Girl about Town: The Sanctuary Spa

Yay! Victoria is back! We’ve got a suitably glamourous spa review for you this month and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been or would like to go. That swing isn’t going to entertain itself you know…

In light of Rebecca’s round up of Thermae Spa in Bath, we thought a little review of another famous spa might be interesting, and seeing as the entry restrictions are very gender specific there were none of the, erm, inappropriate spatial awareness issues you guys mentioned, although when I visited Thermae Spa, I could have sworn that I didn’t see a single male. Strange!

In my Christmas stocking last year I found a voucher for a spa day at The Sanctuary, which promptly got packed away in the present-opening melee with all my other Christmas vouchers to be “saved for later”. An indulgent, relaxing treat after all the stress of Christmas, a run of 30th birthday parties, a busy season at work and buying and selling property that I swiftly forgot I had. It was only on packing up our flat half way through March and whinging to anyone that would listen that I needed a chill out did I remember that I had the voucher! I gave the hotline a call and the lady on the other end was possibly one of the most friendly and helpful spa receptionists I’ve ever spoken to. She asked where I was travelling from so she could work out an approximate arrival time so she could structure my day appropriately, without having to make me get up too early or have to rush through my time there. How very considerate!

To that end, I arrived at The Sanctuary Covent Garden Spa at 11am in time for a small introduction at the official-looking check in desk (“Hi and welcome to The Sanctuary, is it your first time here? Can I get you some juice”), a locker tutorial (pretty hi-tech), a few moments to strip (but I chose to keep my bikini on) and snuggle up in my fluffy robe and then little bit of wandering to familiarise myself with the various floors before my first treatment appointment – A full body aromatherapy massage.

I had a little consultation with the therapist who asked various questions about pressure preference, any issues or body concerns (“yes, I’m concerned my body doesn’t look like Rose Huntington-Whiteley’s – can you help?”) and what I was hoping to get out of the massage so we could pick the right oils and focus – loosening of the muscles, de-stress time, re-invigoration or just a snooze? I picked the “de-stress” oils as my body was feeling incredibly tight, and a strong pressure to really ease the knots out of my shoulders. 55 minutes later I was feeling considerably more supple and heavily chastised for scrunching at my desk, not exercising my back muscles enough.

A drink of water and I was back wandering the corridors and floors again and I found myself at the exercise pool. Feeling a bit too “floopy”, to quote Phoebe Buffay, for anything as strenuous as swimming I grabbed a towel and stretched out in the sauna for a bit of heat therapy.

After that I took another wander and settled myself in the Koi Carp Lounge which was full of big scoochie chairs (that’s totally a word), day beds and ginormous wicker arm chairs. I squidged myself in to a chair, ordered a platter of picky bits (feta, olives, hummus, pate, bean dip and pitta) a cocktail that I think was called a Cosmopolitini (pink prosecco with a scoop of cranberry and vodka sorbet), grabbed my book (one of the Song of Ice and Fire series) and snuggled in for an hour of chill time with some yummy food and drink! The area is divided up in to various sections and the clientele was equally split between large groups of assorted ages on hen dos, smaller groups of two or three women on special days out and those on their own, like me, there for a true chill out. Obviously in such a large space with so many females the noise levels could have become a bit rowdy, especially with the introduction of alcohol, but the staff do a good job of maintaining a chilled out vibe, whilst still allowing the larger groups to let their hair down and have fun with their friends. Well, that was how it worked out for me, you guys may have had different experiences? It certainly felt more relaxing and indulgent than the public areas of Thermae Spa, which in my opinion, had the potential to feel a bit public swimming pool at times.

After all that exertion I was ready for my session in the Sleep Retreat which involved, shock horror, more chill time! A curved bed vibrates in waves and sound-proofed headphones played calming, imaginative narrative (“you’re standing in a beautiful garden, in front of a trickling fountain”) intended to send you off in to a restful sleep. It worked for most people in the room, as the soft snores can attest, but unfortunately when someone tells me to “clear my mind of all my thoughts” I start thinking about “what should I be clearing?” which leads me to making lists on my mental whiteboard, rather than wiping it clean. And I giggle. Which is why I quit yoga! It was nice and relaxing though, even if I didn’t sleep. A quick note, remember to get comfortable before the experience begins, not halfway through like me. I forgot that I was wearing my slightly damp bikini bottoms under my robe and it wasn’t very comfy so just as everyone was dropping off to sleep with headphones on and eyes firmly closed, there was me trying to wriggle out of my cossie, under the blanket and my robe without making a scene. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall, or the security camera monitor, for that little fiasco!

After that, I grabbed a pot of Earl Grey, some magazines (in fancy Sanctuary plastic covers), a blanket and did some advanced-level chillaxing back in the Koi Carp Lounge.

By then I was feeling well and truly rested, so I thought I should do something, erm, productive with my day and almost booked a facial, but I decided I needed a new pair of Converse for my holiday more than I needed a facial scrub, and also all the facial products are available in the dressing rooms, so instead I did a bit of swimming, loitered in the jacuzzi and sweated out all the week’s toxins (which included lots of cachaca after a Rio Carnival reunion) in the steam room before a leisurely shower (with more Sanctuary products), a little bit of pampering with all the skincare products* and I was back at the front desk collecting my free gift and checking out for the day. A quick stop in the ground floor shop for some samples and then a wander back to the Tube, via a sweetshop and a newsagent for magazines and I was set for an evening of sofa surfing.

All in all I had a really lovely day and truly appreciated the chance to enjoy some alone time and to just sit and veg in a cosy robe with a book, some snacks and a drink or two. However, my personal feeling is that the prices are rather high and so if I go back, it will only be if I’m lucky enough to receive another experience as a gift. Otherwise I’ll just stick to massages, facials and nail treatments at my local salon, pootle back home and sit on my couch in my Champneys robe (pilfered from my mum a few years back) with a cuppa (or a glass of, depending on the time!) and there must be an app for Koi carp swimming around in a soothing manner on your iPhone…

And, before you ask, I didn’t use The Swing, I had the urge, but I would have felt like a bit of a berk just swinging on it on my own.

Have you been? What did you think? Are you planning a trip there?


*I used the samples and the products in my free gift box for about a week afterwards but I had to give up on them as they made my skin freak out. After a few years of skin freak outs, I knew enough to stop asap so I’m glad I didn’t try the facial after all. However, I’ve spoken to a few people who really liked them, and I know Rebecca has reviewed the Miracle Oil on Florence Finds in the past, so don’t let my crazy skin put you off!

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

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10 thoughts on “Girl about Town: The Sanctuary Spa

  1. This bit “heavily chastised for scrunching at my desk, not exercising my back muscles enough” made me sit up straighter at my desk!
    Good review V!

  2. Great review. I also got a Sanctuary Spa voucher for last Christmas, it was for two people and involved lunch and a free afternoon treat (giant cupcake and a glass of prosecco) as well as the sleep retreat and an 80-min treatment. It wasn’t cheap, but we did get there at 9 am and not leave until 8.30 pm, so we got a good amount of relaxing in for that money. I agree I wouldn’t pay for myself to do it regularly, but as a special treat it was by far the best spa-type experience I have ever had. The staff are so nice, and will give you fresh robes and towels anytime you need them, which I loved because I hate sitting in damp towels!

    Also, if you go with someone else, the swing definitely involves a lot of hilarity.

    K x

  3. This is such a great review – it looks gorgeous. Which day did you go and was it hideously busy? I love that its in a good location to combine with retail therapy… !x

    • Hi Rachie, I went on a Saturday and it wasn’t that busy at all, well, it didn’t feel like it was. To start off with in the Koi Carp lounge there weren’t many spare loungers but I did find one to settle down in, I suspect it was because it was around lunchtime though. Later on in the day (clearly when everyone was in treatments etc) I had no trouble at all finding somewhere to plop myself down.

      I think the layout is such that you can keep yourself to yourself in a quiet corner or you can “get in amongst it” and mingle for a bit more of an atmosphere.

      If you want a special treat either for yourself or for a girly day out, I’d recommend it!

      Hope that helps?


  4. I’ve been a few times and loved it – especially the swing! I agree it is pretty pricey but they often have offers on and you can go in for an evening (from 5:30-10pm) which is plenty of time to use all the facilities and is really reasonable.

    I think it’s the most accessible spa in London, you don’t have to be a regular spa goer to feel at home and no one looks at you funny for getting the most out of the free samples on offer!

  5. Maybe it’s just me (again) but I’m not its biggest fan. I am probably quite spoiled as I count my gym as a major life indulgence so for me, it was the gym but more expensive!

    I loved the swing and the treatment I had was fine but for me, there weren’t enough actual rooms. I prefer somewhere like Eden Hall in Nottinghamshire or Ragdale in Leicestershire (albeit a bit shabby now) but there are a number of other rooms like the rose room, ice room, lavender pools etc etc. The Sanctuary for me was a pool, some sleeping pods and a room with fish in. I prefer my spas to be proper spas and find with places like the Sanctuary there aren’t enough varied experiences.

    If you fancy the idea of something Sancturyesque without the price tag in London try CityPoint Spa (city and super quiet on a weekend) or the Grange Hotel Spa.

    • Oooh thanks for those tips Becca -I’ve fairly recently moved from Sheffield to London and really miss decent affordable spa days. Love the look of the Sanctuary but the price tag made my eyes water, so will definitely check out your suggestions!

  6. I went to the Sanctuary a few years ago with my Mum. I think we had a gift voucher for 2 people and we had a lovely day. We didn’t have any specific treatments but we swam, relaxed in the sleep room, had lunch and used the sauna. I also had a go on the swing but couldn’t get my Mum to have a go, I think she was too embarrassed in front of all the other ladies. It was a nice day out and I would definitely go back there but it is quite expensive compared to other spas I’ve been to.
    Next week we’re off to Grayshott in Surrey for a spa day so I will report back once I’m home again!

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