Spas have come a long way from their draconian calorie-counted past and these days are ideal places to relax and unwind. Kate de la Chapelle visited two revamped spas to see what guests can expect...
I’ve always loved spas - the chance to kick off your normal attire and pad around for a couple of days in a bathrobe and slippers is my idea of heaven. And it seems the hundreds of others who choose to enjoy a day or more at one of the many spas in the UK whether to celebrate a hen party, have some well-deserved ‘me time’ or simply top up on their beauty treatments.
The Day Spa at Whittlebury Hall, near Towcester, Northamptonshire, and Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa in Leicestershire are two award-winning spas which have both recently been given swanky new makeovers, meaning guests at both can expect even greater levels of comfort and luxury at them, as well as new treatments on offer.
Whittlebury’s new The Day Spa For Him or For Her Day package is a great value top-to-toe pamper day offering all you need to indulge with friends or family. It costs from £109 per person, depending on peak times, and you get a lot for your money, including full use of the heat and ice experiences, full use of the spa and the leisure club facilities, a two-course buffet lunch, 25-minute energising express facial, 25-minute soothing back, neck and shoulder massage, 25-minute Jessica express manicure or men’s hand grooming, and a 25-minute Jessica express pedicure or men’s foot grooming.
The spa layout has been revamped to include a new Espa area and more treatment rooms, while bedrooms have also been tastefully redecorated in relaxing shades of grey with new air conditioning, plasma televisions, furniture and more. You also now receive a fitness timetable with your spa package details, so you can schedule whether or not to have a go at aqua aerobics in the main pool, do a gym bootcamp or relax and stretch, or simply chill all day. We chose the latter.
If you get chance to stay overnight, make sure you book a table at award winning Murrays restaurant in Whittlebury Hall, which thoroughly deserves its two AA Rosettes. You cannot wear your bathrobes in here - quite rightly - but will want to dress up to enjoy the fine dining provided.
After canapes and drinks in the main lounge, we were led through to our table where the chef served us an amuse bouche of sweet potato and chorizo oil soup with homemade bread - scrumptious. Starters were Devonshire crab with tomato, caviar and sorrel, £12, for me and ham, egg and crisps, £10, for my partner. This was no ordinary ham and egg though, but a dish fit for a king and looking like a piece of artwork . . . what’s more, it tasted as good as it looked, as did my meaty crab starter.
Main courses of tasting of pork with fondant, swede, piccallili and apple jus, £25, followed for my other half, which he described as a match made in heaven. The pork was, he said, exquisite and although he’d never tried piccallili before, he added this surely couldn’t be topped. My main course of aged fillet of beef with pomme anna, onions, watercress and smoked bone marrow, £30, was generous in size and extremely tasty - it’s certainly true that if you don’t like something before (I don’t like bone marrow) you will after eating it at Murrays.
Eating there takes a spa experience to a whole new level and desserts too are a triumph. I had the banoffee souffle with banana, rum and raisin, and beurre blanc, £12, while my partner tucked in the cheesecake with lime, pineapple and coconut, £10. These exceptional dishes were followed by a goodbye of petit fours from the chef and we both vowed to work it all off in the pool at Whittlebury the following morning before heading home after breakfast.
Whittlebury Hall; 01327 857857;
Food - or rather the lack of it - used to play a great part in health farms of the past and Ragdale Hall, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, was no exception.
These days most people go to a health farm, or spa, to relax and enjoy their precious spare time and, while you can still follow a calorie-counted meal at Ragdale, you can also enjoy a sumptuous three-course lunch and dinner in its stunning dining room, followed by a cuppa in its newly refurbished Verandah Lounge complete with fake grass outdoor sofa.
Spa day packages at Ragdale range in price from £49 to £225 per person and include use of all the excellent facilities, which include a packed indoors and outdoors exercise programme, thermal spa experience with candlelit pool, a 25-metre swimming pool and various relaxation areas, inside and out.
It may be a historic stately home, but the great thing about Ragdale Hall is that it is anything but stuffy and the atmosphere is very relaxed and informal... you can even go to dinner in your bathrobe, if you choose.
Staff are friendly and helpful and, if the weather is good as it was on our overnight stay, you can soak up the sunshine in its stunning grounds and even take a swim in its outdoor pool.
Our package included a 50-minute face and back treatment, which used Decleor products and was divine.
Chill out even more if you upgrade your package to an overnight stay. Ensuite rooms are luxurious and you even get a fabulous breakfast in bed without a surcharge... although it is served before 8.30am, unless you want to have it in the garden room a bit later.
There is so much to do and see at Ragdale, the only problem you’ll have is fitting it all in. A second stay is in order...
Ragdale Hall; 01664 433000;