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.

Recommended: Bath Thermae Spa

The weekend before last, I headed to Bath for a girls weekend with my mum and sister in tow, (Pete was at the Grand Prix in Silverstone.) We have been meaning to plan a weekend away for some time now but combining three busy ladies’ schedules had proven to be something of a nightmare and finally when the weekend in question arrived the weather was, well, biblical.

No ark forthcoming, fortunately I had already planned that we should visit the Bath Thermae Spa and after a bit of shopping and sight seeing we headed there towards 4pm. I had first come across the Thermae Spa years ago when I saw on TV that it was being built – a high tech answer to the ancient thermal springs that it uses as its water supply. I seem to remember it going massively over budget and being plagued with set backs but was always captivated by the idea of the naturally heated water and the relaxing surroundings, so I was pretty excited to be visiting. It seemed like a great idea to just float around and put the world to rights.

When you arrive at the spa, the payment area also serves as a quick orientation – we were told about the three main areas and how to move about them, along with the rather high tech changing areas and lockers. You are given a wrist band that then locks your locker for you and programs the band to be able to open it later and I was a bit nervous that I would ever find the right one, but it was actually quite painless. Along with our payment for use of the Spa (we chose the 2 hours package) we hired a towel for an extra £3 as we didn’t want to hike it around the shops prior to our visit, but you can take your own. The Thermae Spa was very busy (completely different to how it looks int here pictures,) and I’m not sure if this was a combination of it being Saturday or the fact that it was raining, but we still managed fine.

The Minerva Bath

After negotiating the lockers we headed in the main and my favourite bath, the Minerva Bath. Also the largest, it has large modern pillars supporting the roof and is surrounded by a combination of sandstone and glass, feeling quite modern and airy. There is the main area, with showers at the sides, then a bubbling jacuzzi-like area and my absolute favourite, the ‘lazy river’ where you are propelled around the jacuzzi effortlessly with nothing to do but relax in the warm water.

The Cross Bath

We spent probably 45 minutes there going around the ‘lazy river’ countless times and just revelling in the relaxation. Eventually we climbed the three flights of stairs to the open air roof spa, looking out over the rooftops of Bath. It’s a real pity we didn’t have better weather, as it was pretty memorable experience, even without sun and fortunately the weather spared us any rain for the 5 minutes or so we spent up there. Even though it was cold and a bit gusty, the bath was super warm and my sister and mum (not known for their hardiness outdoors) still really enjoyed it.

The open air rooftop bath

Lastly, we headed down a floor to the steam rooms – 4 glass pods full of steam, lit by coloured lights and each with their own aromatherapy blend. We thought two of them were floral, with a definite eucalyptus pod and another one we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. The steam was super hot and we could only sit in each for a few minutes, moving through the huge central rainfall shower in-between to cool off, but rather than being overpowering as they could have been, the scents were a welcome addition adding another dimension to the experience.

The Steam rooms

All in all after changing (we didn’t shower as we went straight back to our hotel, although there are shower facilities and hairdryers with mirrors if you need to be somewhere afterwards,) we were there for about 2 hours and left feeling extremely relaxed and recharged. It was the perfect place to go for a reasonably priced spa experience and I thought a great option for a hen do or girls weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an ‘exclusive’ spa experience, but that is reflected in the price and if you’re in a group, I don’t think it really matters. The only thing I didn’t like was the amount of couples in there – I’d love to go with Pete and think it would be a great place to go as a couple for some R&R, but there was frankly far too much, ahem, ‘couple time’ going on – my mum even commented that it felt like being in the midst of a Sandals holiday at times!

Have you been to the Thermae Spa?


The need-to-know.

  • We paid £26.00 for 2 hours in the Spa, although we actually received 2.5hours – I suppose to allow for changing etc.
  • You can’t book in advance unless there are 8+ of you.
  • There are actual space treatments available and they can be booked in advance.
  • There is also the Cross Bath – a private, much smaller bath that can be booked for events and smaller groups up to 12 people.
  • For lots of useful info and up to date prices/opening times please see
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