of a man who seemed to be on a quest to moan about pretty much everything without reason, and the staff dealt with him brilliantly and even he was smiling by the time pudding came along. (Which was a dark chocolate tart for me – amazing.) And please take a walk around the lake – we’ll cry if you don’t!
WHO GOES: There was a larger mixed-couple ratio than we usually see at spas, so this is a perfect choice if your man doesn’t want to be the only guy rocking a robe. That being said, we saw a few mother and daughter combos too, so it’s a real mixed bag. Given its close proximity to London, and the chauffuer service from Thorpe-Le-Soken station to the hotel’s door, it’s not surprising there was an air of off-duty city slicker as we were wandering around the spa and dining in the restaurant.
THE BEDROOM: It didn’t feel like a great deal of thought had gone into the design of our bedroom, over and above a standard plush hotel room. But we didn’t spend much time in there at all, so welcoming were the spa and bar, so it’s no big deal. If you do think you’d be spending a good deal of time there, or like relaxing room-service mornings, book a room on the ground floor which have their own little courtyards with table and chairs for two.
DETAILS: Lifehouse offers some incredibly well thought out spa and wellbeing packages that are perfect for brides-to-be, or in fact a minimoon after the wedding. Pre-wedding, we think the The Fast Break, which is a four-night stay based on the 5:2 diet, is fabulous to kick-start your wedding slim down, especially if your mum wants to join and treat herself to a Nifty at Fifty package. If you’re indulging post-big day, the Love Life package does exactly what it says on the tin.
WHAT’S INCLUDED: Room and use of the health facilities are included in regular bookings. Spa treatments, food and drinks are extra but several packages are available.
LOCATION: Thorpe-Le-Soken, an Essex village close to the seaside resort of Frinton-on-Sea. There’s ample car parking if you choose to drive, otherwise get the train to TLS and call ahead to request Lifehouse’s meet and greet service where a porter will pick you up from the station.