Robes at the ready. Serving up an all-inclusive approach to detoxing and wellness, editor Sophie Ritchie parks up at the Glass House Retreat in Essex for a glamorous dose of recharging, resetting and reclining
Spin off the hectic motorway of competing cars and you’ll suddenly find yourself meandering along a country lane, where sitting in a patchwork quilt of fields awaits Glass House Retreat, an Essex-based wellness escape offering a playground of spa stations and stylish abodes.
Opened in 2019, just a short few months before C-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named hit, everything about the Glass House feels contemporarily serene when pulling up to its gated entrance and white-cubed exterior. Designed to offer ‘a visionary retreat’ just an hour from London, guests flock here for the an all-inclusive approach to detoxing and wellness. Some opt for a day pass, others haul suitcases over the entrance for full five-day breaks from reality.
Sore muscles and stress levels in tow, I myself arrive for a single night’s stay. After checking-in and leaving my bags with reception, I’m led down a long hallway lined with closed doors to ‘The Lounge’ – a vast room filled with velvety teal and tangerine sofas.
It’s here I sip a small orange welcome smoothie whilst I wait for my guest to arrive. Dream-inducing music filters through the space as time ticks on – other guests also perch on the sofas dotted around me, clutching their cups and welcome forms like students on a school’s induction day. Although – we’re still in Essex (just a mere 14 minutes from TOWIE’s Brentwood to be exact) and thus everyone still attains to a full face of glamour whether robed or not.
As far as wellness goes, Glass House Retreat is somewhat of a chameleon – or should that be calm-eleon. For some, it’s a calorie-controlled, portion-sized, gym regime retreat filled with crystal-infused water and HIIT classes. But for others, it’s just as easily a relaxed foodie’s dream – as there’s an on-site cookery school found just steps away from the main building in a sleek separate building.
“We can even use gluten in here!” Head Chef Miguel Gouveia tells me somewhat gleefully as we don our aprons for the three-hour session, which are bookable prior to arrival. It couldn’t be more of a contrast to the nearby dining room serving solely water outside of meal times (although to be fair, I did spot a pick ‘n’ mix of detoxing teabags).
I spend the afternoon learning how to make an array of plant-based nourishing dishes – sweet potato gnocchi, fresh bread, zucchini ravioli, a trio of bruschetta, chocolate avocado mousse and even a little blowtorch-kissed raw lasagne. I am, unsurprisingly, stuffed by the end. But it’s all good food of course – nourishing, plentiful, abundant – with a spotlight on vegetables. And calories, schmalories.
Post-class, my friend and I swap the aprons for swimming costumes and spend the afternoon’s remainder in the spa, where relaxation and gossip ensues. Glass House’s facilities are ideal for unwinding, with a warming Scandinavian sauna and petite steam room to dip into after a few lengths in the heated pool. Outside, a newly-built natural swimming pond and second Finnish sauna also beckons to be sampled (the on-site gym seems decidedly less inviting with a stomach full of self-cooked courses).
For those staying longer than a day pass alone, Glass House Retreat offers a multitude of room categories to rest a weary wellness head. Bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, with suave details in the form of lustrous grey carpets, 49-inch flat screen TVs, oodles of eco-friendly Anyah Eco Spa toiletries and cumulus cloud-like beds – with plenty of twin options for friends. There’s even ‘digital detox safes’ with no early access for those who really need to stop scrolling.
Of course, the detoxing aspect of Glass House Retreat can be as rigid as required. There’s no caffeine, no alcohol, no takeaways on-site. That doesn’t mean no taste, however – far from it. Ordered in advance from a daily-changing menu, the dishes at Glass House are vibrant and colourful, with a multitude of healthy plant-based delights like paella, mushroom risotto, burgers at dinner time and oats, fresh fruit, pancakes and granola each morning. With so many health retreats opting for minuscule portions and salad after salad, it’s a welcome change.
Mealtimes (served like clockwork at set times throughout the day) are a relaxed, communal affair – with some guests donning sweatpants and others sitting in full fluffy robes. But a leopard doesn’t change its spots so easily (or its appetite). At dinner, I spot an older couple sitting across from us staring fervently at my friend’s Thai curry topped with a crispy poppadom. “Excuse me, what did you order?” The man finally asks with burning intensity. “Is that… a naan?”
Reader, it was not.
The Wordrobe Verdict
Ideal for a weekend of recharging, resetting or maybe just old fashioned resting, Glass House Retreat is a must-try for any wellness worshipper. Whether you’re on a mission to change body or mindset, this contemporary countryside hideaway is certainly the place to do it. Letting guests take it at their own pace, think positivity without pushiness – and to top it off, there’s deliciousness as far as the eyes can eat.
Whilst You’re There
1 Take the plunge in the futuristic Cryotherapy chamber, where plummeting temperatures can help supercharge the entire body. glasshouseretreat.co.uk/the-spa/cryo-chamber
2 Treat yourself to a SPA Illuminating Facial, a luxurious treatment designed to leave you with a goddess-glowing complexion. 55 mins, £80.00. glasshouseretreat.co.uk/the-spa/treatment-menu/facials-and-therapies
3 Don your lululemon finery for one of the many on-site classes, where everything from gentle mindfulness to action-packed bootcamp can be tried throughout the day. glasshouseretreat.co.uk/the-retreat/classes
Words by Sophie Ritchie, editor