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Review: Glass House Retreat, a luxury wellness retreat and spa in the Essex countryside

By LLM Reporters  |  February 17, 2020

Words by Amira Arasteh

Nestled in the Essex countryside, is Glass House Retreat; the perfect place to detox your body and mind. With many of us incurring fast-paced lifestyles nowadays, the need to take a step back is no longer simply a luxury – it’s almost essential.

Situated in Thurrock, the retreat offers a vegan, raw food-based meal plan and a variety of fitness classes to help your body physically detox. Factor in an itinerary of wellness activities and your mind is also relaxed during your stay. The core values of the programme enable you to adopt a healthy mental attitude and take a break from your busy daily life. It’s something I definitely could do with regularly so I was keen to try the retreat for a weekend.

Glass House Retreat is located in the heart of Essex which, to begin with, is a great place to have a detox programme like this. Accessible from London – you can take the tube or train to Upminister and then it’s a short taxi ride – I can personally attest to the fact that this detox and wellness retreat will benefit most Londoners.

Glass House Retreat is located in Essex and is easily accessible from London

Being in Essex means there is the countryside surroundings, which is crucial to a wellness programme such as Glass House Retreat. The greenery and distance from the likes of TFL and Oxford Street (or your transport and shopping hub counterparts) are essential first steps in this detox plan.

There’s a clinical feel to the retreat building – in a positive way. I felt as though I was checking myself into a sophisticated detox retreat, which I do think helps with the mindset (as opposed to the sense of arriving at a luxurious and indulgent mini break). The dining area offers communal seating – which is great for getting to know people, particularly as there appear to be a few veterans to the retreat and I lapped up their tips and tricks for surviving the detox weekend eagerly.

The lounge area is filled with comfortable chairs and sofas, perfect for enjoying a tea and conversation; there’s no caffeine, and conversation among guests or sitting peacefully is encouraged – perfect if you’re attempting a digital detox too. The rooms are simple but comfortable and chic and there were zero problems drifting off when night time came.

The rooms are comfortable and chic and have views over the surrounding countryside

The food is the most important aspect of the retreat, in my opinion. Prior to checking in, guests are asked to select a meal plan for the duration of their stay. I, laughably, initially selected the ‘juicing’ plan which includes a juice for breakfast and lunch with the indulgence of a soup for dinner. After hastily regretting this choice, I opted for the second tier of plan; ‘weight loss’.

To make it clear, I did not have the goal of losing weight across the weekend; I just wanted to experience a more extreme plan. My meals included a small portion of granola or a juice/smoothie for breakfast. Lunch and dinner consisted of a small portion of food. There is the ‘equilibrium’ option which ensures guests get a smoothie, in addition to their (larger) bowl of granola for breakfast – and lunch and dinner includes more variety of food to choose from.

The dishes were delicious, to be fair; avocado tartare and Asian summer rolls graced the ‘menu’, as well as celeriac chips with slaw and veggie tacos. All the food is raw and plant-based and, quite frankly, items I would be happy to eat in my everyday life. I’ll admit though, I’d probably have them as a starter and relish in the knowledge that my main was on its way.

Guests can choose from meal plans based around delicious raw and plant based foods

You savour every bite at Glass House Retreat and a particularly comical moment came when my mum offered one of our new friends a celeriac chip, at which point the girl laughed and said she couldn’t possibly take one of the eight ‘chips’ on the plate. What was really interesting was that come Sunday morning, I was nowhere near as hungry as I thought I’d be.

The best part of the retreat? The spa, of course. Glass House Retreat has partnered with Elemis for its treatments and products – which is only a good thing. I was thoroughly relaxed as I enjoyed my Thousand Flower Wrap treatment – I have the face mask at home and it is the dreamiest thing to hit your skin, ever. I also experienced the lava shell massage – I’ve had hot stone massages before and they are absolutely incredible so I was intrigued for the lava shell equivalent. Why do massages end so quickly? Even though it was an hour’s treatment!

The spa also specialises in a hydrotherm massage – which is perfect for anyone visiting the retreat who is pregnant, or even if you just don’t feel comfortable lying on your front for long periods of time. There is also the cryotherapy chamber. Sounds ominous? It kind of is…

The indoor pool is an ideal place to unwind after a session in the gym or fitness studio

Cryotherapy is a new form of treatment which involves you standing in a freezing cold chamber; the first is set at -110 degrees and you’re there for a (cold) minute before you enter the second through an internal door and stand in -130 degree…cold…for a further three minutes. During the last minute, a fan is turned on and boy is it bitey!

The therapist encourages you to jog (in case you didn’t feel silly enough in your headband, Crocs and gloves) to get through the pain of the cold. It’s proven to be great for fixing muscular pain, nerve irritation and a number of consecutive sessions can even result in weight loss. Sign me up!

When you’re not being pampered in the spa, Glass House Retreat offers a series of fitness classes, including boxing and HIIT sessions – although you might find yourself opting out of these on the second day as you’re consuming less food than you might be used to (this definitely applied to me!) If you don’t fancy the studio or gym, there are organised walks throughout the day – the first starting at 7am. Despite my grouchy disposition at waking up before the sun, I did participate.

The fully equipped gym offers a selection of state of the art equipment

A hot water with lemon cleansed my insides for the optimal start to the day. The misty walk definitely injected some colour into my cheeks and the cold air just pushed me to walk at a faster pace. The countryside surroundings were beautiful though and it was this that inspired me to get up before the crack of dawn. After the walk, my wellies came off and my swimsuit was thrown on as I headed straight to the sauna.

Glass House Retreat proudly offers its guests a pink Himalayan salt sauna – it’s as pretty as it is enjoyable – even more so after the morning walk. Evenings were spent curling up on the sofa with a magazine or engaging in a competitive board game or two; a favourite aspect of mine that the retreat thoughtfully offers.

This was my first experience of a retreat of this kind. Would I do it again? I actually would, especially at times I might particularly feel the need to take a step back from my chaotic lifestyle. I definitely was surprised that my tummy and I were able to fully commit to the meal plan – if you know me, you know that raw, plant-based and portion-controlled meals are not really how I roll. But I absolutely felt detoxed, relaxed and I left with a clear mindset which is obviously the goal of the stay. I even left a few pounds lighter, would you believe?!


A two-night package can be booked from £215.28 per person per night

Address: Glass House Retreat, Harrow Road, Bulphan, Essex, RM14 3BP
Phone: +44 1708 983590