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REVIEW: Danesfield House spa

Who couldn't do with a spot of pampering in these dog days of January? We checked in and chilled out at Danesfield House's Spa Illuminata. And relaaax.

I seem to have cruised through January rather like every other month over the last three years of my life – by the seat of my pants. I did have great plans for balance, no drinking, time off for lunch and evenings booked with friends. That’s been a total failure in January, but hey, that’s what February is for! One thing I have managed to do is take myself for a day to Danesfield House near Marlow to spend a day at its Illuminata spa – my one ‘me time’ moment for the month. If you fancy checking yourself in too, here’s what to expect.



Splendid, in a word. It’s a 5 minute drive from Marlow in well-heeled South Buckinghamshire to a Grade II-listed, grand Italianate, 19th century building with a heavenly great hall filled with magnificent fireplaces, oak panelling, and slouchy sofas. The Clooneys had their wedding reception here (well, one of their bashes – the wedding went on for years), so it has some Hollywood creds to its name, which always helps. The Danesfield House grounds are lovely in the spring/summer – fabulous views of the Thames and back to the house itself.

The hotel has 65 acres of formal gardens, but the easily walkable bits are not so extensive – it would take you perhaps half an hour to mooch around and perch awhile at pretty vantage points. You’ll find the spa, as so often in listed hotels, in a separate, modern building around the back of the main hotel.


The entrance to the spa shows its age slightly, with its traditional wood-panelled reception desk and the lunch area that feels a bit of an afterthought off to the side. But once you move through reception into the changing room, all is modern, clean, bright and heaving with hairdryers, water stations and fluffy white towels. There’s a good mix of hotel residents and locals (I know this because, um, I eavesdropped) which I like – having members using a spa regularly gives it a soul.



The ones you’d expect  – wet room, steam room, hot tub, relaxation room, small fitness studio, plus the star of a the show  – a 20m Palladian-style indoor swimming pool, with outdoor seating round the corner on the terrace for lunch on sunnier days. No surprises that it was a bit nippy out there so I ate inside, for once resisting the urge to carb load with a wrap, and choosing instead a salmon, beetroot and pearl barley power salad and a fruit dessert.



I plumped for the Winter Warmer, a full body scrub and massage combo, lasting a deliciously languorous 1hr 30 mins (£180). You will need to jump up midway through to shower off the scrub once the exfoliation is done but after that you’re onto the massage and thus permission to have a lovely snooze.

My total bugbear at spas is those faffy therapists who tickle you for an hour but my New Zealander therapist was brilliant – discreet, relaxed, and, best of all, a woman in possession of firm pressure. I dropped off for long enough to wake myself with a little snore. That’s success in my book. And my skin felt ridiculously soft and peachy. Babies’ bottoms have got nothing on my silky limbs!

Other treatments I’d be tempted by: the gold anti-ageing body wrap sounds enticing (£99); the lava rescue massage is all warm Polynesian shells and zoning out (£99); and, for the comedy potential, surely the Valentine’s Day couples massage (£230) is a dead cert to stir the loins.


Good for: Treatment lovers – that’s the real draw here, with a huge list to choose from. Go and keep your fingers crossed that your other half will shout you an overnighter while you’re there. The proximity to Marlow is a massive plus.

Not for: The spa is less flash than near neighbours The Langley and Cliveden – and to be fair the prices reflect this. If you’re after super-bling, move on.

The damage: There’s something for most budgets. My 90 minute treatment was £180 but you can book in for a scalp massage or an express 25 min facial for £38.

Danesfield Hotel & Spa, Henley Rd, Marlow SL7 2EY. Tel: 01628 891010.


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