Peace and luxury: Time for a spa break


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Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, North Wales

Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, North Wales

Where: Near the picturesque market town of Conwy and a short hop from Snowdonia in the far northwest of Wales.

The lowdown: Nestled in 200 acres of wooded parkland in the hills above Conwy Castle and with epic views of Snowdon, Bodysgallen Hall is a former stately home with parts dating back to the 13th century. After falling into disrepair, it was renovated to become a luxurious spa hotel. 

The hall offers beautiful gardens, woodland walks, stunning interiors and a three-AA Rosette restaurant. To enter the main building is like stepping back in time, with a hall perfect for sitting by the fire, a grand drawing room and exciting little stairways to discover. Within the hall are 15 guest rooms, plus a further 16 cottage suites in the grounds. Rooms are spacious with freshly baked shortbread to welcome you, and our cottage had a separate seating area and a huge bed.

Plus it was not far from the spa, which was useful for shuffling over in our dressing gowns and slippers.

Our evening meal was a highlight, with three courses of delicious seasonal food with a particular focus on Welsh produce, such as local fish from Llandudno. The cheese board had the largest selection I have seen in a long time, which we managed to make room for while admiring the view of the mountains.

USP: The spa has a relaxing garden terrace to take in the fresh country air or enjoy an evening drink, while inside there is a huge pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool spa and gym. The attention to detail in the spa – and the hotel – is second to none, with complimentary drinks after your treatment, and superb attentive service in the hall. All this and only three hours by train from London.

Who you’ll see in the steam room: Ladies enjoying a pampering day plus young and older couples on a romantic weekend retreat – it’s a perfect weekend away for couples of all ages.

Time for one treatment: The spa has an extensive range on offer, but I loved the Darphin Deep Soothing Facial, a calming treatment using gentle oils which gave my skin a smooth, even complexion. My husband had a stress-relieving Deep Rebalancing Massage, which he also loved. We both left feeling completely rejuvenated.

Caroline Leeming

Stays at Bodysgallen Hall (01492 584466, bodysgallen.com) start at £180 per night, b&b, based on two sharing and includes use of the spa. The Deep Soothing Facial costs £65 for 60 minutes.

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Ockenden Manor, West Sussex

Ockenden Manor, West Sussex

Where: In Cuckfield, near Haywards Heath in West Sussex.

The lowdown: Ockenden is a beautiful Elizabethan manor house set in nine acres of grounds. 

With just 28 bedrooms there is a family feel to the place, and all the rooms are named after members of the two families who have owned the manor since 1520. 

USP: Its peace and quiet. It transports you to another world where time stands still. We stayed in a Jasper suite in the spa building, which is more modern than the original house, yet that doesn’t take away from its comfort. The beds were heavenly and I slept like a log. We ordered afternoon tea in our room, which was beautifully presented with Villeroy & Boch china, crisp white napkins and proper old-fashioned cutlery.

Shutters divide the bathroom from the bedroom, but you can open them wide to enjoy the magnificent view from the comfort of a bubble bath. Our room also had a terrace, which would be a stunning place to sit outside in summer.

The bar is cosy and there is another elegant drawing room with sink-in sofas to while away a lazy afternoon. As the main house is more traditional, it is requested that mobile phones are not brought to dinner so you can focus on the delicious food and good conversation.

We sampled a marvellous mackerel starter as well as a wild risotto with brie. The mains of sea bass and a vegetarian gourmand plate were heavenly, but even they were surpassed by the desserts of lemon tart with blackberry sorbet and millefeuille apple pie. 

The spa is modern and small but perfectly formed. It has eight treatment rooms including a couple’s room and an indoor pool that leads to an outdoor heated one overlooking the countryside. 

Who you’ll see in the steam room: Lots of couples enjoying quality time as well as big family gatherings celebrating special occasions.

Time for one treatment: Try the Elemental Rebalancing Ritual. Created exclusively for Ockenden Manor, it is one of the best treatments I have ever experienced. At two hours long you are buffed, moisturised and pampered beyond belief.

Hot Thai compresses get rid of toxins and your limbs are gently stretched to energise the body. My feet were exfoliated, face cleansed and plumped, and it was finished off with a glass of Ridgeview Estate fizz, an apt choice in this quintessential English manor house, and a box of handmade chocolates. The hours whizzed by and even though I was awake, I found myself drifting off and even snoring. A very weird experience! 

Margaret Hussey

Stays at Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa start at £199 per night, based on two sharing a standard room, midweek, on a b&b basis. Call 01444 416111 or visit hshotels.co.uk to book. The Elemental Rebalancing Ritual costs £185.

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The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa, Suffolk

The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa, Suffolk

Where: In Lavenham, a picturesque medieval town in the heart of the Suffolk countryside. 

The lowdown: This 15th-century former wool hall is now a quaint, luxurious four-star hotel and a popular location for small weddings, ladies who lunch and tourists. Low-ceilinged corridors lined with beams lead to several cosy lounge areas, a bar decorated with the Second World War mementos and 45 bedrooms, all the perfect blend of traditional style and modern-day comfort.

The hotel has plenty of nooks and crannies for settling down for a cup of tea or a bite to eat, but for dinner, make a reservation at the Gallery restaurant, which serves elegant but hearty British cuisine, often accompanied by a pianist. 

The Weavers’ House Spa is a fairly new addition and can be reached by walking through the hotel’s charming garden terrace. Like most of the buildings in Lavenham, it’s named after its former industry and, in contrast to the hotel’s decor, is light and lofty. There’s no swimming pool but instead a sunken jacuzzi in the courtyard, plus a steam room and sauna.

Lavenham is a small, quaint old wool town. Picture-perfect lanes are lined with crooked houses (Harry Potter fans will recognise parts of it as Godric’s Hollow in the films), endless tea rooms and gift shops, and for a more in-depth history lesson, the Lavenham Guildhall is worth a visit.

USP: The Swan offers a hotel steeped in history with a contemporary, airy spa located in a fascinating town, meaning there’s something for everyone, whether you’re popping in for a quick treatment or exploring the area. As a Suffolk girl and something of a regular spa frequenter, I know there’s nothing else like this in the area.

Who you’ll see in the steam room: Couples, small groups of friends and mother-and-daughter duos will all feel comfortable here, and both the spa and the hotel get a lot of day guests.

Time for one treatment: Try the 60-minute Drift Away treatment (£70), which involves a de-stressing neck, back and shoulder massage plus a facial, using Temple Spa oils and products.

The treatment was as relaxing as its name suggests, but it was the number of little extra touches that made this something special: a warm, squishy water bed to lie on, a refreshing sorbet to finish with and a choice of herbal teas and biscuits to be enjoyed in the comfy relaxation room afterwards.

Laura Mulley

Rooms start at £185 per night for two sharing including a full Suffolk breakfast and two-hour use of the spa facilities. Dinner from the à la carte menu is from £39 per person for three courses. To book, call 01787 247477 or visit theswanatlavenham.co.uk.

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The Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel & Spa, Surrey

The Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel & Spa, Surrey

Where: Situated on the banks of the River Thames in Egham, Surrey.

The lowdown: The modern hotel lies in a highly historic area – not only is it 10 minutes from Windsor, it also sits opposite the meadows where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.

Rooms are furnished in a contemporary style and luxurious feather bedding ensures a relaxing night’s sleep. We stayed in one of the dog-friendly duplex rooms (it’s worth noting that dogs are not allowed in the rest of the hotel, though), which was large, comfortably furnished and came with posh dog food, doggy bowls and a special bed for our furry friend. Floor-to-ceiling windows and double doors that cover the back wall of the room allow for a glorious view of the river path. 

When it comes to food you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Leftbank restaurant serves buffet-based grazing while The Lock Bar & Kitchen offers a range of hearty home-style dishes to fill you up after a walk along the river.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling peckish, The Lounge offers light bites to be enjoyed with drinks in an informal setting. Once you’re ready to hit the spa, you’ll find a soothing and calm oasis away from the hubbub. The pretty mosaic tiled pool is perfect for swimming lengths after your treatment or for simply lounging by on one of the comfortable day beds.

USP: You can do as much or as little as you like at this spa. The studio hosts regular fitness classes while the fully-equipped gym has everything an exercise bunny could possibly need.

If, like I was, you’re after relaxation, there’s a eucalyptus steam room, sauna and whirlpool bath poolside. Outdoors there are even more options with tennis courts (coaching is available), a glorious outdoor pool that is open in the summer months and the pièce de résistance is without a doubt the riverside hot tub – the perfect place to enjoy a drink as the sun sets.

Who you’ll see in the steam room: Couples, ladies who lunch, locals with memberships and the occasional family enjoying the pool. 

Time for one treatment: I opted for the ESPA Aromatic Full Body Massage (£70 for 55 minutes). Pick from six blended warm aromatherapy oils to unwind, soothe tired muscles and relieve tension.

I chose to forego the hot stones that are also available, preferring a traditional kneading. After a brief consultation, my therapist chose to start on my front to allow for added time spent working on the tension knots in my shoulders. Walking out of the treatment room I felt inches taller.

Antonia Kraskowski

Weekend stays at The Runnymede-on-Thames (01784 220600, therunnymede.co.uk) start from £169 per room per night based on two sharing a standard double on a b&b basis.



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