The 14 best spas in the UK

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  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Chewton Glen, Hampshire

    BEST FOR TREEHOUSE HIGHS

    Chewton Glen led the wellness way when it opened its spa in 1990, giving over a tremendous amount of space (and above ground, too!) to its pools and treatment rooms, and a gym that almost has the best view in the whole place, looking across the rolling lawns to the stream that marks the county border between Hampshire and Dorset. But it was about time the grande dame had a bit of a tweak. Designer Anita Rosato has whisked in and given the spa interiors a timely spruce. Gone (though loyally beloved by some) are the Roman-style murals and yellow-tinted Doric columns around the 55-foot swimming pool. Now a crisp lick of white has smartened everything up, here and in the hydrotherapy spa, and pops of colour come from the new teal sunbeds. The treatments menu has been pared back to focus on proper personalised service: a massage where the therapist focuses only on the bits that ache, a Natura Bissé facial that targets what’s needed, a bespoke hour of scrubs and wraps using the Oskia-designed in-house oils and salts. The point is, you choose. In the pipeline is a rotating series of wellness experts throughout the course of the year and in the meantime while things are opening up gently, slowly, the team is adapting nimbly with special treehouse treatments offered on the terrace of your room, and spinning classes in the garden. This classic spot is really thinking on its feet.

    Address: Chewton Glen, Christchurch Road, New Milton, Hampshire BH25 6QS


    Telephone: +44 (0) 1425 275341


    Website: chewtonglen.com


    Price: Doubles from £325

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  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Coworth Park, Berkshire

    BEST FOR GLEAMING GRANDEUR

    Forget about old-fashioned charm or anything shabby chic: Coworth Park is a different beast entirely, with staff who wear headsets to communicate with each other and a veneer as polished as the fleet of Range Rovers in the drive (there are a lot of heels, lipstick and suits in the dining room). Just 45 minutes from London, on a 240-acre estate on the edge of Windsor Great Park, the sprawling white Georgian manor house is manicured perfection, with four-poster beds, huge bathtubs and smoky oak flooring. Outside the gloss continues with some smartly converted stables, a collection of cottages (ideal for families), a rose garden, tennis courts and — star of the show — a fabulously sparky eco-spa. The swimming pool is very slick, lined in gigantic amethyst crystals and with music playing underwater. There are also den-like saunas and steam rooms to retreat to. And the treatments deliver exactly what is needed: Carol Joy collagen facials, spirulina wraps, wildly invigorating eucalyptus exfoliations and the sedating Insomniac’s Dream massage, which includes a mass of powerful scalp work to slow down a racing mind. And to seal the deal? Immaculate Hot To Trot pedicures afterwards. Even the changing rooms are a treat to use, but don’t leave your hairbrush behind. Regardless of whether it’s a Mason Pearson beauty or a seen-better-days Tangle Teezer, it will be taken by security guards, moved to the main hotel, and boxed up like precious jewellery for collection. It’s just that kind of place.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Lime Wood, Hampshire

    BEST FOR KEEN FOODIES

    Go through the pretty but very touristy town of Lyndhurst (all red brick and timber) on the edge of the scrub-like and heathery New Forest, past a herd of roaming ponies, down a tree-lined road with meadows either side and you arrive at Lime Wood. Tweed-clad staff (even in high summer) take your bags and car, and then whisk you straight off to your room. Stay in the woodland-chic, two-bedroom Forest Cottages if you’ve come with the family, but this is also the ideal place for a restorative couples’ break or some girls’ downtime. If you can make it past the shop, stocked with quirky things such as wooden Finlay & Co sunglasses, to the spa, you’ll find 10 treatment rooms and three different types of pool: an indoor ozone-treated one, an outdoor hot tub, and a hydropool overlooking the forest, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a log-lined sauna next door. The Bamford treatments are nurturing and soothing, and try the Voya Seaweed Leaf Wrap too, which will leave your skin feeling baby-soft. Yes, there’s the Raw & Cured bar spilling over with superfoods, but mega-chef Angela Hartnett’s heavenly dining is also what many come here for: ewe’s curd with roasted vegetables, grilled turbot with heirloom tomatoes, white beans, mint and saffron. The hotel also even has its own smoke house.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, Lake District

    BEST FOR SPLENDID ISOLATION

    When this hotel opened 32 years ago, it was that rare thing in the Lake District: somewhere to stay that was all about indulgence — sophisticated interiors, big pillowy beds, memorable food. Until then, visitors made do with damp slate cottages and packed lunches because the whole point about the Lake District was that you came to scalei ts handsome fells and leap from rock to rock across its thundering waterfalls. The Jetty Spa at the Lake House, then, is a rarer thing still: a place that celebrates the great indoors. It is designed, quite beautifully, for two, and the idea is that you disconnect from the world and reconnect with each other. Therapists create a blend of aromatherapy oils to your taste: muse over black pepper and mandarin, frangipani and ylang-ylang. While these are mixed, off you pootle through the gardens to the swimming pool, which is bathtub-hot and yours alone, along with a sauna. Then to the spa itself, a Scandi-style wooden cabin, cantilevered over the shore of Gilpin Lake. The treatment room doors can be opened out to the water, so you can gaze past your feet at the moorhens flipping bottom-up as an adept therapist works away tension from your head. Afterwards, in the tiny boathouse, there are furry throws to burrow under, more lake views and an afternoon-tea stand piled with sandwiches and cakes.

    Address: Crook Road, Windermere, the Lake District


    Telephone: +44 1539 488818


    Website: www.thegilpin.co.uk


    Price: Suites at the Lake House cost from £485 per room per night, with breakfast included. The Jetty Spa Trail, exclusive to Lake House guests, costs from £300 per couple.


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  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Lucknam Park, Wiltshire

    BEST FOR BUCOLIC CHARM

    Set in 500 acres of glorious Cotswolds countryside with woodland walking trails, croquet on the lawn, tennis courts, bicycles to borrow and an incredibly smart equestrian centre, this is a Jane Austen-style English idyll at its best. The ESPA spa, tucked away behind the walled gardens with a swimming pool, hydrotherapy pools, an outdoor saltwater plunge pool and thermal cabins, is equally impressive and treatments use top-notch brands. This is also the only hotel spa in the country that offers Haslauer Reflective Sunlight Therapy, which replicates the change of light from sunrise to sunset, giving all the benefits of vitamin D without any of the harmful UV rays: good for this time of year.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Dormy House, Worcestershire

    BEST FOR JUST LAZING AROUND

    After a £10 million renovation, this super-swish 17th-century farmhouse hotel now has 40 rooms individually designed in splendid colours by Todhunter Earle (also responsible for Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire). There’s a little gym near the main bedrooms that’s just for guests, which is a nice touch, and means that in theory you can go for a treadmill run at midnight. But you won’t, because The Garden Room has fantastic food made with local ingredients (try the green-apple soufflé) and The Potting Shed next door is a cosy bar with a sizeable drinks list. Never mind: soak out your excesses in the warm indoor infinity pool, the even warmer outdoor hot tub, the salt steam room, or lavender and juniper saunas. The soothing therapies include a truffle facial and are designed by Temple Spa, a niche brand based in West Sussex that uses only natural ingredients. The Silent Night Sleep Treatment, with lavender and chamomile oils, pressure-point facial and back massage, will get you purring. But it’s the charming staff and the extras that make this place special: the Champagne Nail Parlour, the log fires, sun terraces, pre-treatment juices and post-massage snacks.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    The Scarlet, Cornwall

    BEST BACK-TO-NATURE HIDEAWAY

    This is a grown-ups-only, wood-and-glass hotel overlooking the deliciously flat and firm-sanded beach at Mawgan Porth. Must-dos include sunset views from the clifftop hot tubs, wake-up dips in the natural reed-cleaned pool after a steam and blissful Ayurvedic-inspired ritual in tented treatment rooms. Relax in a leather chair sipping a lemon verbena tea while Milena sorts out your feet with an organic pedicure by Pinks Boutique (she’s very thorough); it includes vegan SpaRitual polishes to take away with you. Honest, the beautifully named signature facial, will be appreciated by spa-goers who tire of too much product, because it includes lots of massage and uses nutrient-rich, light-of-touch, hand-blended oils from Hampshire skincare company Natural Wisdom. The three- and four-night wellbeing escapes offer a bit more than just a quick fix: choose to de-stress, age gracefully, sleep better or get more energy. For action, try Nordic walking with the easy-going Katie, yoga with Mara, who mixes some useful somatic movement stretches into her practice, and lots of coastal hikes, which help build up an appetite for the excellent meals devised by head chef Tom Hunter. Indulge, but detox the next day with his digestive spa lunch based on the principles of Ayurveda. Staff have a can-do attitude, and what other British hotel has a dedicated meditation space where you can relax?

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath

    BEST FOR ANCIENT TREATMENTS WITH A TWIST

    No wonder there is so much excitement about Bath’s latest arrival. This is how to take the city’s thermal waters in style, and there is nowhere else in Britain like it. To bathe in waters drawn deep from the earth, waters that have to be cooled rather than heated (they are naturally steaming hot, warmed by geothermal energy to between 69°C and 96°C, and bubble up through an artesian well directly from the aquifer that lies beneath the city), is a profound and decadent experience. The newly built colonnaded bathing atrium, sympathetically designed and flooded with natural light, is right on the site of the original Roman Baths upon which the city was founded. The Victorians first discovered them when they were adding a wing onto the Royal United Hospital in the 1860s: just one of this building’s previous incarnations. Yes, you can — and ought to — visit The Roman Baths complex just across the road (it is astonishing: vast, ancient, mysterious, though the waters are untreated so you’re not allowed to touch them), and yes, you could book into the Thermae Bath day spa, also fed by thermal springs and with a rooftop pool. But if you seek privacy, superlative treatments from world-renowned spa-hotel brand YTL — whose other outposts include Pangkor Laut in Malaysia — a top-notch Asian-inspired restaurant and a bed so comfortable you barely move all night, then this is Britain’s most exciting new spa arrival.

    The hotel itself is glossy, big and bold. It won’t win any prizes for exciting or quirky design, and the atmosphere is sadly a little corporate, but it is exactly what high-swinging Americans will want in their city break. The baths are open exclusively to hotel guests from 7am-9am and 8pm-10pm each day; outside of these times you need to book a spa treatment to use them, even if you’re staying at the hotel, which initially seems a little mean but averts overcrowding. There’s a whole circuit set out: it takes about an hour and includes increasingly warm pools, cold shower hoses to blast the lymphatic system, steam rooms, saunas, an ice cove and, finally, the triumphant main atrium pool with various double seats and powerful massage jets, the ultimate being the overhead shoulder blasters. Staff are on hand to remind you how to use the circuit and you can pick between drinking gentle lavender-scented water or little liquid chocolate shots. And the point of it all? It’s fair to say that simply floating and larking about in the pools will annihilate stress, but the mineral-rich water is also a remedy in itself: good for dry skin, good for joint pain, good for muscle tension, arthritis and rheumatism. No wonder they offer private aquatic body treatments where, in the strong arms of a therapist, you are stretched and swished about in the water; it’s deeply relaxing for both mind and body. Other highlights include the Aroma Bar, where you can make up your own personalised sachet of aromatherapy-oil-infused salts (use them in the sauna), and — in a nod to the company’s roots — the signature massages that leave you smelling of lemongrass. Thoughtfully conceived and sensitively executed, this is the spa hotel that Bath, at last, deserves. It is smart, but with a heart. Every member of staff is willing you to have a good time, all of them are 100 per cent behind the vision. You can’t help but feel the Romans would be proud.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Calcot & Spa, Gloucestershire

    BEST FOR ALL THE FAMILY

    This place is as comforting and life-enforcing as being enveloped in the warm embrace of a best friend who immediately knows exactly how to calm your screaming baby. Indeed, many a new mother has resurfaced here for the first time in months. Of the 35 rooms, 13 are dedicated family rooms, some with twin rooms and space for a cot, others, the split-level suites, which have a separate sleeping area for children and bathrooms on both floors. Squidgy edges, proper blackout blinds and a whizzy monitor that connects to the reception desk really show how much this hotel knows about looking after little ones. But beyond the sterilisers, high chairs, cots and changing mats all on hand, and the impressive Ofsted-registered crèche, the real highlight is the spa: one of the most consistently excellent in the country. Top treatments include the Aromatherapy Associates Rose Facial and the essential back, neck, shoulder and scalp massage: great for stiff computer shoulders. There’s also a great little gym, punchy studio classes (including everything from yoga to hula-hooping), an indoor heated pool with views of Laurie Lee fields, and 220 acres of countryside to explore with a dedicated trim trail. You can borrow bicycles for all ages, including tow-alongs for toddlers. Tire yourself out before a lazy wallow in the outdoor hot tub, warmed by a nearby blazing fire, with a protein shake, fresh juice or glass of bubbly in hand. Like life before children.

    Address: Near Tetbury, Gloucestershire


    Telephone: +44 1666 890391


    Website: calcot.co/


    Price: Doubles from £199


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  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Barnsley House, Gloucestershire

    BEST FOR ANTI-AGEING TECHNIQUES

    London skin specialist Medicetics has hooked up with this Cotswolds beauty to launch a new clinic, led by co-founder Dr Geoffrey Mullan, which offers collagen-stimulating therapies, anti-wrinkle treatments and dermal fillers. So now you can book in for whatever’s on the shopping list — lip rejuvenation, face sculpting, stretch-mark reduction — and get away from the hurly-burly of city life at the same time. The hotel grounds are a lovely mix of formal lawns, sun-trap terraces and kitchen gardens, where a family of chickens strut about and you’ll spot chefs from The Potager restaurant picking fresh vegetables; expect simple, beautifully cooked dishes such as smoked-haddock-and-pea risotto and Tamworth pork belly with green beans and apple chutney. In the summer, ask about The Temple, where supper is served in the gardens. Rooms are cosy, with thick duvets on the beds, traditional stone fireplaces and fresh mint on hand for late-night teas (borrow a DVD from the large film library). At the spa itself, which has dry stone walls and bunches of herbs hanging from the beams, all treatments use natural, essential-oil-based Aromatherapy Associates products. Afterwards, wallow in the outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna or steam — or fall asleep in one of the prettiest relaxation rooms anywhere. It’s the most peaceful after-care package you can imagine.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire

    BEST FOR PARTY ANIMALS

    Soho House founder Nick Jones has done it again, as cosy cabin cool lands in the Cotswolds on an epic scale. Soho Farmhouse is the next generation Cowshed: a members’ club/hotel/hamlet, and as close to an American ranch as you’ll get in England. What’s clever is that the rough-around-the-edges look (giant cartwheel lights, mounted cow horns, troughs as sinks in the loos) is entirely in keeping with the have-fun, wholesome feel of the place. One of 40 wood cabins, set among streams and pretty meadow flowers, is your Little House On The Prairie hideaway, with a steel bath on the veranda, a couple of rocking chairs, a wood-burning stove and a little kitchenette with jars of homemade biscuits and stacks of liquor. You may never want to move. But even if you do skip the winter ice rink, cinema, tennis courts, crazy golf and stables, you must make it to the spa, which includes a gym and studio, a beautiful boathouse with an indoor-outdoor pool, steam room and sauna. The Sleepy Cow Body Treatment uses a mix of lavender, lemon and myrtle (a natural sedative) to relieve tension in the spine, before a powerful foot massage and some deep cranial pressure work on the scalp leave you almost snoring. The relaxation room is upbeat and fresh; you can drink Prosecco with pals and natter by an open fire, the music is funky, there’s a Josh Wood hair salon, and there are armchairs and throws to stay snug in. All the Cowshed signature thrills are available: immaculate pedicures, rustic bathtub rituals, mud rasuls to exfoliate and cleanse, and the ever-popular Udderly Gorgeous maternity treatments. The therapy rooms are oases of bare brick walls and white-painted tongue and groove, where you can while away an afternoon before popping into the deli for a freshly squeezed juice, followed by a visit to the shop, which sells lovely homeware, including Stanley flasks and Tweedmill blankets. There are bike routes and walks planned out should you wish, but really it’s all about pretending you are lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival in the smartest shack imaginable, from which you can order cocktails to arrive in a vintage milk float.

  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Yeotown, Devon

    BEST FOR EFFECTIVE CLEANSING

    This gorgeous converted farm near Barnstaple was created by reliably good vinyasa-flow yoga teacher Mercedes Ngoh Sieff and her husband Simon, your charming surfer host. They’ll have you working hard on the Yeotox, the five-day health and fitness escape that runs each week from Wednesday to Sunday. The focus is on the state of the mind just as much as that of the body — as Simon says, it’s about ‘losing the weight of being, as well as losing weight’, which you’ll do too; most guests drop between 3lbs to 5lbs. You’re given a mental cleanse by being encouraged to let go of planning and scheduling, and activities include meditation to work on clearing the mind and cultivating a cheerier outlook on life. Foggy brains are blasted daily with sea air on coastal hikes. Trainers will have sporty guests running stretches of the beach, while anyone less able can amble at their own pace. There is energising core fitness, yoga-inspired stretching and qigong sessions for body strength. Each day concludes with a muscle-melting massage from unfussy local therapists and a sauna session. The dairy-, wheat-, gluten-, caffeine-, alcohol- and meat-free menu is exceptionally good, from the broccoli, orange and ginger Yeotini to the spring green pea soup. At the end of the week sign up for the online health tips, Yeotown Life, to keep up the good work. Next year look out for five new eco-suites and a meditation platform over the River Yeo.

    Address: Snapper, Devon


    Telephone: +44 1271 343803


    Website: www.yeotown.com


    Price: A five-day retreat costs £1,870 full board, including all activities and massages.


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  • The 14 best spas in the UK

    Grayshott, Surrey

    Grayshott Health Spa has now closed.

    BEST FOR A DIGESTIVE REBOOT

    Picture a boarding school in the 1960s: rolling parkland, mullioned windows, a panelled dining room and staff who are polite, motherly even, but very, very firm. This is not, it’s made clear, a detox programme; it’s all about gut re-education. The subtle but significant difference is that the digestive system is repaired, or ‘healed and sealed’, as they like to sing. Bad bacteria is flushed out, good bacteria pumped in, and easily digested food introduced. Your blood is analysed, body composition examined — down to fat distribution and protein mass — diet deconstructed and individual goals set. The good news is that these targets are hit by focusing on food and not exercise. The bad news is that the food is unremittingly regimented: no alcohol, grains, sugars, caffeine, dairy or puddings, limited carbs and barely any fruit. Instead, there’s sea trout with fennel and coconut milk or smoked duck breast with lentil and lime ragout. You become fixated on your next meal and learn to spin them out — a good thing, as chewing is great for digestion; you’re even encouraged to chew your soup. By day four you start to feel full, headachy withdrawal symptoms are gone and your stomach is flatter. Distractions include heaps of free classes, hydrotherapy baths, abdominal massages and castor oil compresses. Be sure to opt for the faded charm of a Manor House room; the extension-wing rooms are bland by comparison.

    Address: Headley Road, Grayshott, near Hindhead, Surrey


    Telephone: +44 1428 602020


    Website: www.grayshottspa.com


    Price: A seven-night retreat costs from £1,495 full board, including consultations and treatments.


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