AS party-season approaches, we reveal the top three spa locations for a pamper session and what not to miss out on while you unwind there.
Sopwell House Hertfordshire
Writer Emma Ledger learns how to switch off at this tranquil spa in St Albans.
THE PAD: Sopwell House is a vast villa set in 12 acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens.
The main house dates back to 1603, though today, classic Georgian elements combine with refined contemporary design – think statement flock wallpaper and deep, luxe sofas. The 128 bedrooms are thoughtfully designed, generously sized and spotlessly clean.
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THE SPA: There are two on-site spas: Cottonmill and The Club at Cottonmill. The former is a great retreat in its own right, or upgrade to the latter to experience laid-back indulgence designed to shed all thoughts of your to-do list.
As well as the state-of-the-art gym, there are saunas, steam rooms, a whisper room (a serene chill-out zone set around a fireplace) and a hydro-pool with plenty of comfy places to curl up with a book. The Japandi-style spa garden – designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal-winner Ann-Marie Powell – has hot tubs, water features and a Love-Island-worthy fire pit.
There are loungers galore, each with a QR code to order drinks directly to you, but if you manage to nab a four-poster day bed, you may never leave.
REFUEL: With a menu that fuses British and Mediterranean cuisine, The Brasserie serves all day, and it’s so relaxed there’s no need to change out of your dressing gown. I opted for the three-course menu, great value at £24.99, starting with gravlax, followed by a legendary burger.
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I then headed back to the hot tub for a few hours, before returning to the sun-dappled courtyard for dessert. For fine Asian dining, book into the newly opened Omboo for sushi, sashimi, rice dishes, meat skewers and possibly the world’s best-tasting broccoli, cooked in ginger and Japanese wine.
DON’T MISS: The innovative loungers in the Deep Relaxation Room, which cocoon you in their softly vibrating, womb-like surface.
BOOK IT: Rooms cost from £239 per night, including breakfast (Prideofbritainhotels.com).
Careys Manor & SenSpa Hampshire
Celebrity Editor Kelly Allen escapes the city to unwind on a mini break in the New Forest.
THE PAD: Located in the serene New Forest, this spa hotel is perfect for stressed-out city-dwellers. From the moment you arrive at the 18th-century house, you’re treated like the lady (or lord) of the manor.
My Oakwood Superior room was huge, airy and modern, but if you prefer more character, opt for a Manor room with a four-poster bed or a Garden room with a private terrace.
THE SPA: SenSpa, the hotel’s award-winning Thai spa, has a full hydrotherapy suite, and with more than 40 different treatments, it’s impossible not to feel zen. After a 60-minute Essential Relaxation Massage, I was floating out of the room.
If you can tear yourself away from the spa, the hotel’s concierge team has a wealth of local knowledge and you can borrow wellies and order a picnic to set off on a walk in the woods.
REFUEL: With authentic French cooking at Le Blaireau, a taste of Thailand at Zen Garden Restaurant and modern British cuisine at Cambium, you’re spoilt for choice.
The latter is all about laid-back fine dining – there’s no need to dress for dinner, and it has one of the largest collections of English wines in the country, plus a brilliant sommelier on hand. If you do venture out, walk to lunch at the Fleur De Lys in Pilley, believed to be the New Forest’s oldest pub, traced back to 1096. The food is delicious and the open fire is the perfect place to while away an afternoon (Fleurdelys-pilley.co.uk).
DON'T MISS: Keep your eye out for the 3,000 wild ponies that have roamed the area since the end of the Ice Age.
BOOK IT: The Ultimate SenSleep Spa Break is priced from £273 per person, based on two people sharing, and includes breakfast and dinner, a spa treatment and use of the hydrotherapy facilities (Careysmanor.com).
Ragdale Hall Spa Leicestershire
Writer Helen Wright enjoys countryside views from a lush infinity pool.
THE PAD: This luxury retreat has been hidden in the glorious Leicestershire hills since 1785, a sanctuary for those looking for the ultimate escape. Explore the gardens, play croquet or borrow bikes for a cruise around the grounds.
When the sun is shining, the outdoor pool on the edge of the hill can fool you into believing you’re in Tuscany. Beautifully furnished rooms offer modern amenities, plus breakfast in bed. Fluffy robes are de rigueur and you don’t even need to dress for dinner if you don’t want to.
THE SPA: The thermal spa has a candlelit pool, volcanic salt room, rose sauna and outdoor waterfall. There are plenty of hidden corners to steal some me-time, but if you want to join other guests, there are excellent classes – from aqua yoga to spinning, make-up tutorials and group hikes.
The spa has 50 treatment rooms for traditional and holistic therapies, too. I opted for a head, neck and shoulder massage, followed by a dip in the stunning rooftop infinity pool as the sun was setting.
REFUEL: There are two restaurants, as well as cafes and a bar, and all full-day and overnight spa packages include food. Lunch is a buffet affair with a few cheeky treats. I devoured vegetarian Thai curry, followed by a delectable chocolate mousse. Dinner’s more lavish, with a candlelit meal in the Georgian dining room.
The à la carte menu has indulgent options, such as roasted lamb rump with smoky mash, English asparagus, watercress velouté and carrot crisps. Free tea and coffee are available throughout the afternoon, although the biggest challenge is resisting the carrot and orange cake at the Verandah bar.
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DON’T MISS: The beautiful art-deco Twilight bar, serving classic and creative cocktails in a lavish, Gatsby-style lounge. The rhubarb negroni, £11.25, is another nod to Italy, while a non-alcoholic rosebud is the ideal nightcap.
BOOK IT: Spa packages start from £75 per person. The seven-night Ultimate Experience Spa Break costs from £174 per person, per night, including meals (Ragdalehall.co.uk).
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