Monday, 22 February 2016

Review of Grayshott Spa, Surrey

Read my honest and full review of Grayshott Spa if you are seeking a retreat from the hustle & bustle of life, combined with a focus on health and well-being.


Grayshott Spa Facilities

I'll start with the swimming pool facilities as this is always an important aspect for me when choosing a spa. Grayshott has both an indoor pool and a seasonal (Apr-Sept) outdoor pool too. The indoor pool is in a conservatory that looks out onto the outdoor pool, the golf course and (unfortunately) the back of the unattractive bedroom extension.

Grayshott Spa Ladies Changing Area
Rather strangely, the spa changing rooms are not adjacent to the pool area, so you have to get changed into your swimwear and then take a short walk down a bedroom corridor. To access the pool, you need to be able to walk down a short flight of stairs. As Grayshott Spa offers stays for those needing to recuperate and/ or rehabilitate, it has installed a lift to the pool area, however this was out of order during my visit.

Within the pool area, there is also a hydrotherapy pool area, consisting of Jacuzzi-style seated area and a neck-message Jet. The hydrotherapy pool is a leisure facility, you do not need to book a treatment to use it and it is unsupervised. The swimming pool itself is (just) long enough to swim lengths in but a serious swimmer would probably be disappointed (it's 12mtrs long x 7mts wide/ 39ft x 23ft), especially as it is quite shallow (0.9m to 1.3m / 3ft to 4.3ft). The outside pool is a similar size. When I visited, the fitness class programme included a 30 min Aqua fitness class once a day (see below).


Grayshott Spa Suana & Spa Area
Away from the pool area, and back closer to the changing rooms, there are separate male and female spa facilities including a relaxation room (pictured top), steam & sauna rooms. The showers are also here (again, strangely not in the changing area) and they were the weakest showers I have ever known, it was like trying to wash your hair in drizzle.

Grayshott Gym & Sports Facilities

The gym area at Grayshott provides the usual array of aerobic exercise machines (treadmills, bikes, cross trainers, vibro-plates etc) and a weights area.  You can usually find yourself the sole visitor in the gym and I never had a problem of having to queue or wait for the machine I waned to use, especially during week days.

There is a compact but light and airy Fitness Studio which is where both fitness and more holistic classes are held.  Classes are mainly aimed at the averagely fit and there are between 7-10 fitness classes per day such as:

  • Walks (Gentle 30mins, Power 45mins, Grayshott 45mins) 
  • Aqua Fitness (in the pool, 30mins)
  • Total Body Conditioning (45 mins)
  • Flex & Stretch (30mins)
  • Relax & Unwind (45mins)
  • Leg, Bums & Tums (45mins)
  • Circuit Training (45mins)
  • Absolute Abs  (25mins)
and some classes attract a small £6 charge:
  • Pilates Mat (60mins)
  • Tai Chi (60mins)
  • Yoga (60mins)
  • Zumba (60mins)

There is also a 9 hole par 3 golf course and tennis courts

Finally, Grayshott itself is set in 47 acres of lovely woods and gardens in which to stroll or just relax in the sunshine.

Guest Talks & Entertainment

There are daily talks on health related subjects given by qualified and knowledgeable members of staff. Also, Grayshott Spa has its own dedicated cinema room with a film shown every evening.

Spa Treatments

Grayshott's focus on recuperation is reflected in the treatments available, with a selection of healing/rehabilitation, nutritional and mindfulness treatments offered in addition to the usual body message and facial options. The therapists are experienced, helpful, caring and professional. There are 36 treatment rooms and most breaks include a selection of inclusive treatments, but promotional offers may
Grayshott Spa Refreshment Area
not include treatments or they may be a shorter duration. However, I was disappointed that despite booking in my treatment well in advance, my time request was not met and I had a male therapist for one treatment when I had specified only female therapists.

You wait for treatments in a lovely little refreshment area, which offers a help-yourself selection of teas and fresh fruit and is very social venue.


Health Regime (Digestive Care)

One of the unique features of Grayshott Spa is its focus on providing care of the digestive system, which Grayshott believes is central to health and well-being. It offers a 7-day health and maintenance programme designed to improve your digestive function, combining relaxation, nutrition and therapeutic treatments during your stay with an educational programme  and post-departure support to allow you to maintain the programme once you leave.

Dining & Food

I've said before, there is a common misconception that Spa dining can be slender pickings and I'm always happy to correct that mistake, as this is just not the case. The food at Grayshott will not leave you feeling deprived in the slightest, with plenty of choices of healthy, interesting dishes.

The arrangement for breakfast and lunch is buffet-style, and you can eat as much or as little as you like.  Dinner is an à la carte, waiter-served meal.  The menu provides nutritional and dietary information such as guidance on fat content and suitability for specific dietary needs. 

For breakfast, there is an extensive choice of fruits, compots, cereals, breads, yogurts and juices.  

Your 3-course lunch starts with waiter-served soup of the day. The main meal is a selection of mainly cold dishes in a central buffet plus a hot dish such as poached salmon.  Whilst Grayshott promotes healthy eating and moderation, portion size and quantity is in the hands of the luncher, allowing for differing calories needs, especially if you are exercising heavily during your stay.

The evening meal is a three course, table d’hôte style meal. There is normally around 3 different choices for each course and the portions are "fine-dining"-sized.

A rather lovely feature of a stay at Grayshott is the nightly gathering of guests for canapés and non-alcoholic mocktails in the Drawing Room before dinner each evening. 

Accommodation

There are a total of 59 suites and standard rooms at Grayshott Spa, which compare in size, style and facilities to a modern four-star hotel.  Mainly, the rooms face onto the gardens and the ground floor rooms have their own patio doors for direct access to the grounds (there is a daily premium to pay for a ground floor room during the summer months, which was £25 per night at time of writing).

For those travelling alone, there are single standard rooms available upstairs. You will still pay a (small) premium for occupancy of a single room vs twin occupancy of a double room, although it is lower than the premium for solo occupancy of a double room. If you like to have a long soak in a hot bath after a day of exercising, then it is worth noting that standard rooms (single or double) come with a shower room rather than a bathroom.

There are also Junior Suites available which additionally provide air-conditioning, a lounge area and bathroom with separate bath and shower.  There are eight Manor House Suites situated in the Manor House, and are luxuriously decorated with plenty of room to relax. The Tennyson Suite is situated in the Manor House which can comfortably accommodate up to 4 guests for a stay.

Beware the 7.5% Service Charge

You need to be aware that in addition to the advertised tariff for your stay, you will also find a 7.5% "service charge" added to your bill on departure for staff gratuities, supervised walks, talks, inclusive beverages, basic WI-FI, sports equipment and entertainment. I think that this is completely disingenuous and I am not impressed at all with this approach. When staying at a health spa, I certainly expect it to have sports equipment, supervised walks, talks and entertainment. These are part of what distinguish a destination spa from a hotel with spa, and should not be charged for separately.

Single Traveller or Staying with Company?

A break at Grayshott is a great option for anyone holidaying alone. If you are staying on your own, you can choose (but are not compelled) to join a shared table at lunch and dinner for those who want to socialise, and which you can dip in and out of as your fancy takes you.  It also appeared to me during my stay that, whilst the guests are largely female (which always seems to be the case at destination spas), there were more men staying at Grayshott for a spa break.

If your stay at Grayshott is for their Health Regime Package, you will also have the opportunity to participate in joint classes and/or talks with other guests on the same break as yourself. 

With Grayshott Spa's emphasis on recuperation, it is not surprising that its clientele is at the more mature end of the age spectrum. It is a peaceful, restful and considerate location, and you may (or may not) be relieved to learn that it is certainly not the place to go for "riotous girly get-together or hen weekend!"


Conclusion

I certainly enjoyed my stay at Grayshott Spa. I cannot personally speak to the effectiveness of the Health Regime as I did not stay on that regime. The staff were knowledgeable, attentive and courteousGrayshott Spa itself is quiet, relaxing and comfortable, and it is not over-crowded with large numbers of day guests.

The package prices at Grayshott are towards the higher end of spa breaks within the UK. In my view, this price premium is NOT for a better facilities within the spa (certainly the facilities were either on-par or slightly inferior to other larger UK spas that I've visited). Nor is the price premium for super-luxurious surroundings or accomodation (it's more equivalent to a well-maintained 4-star period hotel not a ultra luxurious 5-6 star hotel). Rather, I think that Grayshott Spa would justify its price premium for its well-trained, expert staff and its uncrowded, calm and restful atmosphere.  

You will enjoy a stay at Grayshott Spa if you are seeking a retreat from the hustle and bustle of life, possibly also combined with a focus on health and well-being.

NB:  This is not a sponsored post, I stayed at Grayshott Hall at my own expense.

Monday, 9 February 2015

(Definitely not) Yummy Mummy - Review of Butter London Nail Polish

Review of Butter London Nail Polish - Yummy Mummy
How often do you try a beauty product that everyone is raving about and then feel, well, really disappointed?  Dependent on your personality, you’re next thought will either be, “They must all be mad” or, “I’ve done something wrong”!  However, leaving the psychology aside, I have to admit I have been thoroughly disappointed with the much lauded Butter London Nail Polishes.  The shade I've reviewed here is Yummy Mummy  - wrong on both counts – I’m not a Mummy and this polish is definitely not Yummy.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Cholesterol - The Silent Killer for National Heart Month

February is National Heart Month and I just wondered how much do you know about cholesterol?  Perhaps not a great deal, which is why cholesterol is known as the silent killer, as it often presents no symptons until quite a lot of damage has been done.  It can affect young and old, fat and thin.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a sticky fat needed by our body to make cells, hormones and vitamins.You have probably heard that many people need to lower their cholesterol but you may be surprised to learn that we actually need cholesterol! However, before you disregard this as nonsense, I will clarify that what I mean is there is “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, and we need the good but not the bad. By itself, cholesterol can’t circulate in our blood. It is carried around the body in something called lipoproteins. This is where the good vs bad comes into play. There are two main types of lipoproteins in the body:
“Good” cholesterol comes in the form of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). HDL removes cholesterol from the body by taking it to the liver where it can be recycled or broken down
“bad” cholesterol comes in the form of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is produced by the liver and supplies cholesterol to help repair old cells and build new ones. However, too much LDL cholesterol can stick to the inside of blood vessels, and, over time, this can build-up causing our blood vessels to narrow and restricting blood flow to the heart.

What Can Cause a Build-up of “Bad” cholesterol?

  • Smoking
  • Being inactive
  • Eating too much saturated fat
  • What we eat and drink
  • Being overweight, especially if you are “apple-shaped” and carry excess fat around your waist
  • A family history of high cholesterol, as this can be inherited from our parents 

Know Your Number

It’s important to get your cholesterol checked by a qualified health professional such as your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. The table below provides some general guidance on recommended blood cholesterol levels, but discuss your target number with your health professional when having your blood cholesterol tested:
recommended blood cholesterol levels

Managing Your Total Fat & Lowering Your Saturated Fat Intake

Research has shown that reducing saturated fat intake can bring about a reduction in harmful LDL-cholesterol. Guidance in the UK & USA recommends lowering saturated fat intake to less than 10% of energy intake. 

Cholesterol-Busting Super Foods


Plant based foods such as vegetables, oat cereals, beans and legumes, soya foods and drinks, nuts and seeds do not contain cholesterol and are usually low in saturated fat. So these are foods that should feature regularly in a diet to lower cholesterol.  In addition, there are 6 group foods, often called Superfoods, that can actively help to lower cholesterol levels. 

Easy Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Mediterranean Diet Recipe Cookbook
Cooking & Eating to Help Lower Cholesterol

If you are would like lots more information on how you can easily adjust your diet to support cholesterol-lowering goals, I can thoroughly recommend the latest cookbook by Milly White. Her new Easy Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Mediterranean Diet Recipe Cookbook contains over 100 delicious heart-healthy recipes based around cholesterol-lowering superfoods.

If you think that eating this way will be difficult or leave you feeling unsatisfied or deprived, think again. There are tempting and delicious recipes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner along with mouth-watering Desserts and scrumptious Bakes & Cakes, proving that you can have your cake and eat it when the cake in question is Lemon & Blueberry Buttermilk Cupcakes!

Available in Paperback or as an ebook for Kindle on Amazon.com here.

Monday, 12 January 2015

5 Beautiful Bargains for Beauty Buffs at TKMaxx

I like serious skin care but I also like a serious bargain.  I'm therefore drawn to the tantalising shelves of a good TK Maxx like a bee to honey and I thought I'd share my latest buys with you. 
5 Beautiful Bargains for Beauty Buffs at TKMaxx

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Wantable Personalised Beauty Box Subscription Review

Last month, I had the opportunity to try out the premium, personalised Beauty Box subscription provided by Wantable.com and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

In my post Beauty All Boxed Up - The 8 Best UK Beauty Box Subscriptions, I advise that  Wantable.com should be your choice if you want high levels of personalisation and full sizes.  So how did my experience match up to expectations?

Personalised Profile

In terms of personalisation, I enjoyed completing my profile online.  You are asked lots and lots of questions about your preferences which you rank in terms or Love, Like or Dislike.  Wantable guarantee that you will not be sent something that you have marked as a dislike and you are most likely to receive something you have marked as Love.

Below is a quick recap of what I selected (but I can remember answering many more questions than the choices below indicate such as contemporary vs classis in nail polish colours):

Love: Fair, Cool, Brows, Eye Shadow, Lash Product, Lip Colour, Nail Polish
Like: Complexion Products, Eyeliner, Highlighter, Blush
Dislike: Warm, Bronzer, Tools

What Was in My Box?

I received 4 full size products:

  • Vincent Longo Pressed Face Powder in Golden Banana, Full size, Boxed, (RRP $28)
  • Tarina Taratino Dollskin Cream Blush Duo in Coral Cameo, Full size, Boxed, (RRP $28) 
  • Gleam Body Radiance Highligher by Melanie Mills in Rose Gold, 59ml Full size, (RRP $30)
  • Olfa Universal Eyebrow Pencil Liner, Full size, (RRP $10).
Vincent Longo Pressed Face Powder in Golden Banana
I have been looking for a compact to pop into my handbag for touch-ups during the heat of the summer and was pleased to receive this.  It is described as a soft, lightweight powder and it is that.  With the colour described as Golden Banana, I was fearful that it would be too yellow and too golden for my fair, cool-toned skin.  It is more yellow than I would choose as a foundation or even as my main finishing powder, but I will use this for what I want, a touch-up compact whilst out and about.


Tarina Taratino Dollskin Cream Blush Duo in Coral Cameo
I have to confess, I am not a great fan of blushers.  I suffer from high colouring and am normally trying to tone down my naturally very rosy cheeks.  However, I do think that one of the most positive features of a monthly subscription box is that they do introduce to new products that you may not normally buy.  So I resisted the tempation to assign Blusher to dislike in my preferences, although I did only rate it as Like.  

The product packaging is very stylish.  However, my big issue here is that Wantable and I obviously have very different ideas about what constitutes a warm shade and what constitiutes a bronzer (both on my dislikes).  On the Tarina Taratino website, the shade I was sent (Coral Cameo) is described as a peachy pink blush with bronze sparklicity.  In other words a Warm blusher with Bronzer.  Hmm.

Gleam Body Radiance Highligher by Melanie Mills
This is a make-up, moisturizer, and glow all in one and, apparently, there is a shade for every skin tone but every skin tone can use each shade for a different end result.  I was sent Rose Gold (shade pictured left).  Again, another case of myself and Wantable a having very different ideas about what constitutes a warm shade.    I will never, ever use this shade and it is just the sort of shade I had wanted to avoid by specifically excluding Warm shades.
  
Olfa Universal Eyebrow Pencil Liner
I tend to avoid "universal" shades as I really don't see how there can be such a thing.  This pencil has not changed my mind about universal shades, and it is a little darker than I would normally choose, but with a light touch, it will be useable.


How Much Does A Wantable Box Cost?

For delivery to the UK, a one-off purchase of a Wantable Box $54 (c£32) or a monthly subscription works out at $49.20 (c£29).  This includes UK delivery and all import duties.
I was sent this box to review by Wantable free of charge. 

Would I recommend?

I do very much like the concept of Wantable, I enjoyed the personalisation process. My parcel arrived quickly and I was kept informed of its journey all of the way.

Personally, I would rather pay more for a subscription box and receive good sized, great quality products, rather than a much lower price but then receive very small samples of products that have no appeal or are not beauty related.  I do think that Wantable delivered on this.  

I also was very, very keen on the level of personalisation offered.  However, I do not feel that Wantable delivered on this and that I was sent shades for two out of my four products that actually fell into my Dislike category.  However, Wantable do offer a satisfaction guarantee and if this had been a purchase, I would have been able to return these.

My recommendation would be to try this as a one-off subscription before signing up for the monthly service, you can find the details here. 

And Finally

This review has focused on Wantable's Beauty Box, but they do also offer an Accessories Box or a Intimates Box, and you can swap between categories if you have a monthly sub.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Review & Swatches - Mally Brow Fix in Taupe

Mally Brow Fix Taupe Review & Swatches
Mally's Brow Fix claims to be a "one-step tool" to tame, shape and colours brows to frame the face beautifully. In a bullet crayon formula, it combines natural waxes and colured powders.  It is priced at £21.50 + delivery from QVCUK, but frequently features in special value kits too.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Going Backwards Ain't No Fun - Reverse Hair Washing Review

Does Reverse Hair Washing hold the key to transforming my thick, tangly and unruly  locks (think 'Cystal Tips') into the lush, smooth, shiny and manageable tresses of my dreams?

When the concept of 'Reverse Washing' started doing the rounds, I was very interested in giving it a try, could it be the answer to my hair nightmare?

Let's start off with a quick recap of what is Reverse Washing?  It's where you use your hair conditioner first, then follow with your shampoo - so you are washing and conditioning your hair in reverse order.  

Monday, 10 November 2014

This is An Affair to Remember

Bareminerals An Affair to Remember Ready 8.0 Palette
I remember the first time I watched Deborah Kerr in a Saturday afternoon Matinee showing of the glorious An Affair to Remember.  I fell in love with the film, its urbane, witty, stylish elegant stars and the story of understatement, misunderstandings and enduring love.

So I wouldn't want the name An Affair to Remember to be used inappropriately, without consideration for its heritage.  I need not have worried, bareminerals An Affair to Remember Ready Palette is the most romantic, stylish (and just plain) lovely palette that evokes the style and romance of the original.  Encased in a luxurious rose-gold toned mirror-finish case, this palette contains 8 gorgeous, wearable baremineral shades in plums, lavenders and rosey blushes. 
Bareminerals An Affair to Remember Palette Swatches

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Not-so Radical - Anti-Aging Restorative Moisture Crème Review

Review Radical Skincare Anti-Ageing Restorative Moisture Crème
As you can see from the well-worn tube in the picture, I have been road-testing the Anti-Ageing Restorative Moisture Crème by Radical Skincare.

The product claims:

  • Unsurpassed and blissful multitasking cream is the ultimate all in one benefits solution for the most demanding skins. 
  • Fights free radicals
  • Increase skin hydration by 66% in just 2 weeks
  • Decrease wrinkle depth by 50% in just 4 weeks
  • Combat skin discoloration, even and brighten skin tone with long and short term results
  • Firm and increase skin’s elasticity

Monday, 13 October 2014

Foods For Hair, Skin & Nail Health

Vegetables and Fruits for hair, skin and nail health
In the news today is research from University College London that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day is healthier than the five currently recommended and would prolong lives (source: BBC News).

I am a strong advocate of the all-round health benefits of a varied diet of vegetables and fruit, and I am not surprised that researchers have found that in the case of fruit and veg, “more is more”.  Intensive farming methods and long food miles mean that vegetables and fruits often contain far fewer nutrients now compared to 40-50 years ago. For example, iron in watercress is 80% lower, calcium in broccoli is 50% and the same for pineapples; the vitamin C in cauliflower is 40% less and sweet peppers are 30% lower.  So we now need to eat far more of these to achieve the same nutritional intake as previously.