A spa, great food and a spot of golf - the Oxfordshire resort staycation putting a 'spring' in the step
With the roadside daffodils in full bloom while making the journey south, it seemed the right time of year to be visiting The Springs Resort & Golf Club in Oxfordshire.
And the beautiful sunshine that beamed down on us throughout our weekend stay was just the tonic for enjoying some golf, great food and, most importantly, relaxation.
Nestled in the 'heart of England' countryside alongside the River Thames, The Springs has undergone a major revamp, having recently unveiled the transformation of its 19th century Manor House into a beautiful modern boutique hotel and spa.
Owners Darwin Escapes are also in the process of adding a number of new outside wooden lodges alongside the golf course, which arrive hot on the heels of the four recently-installed two-bedroom Millpond accommodations, all of which come with hot tubs and landscaped decking.
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My wife and I were staying in one of the cosy new one-bed lodges and, wishing I'd brought my shorts due to the unexpectedly-warm weather, we spent the rest of the day taking in the beautiful surroundings with drinks and a few nibbles 'alfresco' on the lodge terrace.
With the smell of 'newness' still lingering, our lodge was the perfect size for a couple, with room for a king-size bed, large wall-mounted TV, Nespresso coffee machine and ample storage space for clothes and cases.
There was the welcoming sight of a rain forest shower in the en-suite bathroom which I knew would come in handy after a six-mile walk playing 18 holes of golf.
After a blissful night's sleep and with the sun rising again the following morning, we got up knowing a good breakfast was in order before the day's activities.
All dining takes place in The Ridgeway Restaurant, situated upstairs in the clubhouse behind the 18th green, and there was no better way to start the day than to enjoy our breakfasts of bacon and egg on brioche and eggs benedict sitting out on the terrace overlooking the plush green course.
I was amused watching golfers chipping onto the green, and sometimes hacking out of the bunker, trying desperately not to finish their rounds on a bad note in front of the onlooking diners.
After a leisurely morning and kiss goodbye, it was time for my 'non-golfing' wife and I to go our separate ways for a few hours as she headed off for an afternoon of relaxation in the hotel's new 1893 Spa while I hit the practise green to prepare for my round.
With the course looking wide, spacious and with few hazards from what I could see, I drove confidently off the first tee, but wasn't fooled into thinking it would last as after a decent first two holes, I came unstuck on the third when I found my first bunker.
In what was to become an ongoing theme of the round, I relied on my sand wedge to get me out of trouble on numerous occasions, and with sand pouring out of both trouser pockets and shoes afterwards, my wife would have been forgiven for thinking I'd spent the day at the beach.
Unlike a lot of courses I've played on, The Springs is very flat, which is welcoming for a novice like myself who will grab hold of any advantage to help keep the score down.
Feeling relaxed and with tiredness not an issue, I enjoyed myself more as the round went on, although by the 15th hole I was starting to think about the refreshing pint that would be waiting for me at the bar.
Feeling proud of myself for only losing one ball, which sadly came to its demise in the water on the par three 10th, I finished the round as happy as I could be despite my rather underwhelming score.
Reports back from the spa were nothing but positive, with my glowing wife, fresh from an hour-long full body aromatherapy massage, full of praise for all the facilities, which she made full use of while I trudged my way round the course.
As well as a varied list of treatments on offer, guests can take time out in the smart relaxation pool, chill out on the underwater lounge beds and enjoy a coffee or prosecco in the beautifully-decorated lounge which also has a delightful balcony overlooking the mill pond.
Feeling hungry, it was back at The Ridgeway for dinner and protein-inspired orders of char-grilled pork cutlet and a succulent 10oz rump steak, which followed starters of crab cakes with coriander and siracha mayonnaise and mushroom fricassee.
There was just about room for indulgent desserts of warm chocolate brownie and sticky toffee pudding before winding down the evening in the relaxing Spike Bar for after-dinner aperitifs of scotch on the rocks and Tia Maria over ice.
If guests want to venture further afield the historic market town of Wallingford is just minutes down the road and if a bit more hustle and bustle is required the city of Oxford is just half an hour's drive away.
For us, after another 'sunshine terrace' brekkie, it was time to head home, knowing that we will remember our visit to The Springs for years to come. Thanks to places like this, the future of the increasingly-popular UK staycation is in good hands.
Hotel rooms from £169 per night, lodges with hot tub from £645 for a three-night break, spa treatments from £70 (includes use of spa facilities) and golf tee times from £37.50 per person. Visit The Springs website for more information.