Best of British spas

by Jane.Anderson

The number of spas has boomed in recent years, and the good news is you don’t have to travel far to experience the best - just head for these favourites here at home

Foxhills Club & Resort, Surrey
The quintessentially English Foxhills Club has revved up its spa credentials with the opening of a £5m Health Spa. While many spas opt for eastern Zen influences, Foxhills Club has cleverly taken post-war seaside Britain as its theme, with striking retouched photos throughout. The lido beauty contest that graces one vast wall of the beautiful indoor pool is a sight to behold and reminds us just how far we’ve come in terms of pampering. But never mind the art - what about the treatments? I’m happy to say this is a spa that doesn’t disappoint, with Elemis, NEON by Natural Magic and nutritional products by Creative Nature on board.
The trump card of Foxhills Health Club & Spa is its spa garden, a brilliant and brave concept for a UK spa. There’s an organic natural swimming pool, which purifies its water using plants and minerals and looks divine. The sauna is housed in a pinky-red wooden house next to an inviting outdoor hot tub. Spa-goers are encouraged to pick their choice of herbs from the garden and infuse them in the sauna by putting them on the racks. There’s a t'ai chi and yoga lawn, eight tall yew-hedge cubicles for outdoor treatments, couples hammocks, swings, Balinese daybeds... and a 1950s red telephone box for ordering drinks. Roll on a scorching summer!
One Spa at Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh
One, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, can lay claim to being one of Europe’s most advanced city spas. Nestling in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle and just minutes' walk from the city’s famous Princes Street, this six-storey building has three split-level areas of spa and is connected to the hotel via an elevated glass walkway. The spa has a holistic approach – in the treatments, heat and hydro experiences, fitness activities, relaxation methods and spa cuisine – making for a truly rounded spa experience.
Facilities include a state-of-the-art gym, a 19-metre ozone swimming pool with infinity edge, 11 multi-purpose treatment rooms, hydrotherapy room and the thermal suite, with its hammam, aroma grotto, rock sauna, bio sauna, tepidarium, laconium and lifestyle showers. If all that doesn’t get you feeling rejuvenated, there may be no hope! One Spa’s top attraction is its rooftop hydropool, a stainless steel pool cut into the top of the building, with spectacular views of the Edinburgh skyline. Dramatically lit at night, the 35-degree mineral rich water evaporates into a soft mist in the air above the outdoor pool. All you need now is a glass of champers!
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
This city spa is a wonderful subterranean paradise. Guests step from the grandeur of the hotel into a minimalist yet exotic world of Eastern calm. There are eight treatment suites all subtly different, with sculptural features and a palette of lacquers, plasters and timbers, with calming views through the glass shower out to the gravel garden and light beyond. Well-trained staff encourage guests to book blocks of time rather than specific treatments so that they can be tailored to how you’re feeling on the day. A Time Ritual may include Padabhyanga foot therapy, an Ayurvedic-style foot soak, exfoliation and massage, the Shirobhyanga head massage or facials appropriate to skin type. Guests are also invited to arrive 45 minutes before their treatments to fully immerse themselves in the heat and water oasis.
Calcot Spa at Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire
Visiting the Cotswolds is a bit like having a spa treatment in itself, with its soothing honey-coloured Cotswold stone and relaxing vistas. Calcot Manor Spa has a great balance of countryside chic and high-class treatments that wouldn’t look out of place in the most urban of spas. The signature offering is its Luxury Bliss treatment, a full face and body experience including body brushing, a full body massage and facial using Aromatherapy Associates products; it lasts almost two hours. For women, Calcot Manor Spa uses Renew Rose face and body oils and for men the Balance range.
Calcot Manor Spa is particularly suited to romance, with a Twilight Spa package offered throughout the week. From 5.45pm Twilight Spa-goers are offered the full enjoyment of the gym, indoor heated pool, steam room, sauna and sexy outdoor hot tub beside a blazing log fire. They then take their pick of a half-hour treatment such as an energising Guinot facial, a scalp massage, Jessica manicure or men’s executive manicure, body polish, back massage or dry floatation. The evening is finished off with supper in the hotel’s own cosy gastropub, the Gumstool Inn.
Sequoia Spa at The Grove, Hertfordshire
The Grove has self-consciously styled itself as London’s ‘groovy grand’ country estate and is, in fact, the ancestral home of the Earls of Clarendon, set in 300 acres of private Hertfordshire parkland. It’s only 18 miles from central London, making it the ideal urban day-spa retreat. While Hugh Grant tees off on the golf course, Victoria Beckham has sampled its Sequoia Spa, which truly is one of the UK’s best. Its contemporary, sleek design, using natural materials, infuses a sense of calm, balance and tranquility in the original listed stable buildings.
This is one of only 10 sites in the world to offer ESPA Ayurvedic treatments. The spa’s main pool is a thing of beauty, with its vaulted ceiling and chic black slate lining. There are separate male and female heat experience areas (including a crystal steam room, Finnish sauna and Turkish hammam), 12 large treatment rooms with en-suite showers and a luxurious VIP couples suite, which is fully self-contained. The therapeutic saline water vitality pool has 11 individually controlled massage zones. The sunken ornamental garden, juice bar and private spa dining add to the sense of pampered wellbeing. Don’t miss the Grove Honey Wrap, using honey from the hotel’s own beehives.
Cowshed Spa at St Moritz Hotel, Cornwall
The Cowshed Spa at the new St Moritz hotel, on Cornwall’s trendy north coast, near Polzeath and Rock, is a joy to behold. With sister spas at Babington House and Shoreditch House private members' club, it comes from good stock and has put a spring in the step of Cornwall’s spa scene. There’s a sense of humour about Cowshed that much of the spa world lacks. Themed around the original cowshed at Babington House, all products are wonderfully named, such as Cow Pat Moisturising Hand Lotion, Udderly Gorgeous Indulgent Bath Foam and so on. Décor is daring and glam in public areas, while treatment rooms are mini, rustic-chic cabins that immediately calm the soul. The Sun & Sea signature treatment is two hours of bliss, beginning with a full body brushing followed by a deep exfoliation, using sea salt immersed in peppermint oil, and a deep-sea detoxifying body wrap. A refreshing facial and relaxing massage completes the job.
Seaham Hall is one of those extraordinary finds: a top class country house hotel on the wild County Durham coast (though only 20 minute' drive from Newcastle). It was here in 1815 that the romantic poet Lord Byron married Annabella, the youngest daughter of Seaham Hall’s first owner, Sir Ralph Milbanke. The Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall, linked to the hotel by a magical underground walkway, is even more of a revelation. You can almost feel yourself unwind as the water trickles and a magnificent elephant greets you.
Oriental in design and feng shui-d to within an inch of its life, the spa offers over 45 different treatments. Built in the round, it also feels like a great space to explore, a property top quality spa with enough to keep you occupied even if you weren’t having a treatment. Facilities include a 20-metre ozone-cleaned pool with massage stations, sanarium with crystal light therapy, sauna with quartz crystal, black granite steam room with amethyst crystal, snail showers, hammam, hydrotherapy bath with 12 massage stations, ice fountain, plunge pools, outdoor hot tubs and roof garden.