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Spotlight on … Rowhill Grange and Utopia Spa

Who went? Spabreaks Editor Bonnie and Product Executive Danielle

Where is it? Dartford, Kent

Perhaps it is the signposted ‘duck’s crossing’, the forested journey up

a winding drive, or simply the nineteenth century house and clock-house with Hansel and Gretel thatched roof, but the first glimpse of Rowhill Grange as you drive to the front door sets a precedent for what is to come - which is to say frankly, something of an idyllic experience.

Built as a summer house in 1868 and renovated in 1994 by husband and wife duo Peter and Deborah, the property is amongst a group of three that also includes Langshott Manor Hotel and Alexander House and Utopia Spa - giving it the reassuring infrastructure of a group, with the service and attention to detail of a boutique destination.

Once you are past the initial beauty of the venue, there are a few things that strike you about both the spa and the hotel - firstly the wall of essential oil smells that hits you on your way in; secondly, the contrasting modernity of the interior to the exterior, and thirdly the immaculate black uniform of the staff and the warm welcome that greets you.  Of course, any venue worth its bath-salts knows the importance of a friendly smile, but at Rowhill Grange, it has a genuine quality that implies these people really enjoy their work!  Stemming no doubt from Spa Manager Tracey, and the effervescent personality of Treatment Manager Karen - who positively fizzes with enthusiasm, and within the first few moments of arriving proudly introduce myself and colleague Danielle to Morris, who was in the middle of giving the receptionist a farewell hug - being his last day as head of maintenance after twenty-four years.

After settling in with fluffy white robes, a quick trip to the pool seemed mandatory before heading to have our treatment - after all, ‘when in Rome’ … and with colonnades and murals in abundance - that is very much the vibe around the pool.  There is a Jacuzzi, swimming pool and a therapy pool complete with fountains, massage beds, steam room and sauna -a veritable feast of temperature changes to help you detox and relax, and while the pool is large enough for more energetic swimmers, the atmosphere does not lend itself to hard core exercise.  Eternally aware of client comfort, the spa is careful to monitor the number of people in the pool area at any given time, and it is not open to anyone under the age of eighteen.  There is a small, well equipped gym that is particularly popular with club members, but in complete honesty we had our hearts set of total indulgence and as we were already planning our afternoon tea before treatments had begun we thought it best to start as we meant to go on.

The treatments list at Rowhill Grange is extensive - covering everything from reflexology to non-surgical facelifts and using organic Temple Spa products chosen for their exclusivity and natural ingredients - if it’s good enough to eat, it’s good enough to put onto your skin as well, and with the treatment that Danielle and I had opted for, this couldn’t have been more true.

Cryptically titled The Mediterranean Infusion (take a look at the Totally Spoiled package on, ours was a fifty-five minute hydrating body treatment that starts with an all over body brush, followed by a marinade of fresh mint, cucumber, and yoghurt, which is applied all over before wrapping you up in heated blankets,  a honey and lemon facial and a scalp massage.  Despite a brief moment in time where you do, admittedly feel like a Tzatziki dip, the word to describe this treatment is definitely ‘sensuous’.  Between the body brushing, yoghurt, mint that makes your skin tingle, blankets and scrubbing off at the end with a warm mitt you go through a whole host of pleasant temperature changes, and my therapist Ellie was always very aware of making sure I was not cold.  Your sense of smell also comes under assault in the nicest possible way not least of all when the honey concoction is brushed onto your face - transforming you from Greek starters to desserts - not unlike a more positive variation on Violet Beauregarde’s experience with the Three-Course Dinner chewing gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Emerging at the end of my treatment it took me a good half an hour to return from a feeling of being utterly spaced out, but in addition to a well-trained boy commenting: ‘you look radiant!’ twenty-four hours later, I have to admit that proving it to be more than just a fusion of nice smells my skin still felt unusually soft despite having subjected it to an onslaught of chlorine, soap and water.  Additionally, unlike a lot of treatments this one rather surprisingly doesn’t leave you all sticky and in need of an immediate shower, which means you can leave the products on for a bit longer to really moisturise the skin.

Having spent the afternoon being utterly decadent, all that remained was to reward our efforts with a cream tea.  One of the nice features of Rowhill Grange is that you are welcome to walk around the hotel in the white fluffy bathrobes provided, which as any seasoned spa goer will tell you, is something of a relief - especially if your treatment has left you with rather a lot of product still on the skin.  So heading to the cool greys of the dining area that surrounds an open fireplace, we sampled the afternoon tea on which the hotel prides itself.  The decadent selection includes the pre-requisite scones as well as other pastries and finger sandwiches, with the option of adding a glass of champagne - although as our bodies were now temples, we went for the herbal tea option on this occasion.

Without gushing too much, our experience at Rowhill Grange couldn’t have been better.  From the reception and the treatments to the food everything struck an ideal balance between being simultaneously personal and unobtrusive, while the generally positive attitude of staff was contagious - no massive surprise that Morris stayed for so long then … we could probably have been tempted to do the same!

Spabreaks Tips:

1)      Although Rowhill Grange is only a taxi ride from Bexley and Swanley train stations, if you have the option to drive I would strongly recommend it as the location is a little out of the way, and it will save the worry of time pressures.  Just make sure you put in the alternative Sat Nav postcode that’s given on the website - as the actual postcode tends to send you far and wide.

2)      If you have any questions about your treatments do not hesitate to ask - staff are extremely helpful, and if you get the chance to chat to bubbly Treatment Manager Karen, all the better!

3)      One of the reasons the spa uses Temple Spa products - aside from the positive results and their in vogue organic status  - is because their range of products for use at home are not only luxurious but are also within an accessible price bracket with cleansers starting at £15 - so do take a look at the products your therapist recommends in the retail area.

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