Victoria Guthrie experiences ultimate relaxation in the name of ‘research’

We were lucky enough to be invited to experience the 21st century tranquility of Lifehouse Spa and Hotel recently and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This purpose built spa hotel is set on a peaceful 12 acre site in Thorpe-le-Soken. Take a turn off the main road and down the lane before pulling up to the entrance. The first thing you notice? The crisp, angular modern architecture of the hotel spa, surrounded by the peaceful grounds of the English Heritage site. The second thing? The noise. Or lack, thereof.

This £30 million purpose built building was designed with one thing in mind: the ultimate in relaxation – a total focus on wellbeing. Built from the sunken garden of Thorpe Hall, a nod to the heritage of the site, the impressive structure somewhat looms in your view but doesn’t seem out of place. The buildings create a series of courtyards and outside rooms which link the interior to the gardens. Unlike any other spa I’ve ever seen, it has a very fluid feel and is a balanced building with lots of carefully designed spaces combining glass walkways and white shapes.


Lifehouse features an impressive range of dedicated facilities, including a swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam rooms, lifestyle showers, state of the art gym, Pilates studio, outdoor fitness circuit, spa boutique, relaxation areas and an impressive 35 treatment rooms as well as manicure and pedicure stations. There are experts on hand should you fancy a spot of personal training or life coaching, and complimentary wellies available should you wish to take leisurely stroll around the grounds on one of the many walks. But no visit would be complete without an overnight stay in one of the 89 luxurious guest rooms offering views of the courtyard or gardens.

Once you’ve checked in at reception and had your tour of the facilities, you can head to your room, slip into the robe and slippers waiting for you and begin unwinding. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, crazy comfortable beds, and a walk-in shower in the luxurious bathroom. The rooms are a neutral, clean and comforting space to be in. Despite being on the first floor, our room had patio doors that opened onto rolling green countryside as far as the eye could see.

Dinner in the restaurant, headed up by chef Paul Boorman, felt like a wonderfully decadent experience without the guilt; a well-considered Mediterranean inspired menu means that the food is healthy, yet portion sizes are decidedly naughty (you can read more about our experience in the restaurant in the next edition).

Follow up your three course meal with a few glasses of wine in the friendly atmosphere of the bar or try one of the cocktails if you fancy something a little different. Special occasion? Why not opt for a bottle of Champagne to celebrate before retiring to your room?


Wake up to a generous hot and cold buffet in the restaurant or order something from the a la carte menu if you prefer. In the summer the juice bar is in full swing, offering enough fruit and vegetables to set you up for the day in a single glass.

We spent our morning enjoying the delights that the wet area had to offer before checking in for our treatments and heading to the waiting area to be collected by our therapists. Beepers indicated our therapists were ready and within moments they were showing us to the treatment rooms, which were warm, cosy and dimly lit.

We experienced the Clarins Facials Aromatic Balancer and the Decleor Madagasgar Escape Massage, two 55 minute treatments designed to really unwind the mind and body.

Ideal for all skin types, the Clarins Facials Aromatic Balancer is customised to really rebalance the skin and leave your skin glowing. The soothing treatment included cleansing, double exfoliation and lymphatic drainage massage followed by intensive supplements to really perk up the skin and leave it feeling amazing. Two days later and the effects are even more noticeable, with softer, suppler skin, and products glide on and sit better on the skin.

The Decleor Madagasgar Escape Massage was a full body treatment with scented oil – a real treat for the senses. This massage used techniques from all over the world to melt away aches and tense muscles. It started face up with the hands and arms, moving on to the décolletage and neck, legs, stomach and feet. After turning over, the focus was on the back of the legs and the back. The only way it could have been better was if it had lasted twice as long (not that I’m greedy!).

After the treatments we were shown through to the relaxation room, a dimly lit area with comfy loungers, pillows and blankets. We joined some other guests post-treatment, grabbed a blanket and promptly had a nap whilst enjoying the blissful aftermath.

When ready we returned to the wet area to continue relaxing until it was time to check out and head back to reality.

In addition to the spa and pool facilities, Lifehouse also offers allergy testing, a range of activity classes and a variety of retreats as well as membership options.

I have no doubt that, just like us, you’ll leave Lifehouse content, refreshed and with a rather big smile on your face. To find out more, visit the website