Kingdom at Penshurst, Kent: a ‘nourish and flourish’ destination

Writer, Chantelle Pattemore, explores the wellbeing offerings at Kingdom, a hidden retreat in Penshurst, Kent.

I’ve visited many spas and wellbeing retreats, but none quite like Kingdom. After meandering through the winding streets of Penshurst, a sleepy village on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, a simple sign heralded my arrival at this hidden-in-plain-sight destination.

Standing proudly on the edge of 13 acres of woodland, the main ‘clubhouse’ at Kingdom is a three-story structure made from trees felled at the site during the Great Storm of 1987. Its exposed beams create a beautifully rustic aesthetic, and ‘walls’ of floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views across the Kent countryside. More recently, Kingdom has evolved into a ‘nourish and flourish’ destination – luring in visitors keen to enhance their wellbeing while enjoying the best nature has to offer.

Kingdom at Penshurst, Kent – a review

The movement

My first stop was a vinyasa yoga class, held in a smaller room in the clubhouse building. Here, yogis are treated to uninterrupted views of rolling hills – which certainly enhances the practice’s calm, zen-like vibes.

I must admit that yoga isn’t usually my first choice of exercise. While I recognise its benefits, I am easily bored. But this certainly wasn’t an issue during my class with Natalie. After a gentle warm-up, we began shifting into more dynamic flowing movements – during which there was no time for my brain to wander. Three-legged down dogs and crescent lunges caused my heart rate to rise, while holding a steady chair pose led to an impressive quad burn.

With only five participants in the class, Natalie offered tailored guidance and helped us correctly position in trickier poses. She also provided modifications throughout – ideal if you’re struggling with injury or are new to the practice. The hour-long class whizzed by. While not a HIIT-level calorie burner, it undeniably gave my body a good workout. I left the class feeling energised yet relaxed, and resolved to do yoga more often.

The food

In the heart of the clubhouse sits a large cafe. The menu is relatively small but offers visitors a variety of fare such as pancakes, huevos rancheros, bacon and egg baps, and an English-style breakfast plate (including gluten-free and vegan options). There are also daily specials and cake and drinks galore, including coffee, kombucha, and smoothies.

I didn’t want anything too heavy before my massage, so chose tomato soup with gluten-free seeded toast. The soup was thick, full of flavour, and far more filling than initial appearances led me to expect – an ideal little refuel after my morning’s exercise.

The massage

Tucked behind the clubhouse, almost camouflaged by the trees behind, is a little converted caravan where I attend my massage. Alongside the warm welcome from my masseuse, Joleene, I was greeted with light wooden walls and flooring decorated with plant pots, neatly lined bookshelves, and fluffy rugs. A small heater in the corner ensured the space was nice and toasty, while the heated pad on the massage table was another comforting touch.

Joleene discussed a couple of massage oil options with me, each thought to provide wellbeing merits in addition to those from the massage itself. The moringa oil-based Blue Lotus, she explained, is great for encouraging calm and may also aid in balancing hormones and relieving menopausal symptoms such as tiredness and bloating. Meanwhile, the Neal’s Yard Women’s Balance oil comprises rose, frankincense, patchouli, and geranium – designed to help balance hormones, ease anxiety, and reduce muscle pain. Both sounded great, but I settled on the Blue Lotus because I’d never heard of it before, and the scent was irresistible.

I have particularly tight calves, so Joleene focused on this area first. I usually find leg massage painful rather than enjoyable – but, by some magic, it didn’t hurt a jot. (And when I stretched my calves later on before bed, the muscles felt the loosest they had in ages.) As she worked her way up to my back and shoulders, I felt my whole upper body freed of tightness caused by recent stress and hours of sitting at a computer. If she hadn’t had another client to see immediately after, there’s a good chance I’d have insisted on staying for another hour – but, alas, scheduling was not on my side.

The spa

My final stop was the HotBox ‘Forest Spa’. Nestled in a small copse adjacent to one of Kingdom’s several walking/cycling trails, this is a fun, unpretentious, open-air experience – with a small barrel cabin sauna, two cold plunge pools, and a large hot tub, along with a teepee-style tent for changing.

I ventured into the sauna first, the dry air bringing me into a sweat within minutes. As well as building on the relaxation instilled during my massage, studies suggest saunas offer protective and beneficial effects for heart, neurological, and metabolic health – so I was more than happy to sit and laze with my book.

After 20 minutes, it was time to leave the cocoon and brave a cold plunge pool. Having avoided them for years (including at the famous baths in Budapest), it took a good few moments of self-talk before dipping my toes. Initial shock over, I dunked myself under, the waters hitting my shoulders. With some deep breathing, I managed to stay immersed for 20 seconds. Cold plunges have increased in popularity due to their potential effects on inflammation, immunity, and insulin sensitivity – and while I might not have been able to detect these, the sense of achievement and endorphin boost alone was well worth it.

Finally, the hot tub beckoned for a well-deserved warming up – and HotBox’s owner, Jack, appeared with a tray of orange slices to help replenish electrolytes lost during my sauna sweat session.

With dusk setting in, the fairy lights strung above began twinkling. I slunk into the still water, listening to the birds tweeting their evening calls as I gazed out over lush green fields. Totally relaxed, I felt truly at one with nature in a way that a stroll in the park simply doesn’t achieve.

Final thoughts on Kingdom…

I left with a big smile, with my day followed by the best night’s sleep for as long as I can remember. If you’re expecting a five-star luxury approach to wellbeing treatments, Kingdom likely isn’t the place for you. But for those seeking a charming blend of wellness and nature, this woodland bolthole will undoubtedly hit the spot.

Find out more about Kingdom

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