With spas given the go-ahead to reopen their doors, relaxing spa hotel staycations are back on the travel agenda.
While the spa experience will look a little different – you can expect increased cleaning frequency, therapists wearing PPE, and to book treatments, pool and relaxation area slots ahead of time – a silver lining is that limited guest numbers to aid social distancing mean an even more peaceful atmosphere. Whether it’s a pampering countryside break or a city-slick urban recharge you’re after, here are the best UK spa hotels to book…
Note: Steam rooms and saunas in England and Northern Ireland are allowed to reopen subject to social distancing measures – Scotland and Wales are currently awaiting guidance on when theirs can open. At the moment, most hotel spas are only open to resident guests, some are implementing pre-treatment temperature checks, offering a stripped-back treatment list, and asking guests to change in-room and arrive robe-ready. Given that government guidance is liable to change quickly, we’d recommend calling the hotel to double check the latest rules when you book.
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As famed for its pretty honey-hued Georgian buildings as the ancient thermal waters it was founded on, Bath makes for a brilliant wellness break. The place to bed down is the Gainsborough Bath Spa, which has 99 bedrooms with restful monochrome palettes and is the only hotel with a spa directly fed by Bath’s mineral-rich spring water. A handful of spa bedrooms even have the thermal water piped straight into roll top bathtubs.
The Spa Village’s centrepiece is a dramatic sapphire mosaic-tiled thermal pool surrounded by Romanesque columns. This, combined with two smaller soaking pools, an ice alcove and relaxation terrace, forms an invigorating self-guided bathing circuit. Unknotting aromatherapy and Swedish essential-oil massages are on offer in 10 treatment rooms, and the gym and complimentary weekend yoga classes will keep active types happy. For the moment, the spa’s signature watsu-style aqua therapies are on hold.
Doubles from £340, room-only, including spa access.
Set in the New Forest National Park, where wild ponies meander through woodland and violet-tinged heather scrub, Lime Wood is perhaps the ultimate rural retreat. The 13th-century lodge, transformed into a country house hotel with glorious grounds, has cosy lounges with roaring fires, an Italian restaurant helmed by Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder and 33 rooms with botanical artwork, antique furniture and bloom-festooned cushions.
Facilities at the calming, three-level Herb House spa include a 16-metre indoor lap pool (floor-to-ceiling glass windows mean front crawl comes with a side of forest views), two hydropools and 10 treatment rooms for unknotting massages – using seaweed-infused VOYA or Bamford products – reflexology sessions and OPI mani-pedis. Matt Roberts personal trainers are on hand in the Technogym to ramp up workout regimes, there are al-fresco pilates and yoga classes in the herb-filled rooftop garden, and delicious, healthy meals – think freshly-pressed greens and ginger juices and nori rolls – at Raw and Cure restaurant.
Doubles from £395, room-only, including spa access.
Surrounded by 132 acres of parkland by the tranquil River Maine, 40 minutes from Belfast, the atmosphere at the 124-room Galgorm is refreshingly relaxed and jolly (it has a 400-strong gin library for one thing). Accommodation ranges from business-style bedrooms to Scandi-style cottages and rustic log cabins. There are five restaurants, including laidback Italian joint Fratellli and fancy 3 AA Rosette-awarded River Room, plus rousing live music each night at Gillies Pub.
The property’s Spa Village is one of Europe’s largest thermal spas, and flashpoints include an outdoor infinity hydrotherapy pool, riverside hot tubs for leisurely soaks with a glass of fizz, an indoor pool, snow cabin, salt room, aroma grotto and herb caldarium. Massages use Aromatherapy Associates oil, and the Forest & Photo Therapy combines a massage with a no-touch Dermalux LED facial (where coloured lights are used to target concerns) and a mud mask. For post-relaxation fuel, order poke bowls and virgin watermelon margaritas at timber-dome restaurant Elements.
Doubles from £178, B&B, including spa access.
A seaside break is an instant reviver, and the adults-only Scarlet, with its cliffside setting above Mawgan Porth’s butterscotch sands, eco-architecture and wonderful spa, is a breath of fresh air for the soul. The 39 rooms – all pale wooden floorboards, decorated in mossy green and dusky blues – each have a sea view, be it full-facing or from an upper-level sitting room.
The spa also has seascape panoramas from the indoor pool, outdoor natural pool (freshwater, filtered by a living reed bed filtration system) and two clifftop hot tubs. Hour-long Ayurvedic treatments (tasters of the normal four-hour journeys), and hot herb and oat-filled poultice massages take place in six treatment rooms. Afterwards, laze in slumber-inducing hanging canvas pods, do outdoor yoga and tai chi, or head out surfing. A visit to the restaurant for a cream tea is a must (just be sure to layer jam before clotted cream, in keeping with the Cornish tradition).
Doubles from £210, B&B, including spa access.
Historic Rudding Park, a quick drive from former spa town Harrogate, will suit spa junkies looking for a retreat with a modern, unstuffy vibe. The Georgian Hall turned 90-room property has comfortable rooms with colour-pop touches, 300 acres of gardens, a cinema, two golf courses and 3 AA Rosette Horto, where the likes of dainty Japanese seven-spice tempura courgettes and flower-strewn desserts are served.
It’s the innovative spa, fed in part by natural spring waters, that’s the real masterstroke. Alongside an indoor pool, juniper log sauna, rasul (for mud masks and scrubs), nail studio and gym, there are audio meditation pods, an AV relaxation room and Mandala colour therapy zone. Outside on the shrub-filled rooftop, there’s even more: a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, glass-fronted sauna with astonishing panoramas of the Yorkshire countryside, sunlight therapy room and oxygen pod. Treatments run the gamut from Elemis and hot stone massages to flower wraps, and for something completely different, there are bolt-on CBD-experiences too.
Doubles from £348, B&B, including four hours’ spa access.
In 1990, long before it became de rigueur, Chewton Glen was one of the first country house hotels to create a purpose-built spa, and it has been winning accolades ever since. The straight-out-of-Austen hotel sits in 130 acres of grounds on the fringe of the New Forest National Park, and many ingredients used at the Dining Room come from the kitchen garden. Rooms range from traditional affairs with mallard-print cushions, mahogany furniture and rose colour palettes to kooky high-in-the-canopy tree house suites with hot tubs on the balconies.
Fresh from a revamp, the 1,350sqm spa has a 17-metre Roman-style indoor lap pool, a hydrotherapy pool and outdoor whirlpool. On the spa menu are Jessica mani-pedis, Mii make-up sessions and oil massages. Can’t decide? Book a slot and the therapist will craft something bespoke. Junior spa treatments, a nine-hole par 3 golf course and tennis courts also make Chewton a good family pick.
Doubles from £370/tree houses from £1,150, B&B, including spa access.
Dormy House Hotel and Spa, Worcestershire, The Cotswolds
A real bucolic charmer, this 39-room hotel just outside Broadway village is about as cosy and convivial as it gets. There are lounges with deep leather armchairs and flickering fires to retreat to after yomps through the Cotswolds countryside, and slow-food Back Garden restaurant for comforting celeriac and truffle risotto and apple tarte tatin. Bedrooms blend clean-lined Scandi-style interiors with exposed wooden beams, which nod to Dormy House’s 17th-century farmhouse roots.
At the House Spa, there’s a showstopper indoor infinity pool (candlelit for added zen), a bubbling hydrotherapy hot tub, well-equipped gym and thermal suite with Finnish cabin and salt steam room. The treatment menu includes Aaahhh! – a sugar buff scrub and warm oil massage combo – a soothing back cure massage (by Beata Aleksandrowicz), Gelish mani-pedis and – from September – a new flotation tank experience. It’s hoped the full treatment list featuring Temple Spa and Natura Bisse will be resumed soon.
Doubles from £269, B&B, including spa access.
Want a spa break with a horticultural hit? This ivy-covered buttermilk-stone Jacobean country pile in West Sussex with acres of beech and oak woodland, rhododendron-filled ornamental gardens and breathtaking South Downs panoramas has it covered. The old-world main house – all ornate peacock ceiling carvings, dark wood panelling and 18th-century oil portraits – also has two acclaimed modern restaurants, Camellia and Tom Kemble at The Pass. Suites are relaxing spaces with tactile, velvet throws, fireplaces, bold striped wallpaper, mosaic-tiled bathrooms and hydrotherapy tubs.
The real serenity however is at the 44,000 square foot, meadow-roofed spa. For swimming, as well as an indoor infinity pool and outdoor hydrotherapy number, there’s a back-to-nature wild swimming pond. Unwind-in-an-instant body massages use bespoke products, there’s a beauty bar for glam Jessica mani-pedis, a spin studio and gym, and plant-based food – such as the Wasted Burger, made from leftover vegetable pulp – at Botanica restaurant.
Doubles from £395, B&B, including spa access.
Not many spas are akin to immersive art, but that’s exactly the case at Beaverbrook’s Coach House Health Club and Spa. Offering a zeitgeist-y foil to the 19th-century Victorian mansion and its sprawling grounds, the spa’s vivid stained-glass ceiling makes you feel as though you’re wrapped up in a rainbow. Wellness here focuses on the power of nature, meaning AS Apothecary oil massages, vibrational sound therapy and purifying fire ceremonies. The indoor pool even looks as though flowers bob on the water’s surface, plus there’s a splash pool, English Bath House, thermal suite, gym, and relaxation room. Spoiling spa aside, Beaverbrook is – in keeping with the spirit of its former owner, press baron Lord Beaverbrook, who was renowned for his Gatsby-esque parties – all polished razzle-dazzle. Some of the bedrooms, decked out with abstract art prints and antiques, are named after his pals including Rudyard Kipling and Elizabeth Taylor. Evenings can be spent in the cinema, feasting on sushi at the Japanese Grill or rustic Mediterranean at the Garden House, before green tea pisco sours at art-deco style Sir Frank’s Bar.
Doubles from £385, room-only, including spa access.
Corinthia, Charing Cross, London
Moments from the Thames, and a hop, skip and a jump from Trafalgar Square, the five-star Corinthia has one of the capital’s best spas in a killer location. Grand is the watchword: bronze-clad lift doors decorated with casts of leaves from St James’ Park, a wow-factor glass dome ceiling and Baccarat chandelier, two occasion restaurants – Kerridge’s Bar and Grill and European-style brasserie The Northall – and bedrooms that channel smart London residence with leather furniture and Calacatta marble bathrooms.
Four-floor ESPA Life at Corinthia is 3,300 square metres of urban glam, with monochrome marble touches and a serious wellness offering (the expert team cover everything from nutrition to TCM). There are 17 pods for ESPA treatments and a thermal floor with pool, ice fountain and glass-walled sauna. PT-led riverside runs and HIIT classes take place in nearby Embankment Gardens, the BodySPace gym is open 24/7, and there’s a Daniel Galvin Hair Salon to ensure your locks look as good as the swish surrounds.
Doubles from £580, room-only, including spa access.