Who says the British winter has to be harsh, bleak and indulgence-free? With Valentine’s Day coming up, here’s the perfect way to break up the winter and treat her (and you) while you’re at it:
The Bvlgari, London
Quite possibly the most opulent spa this side of Cleopatra’s bathroom; The Bvlgari is your first stop for an indulgent break in our fine capital. Think dark, sexy lighting, and a marble, wood and stone aesthetic alongside one of the most dramatic private pools in London. The treatments are many and impressive, with advanced non-surgical beauty procedures like lifts and ‘tweakments’, micro-needling and more, as well as deep-tissue massages and facials as dynamic and diverse as LED and Cryotherapy. Float back to any of this devastatingly stylish hotel’s delectable rooms- each more impossibly modish than the next- and order room service as you feel insufferably, deservedly smug.
Star pick: Coworth Park, Surrey
The Dorchester’s country house is a lot more than it seems. A quick perusal of the website marks it out as deceptively paired-back and impersonally luxurious. Which is why it pays to see this true gem in person. The reality is that Coworth Park is brimming with character and charisma. Set in 240 acres of stunning parkland, polo fields and flower gardens; the impossibly-elegant rooms (many of which feature twin roll-top baths) are split between the mansion house (originally built in 1776), the stable blocks and the cottages on the grounds; all accessible via undulating landscape and wiggly paths actually entitled ‘Wiggly Paths.’ The staff- who are all deliciously friendly to a fault- can whizz you round in golf buggies, or you can stroll yourself, which is perhaps preferable, as the atmosphere here befits a slow, amble around the lakes and outbuildings to discover the brilliant equestrian centre, complete with an adorable resident Shetland pony.
The vibe- this being Ascot- is definitely horsey. You’ll see equine details everywhere, from the art in the rooms, to the posts in the driveway, and residents are requested to maintain an automobile speed of a quirkily specific nine and a half miles an hour so as not to spook the horses you inevitably run into wherever you go.
Then, of course, there is the spa- a sleek, glass-walled, modern construction on the grounds- with a discernible eco vibe. The treatment menu is jaw-droppingly wide, and (refreshingly) utilises a variety of brands, including organic Scottish brand ishga. An 80-minute massage here may just change your life, but if you just fancy a workout and a swim, there is a modern, and well-equipped gym and an indoor pool with views over the grounds and underwater music. Yes, that’s underwatermusic.
The food here – particularly in The Barn restaurant in the stable block- is perfection, and the mansion’s bar offers classic cocktails and late-night music on weekend evenings, which is the ideal end to a day at Coworth.
Grantley Hall, Yorkshire
Opened in Spring of last year, this lush country house hotel in North Yorkshire blends rural cosiness with a modern wellness retreat, to admirable effect. Grand, yet boutique, the hotel has just 47 rooms, each beautifully designed- from cream simplicity to regal opulence (seriously, the royal suite has an internal balcony you could wave from). Bag a ground floor suite, however, and you have the added advantage of French windows opening onto the hotel’s impressive manicured gardens and parkland. The spa, of course, is your main draw here. It’s a Three Graces Spa operation, with an indoor and outdoor pool which (thankfully) merges seamlessly into the rural surroundings. The spa lounge is worthy of afternoon tea with anyone grand enough to be staying in that Royal Suite, and the treatment lists are extensive and innovative; many of which are combined facial, massages and meditative experiences. https://www.grantleyhall.co.uk
Could this be the most coveted hotel in Scotland? Probably. If your budget stretches to this Highlands paradise- race your way here as far as your sporran and kilt will allow. This historic hotel (once described- rather hyperbolically-as the eighth wonder of the world) is worth a stay just for its sumptuous atmosphere; superlatively decorated in warm tones and classic elegance. Though perhaps best known for its infamous Hogmanay parties and world-class golf course; Gleneagles also features a brilliant spa well-worth the trip- the only spa in Scotland to have Luxury Spa Resort status, in fact. Dark wood, and muted shades mean the spa is not incongruous to this 1924, traditional hotel; even if its treatments are refreshingly modern and diverse.https://www.gleneagles.com
Gwel an Mor, Cornwall
Set in the breath-taking coastal region of Portreath; this West country wellness retreat is five-star luxury with an earthy, back-to-nature feel. The resort is a series of beautiful wooden self-catering lodges, with private hot tubs and balconies looking out to sea and modern, studio lodges bordering the nearby lake. It feels like a holiday campm- if Butlins was sleek, modern and achingly stylish (and had its own wildlife centre with rescued foxes). One of the main attractions here is the exceptional wellness spa; with a full range of massages, facials and beauty treatments all a bath-robe-clad stroll away from your own lodge. Wellness retreat it may be, but each lodge comes with a complimentary bottle of wine to start you off. No one said you had to detox while you’re there… https://www.gwelanmor.com
Dormy House, Worcestershire
Dormy House’s slogan is ‘a bit like home, but better’- which sounds gimmicky and twee…until you go there. This Cotswolds hotel is almost offensively cosy and homey. The aesthetic is pure country indulgence; think roll-top baths, log fires, stone mantles and beds and sofas that engulf you. The feel may be boutique rural escapism, but the spa here is exemplary, and carries that quaint atmosphere and style through to the treatment rooms. The massages here are split between mindful and therapeutic, the former of which even includes virtual reality which utterly immerses you in the experience in a unique and rather brilliant way. This is the ideal blend of country idyll and spa extravagance. https://www.dormyhouse.co.uk
Star pick: Heckfield Place, Hampshire
This Georgian manor house, set in over 400 acres of forest and lake-strewn grounds, has remained one of Britain’s hottest new hotels since its launch in late 2018. It’s not hard to see why. This still-evolving destination is both curious and delightful; with grand, yet welcoming, living spaces for guests (complete with grand piano and a generous supply of board games and puzzles) and communal areas for day trippers and locals keen to gorge on the superlative fare at either of the hotel’s stellar restaurants; Marle and Hearth, or catch a film at their luxury 60+ seater screening room- with Ferrari leather seats and rows named after trees no less.
You may be picking up on the fact that Heckfield Place is a special one; from the design and the historical feel (the house was built in 1786) to the hotel’s strong natural, sustainable stance- almost everything you eat at Heckfield is grown or reared on the Home Farm.
The rooms are spacious and all individually designed to keep things interesting- but also fair. With something for (almost) all budgets; you won’t feel glum if you miss out on the flash signature rooms – as all have their own brilliant details; from window seats to roll-top baths, balconies and terraces, mini bars replete with complimentary hand-made snacks and corn dollies to hang on your door should you wish to be left in peace.
The spa is no exception. Later this year, they will unveil their years-in-the-making Bothy Spa, with pool, café and treatment rooms, but for now; The Little Bothy Spa is fully operational and well worth the visit. There are specially tailored yoga and fitness programmes, with Bodyism, and the spa- which is unique, intimate and beautifully appointed, overlooking the walled garden- provides all-natural, seasonal exclusive treatments from Wildsmith Skin; an ethical brand rich in botanicals and plant-derived bioactives, inspired by the arboretum at Heckfield Place itself. Whether strolling to the farm, luxuriating in a Wildsmith facial or playing Backgammon in the drawing room, sipping whiskey from the Moon Bar; this spa break cannot fail to charm you. https://www.heckfieldplace.com
The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews
Perhaps better known for nine holes than cucumber-infused water, The Old Course Hotel actually possesses a rather snazzy spa. The Kohler Waters spa opened in 2018 and includes the standard roster of massages and facials as well as two wet rooms, bathing experiences, a hydrotherapy pool and a 20 metre swimming pool. Yes, they take the ‘Waters’ bit of the spa very seriously here. After you dry off, treat yourself to any one of the hotel’s 250 whiskies at the Road Hole Bar or tuck into the superior grub at the famous Jigger Inn. Golf? Who needs it? https://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk
The Grove, Narberth
Small, sweet and warm; The Grove is a privately-owned idyll peeking out of the undulating Pembrokeshire countryside, with unparalleled views of the Preseli mountains. The white stone house contains fourteen individually-decorated rooms, or, you can choose to stay in any one of the numerous properties dotted about the grounds; from the 15thcentury longhouse, the Bailiff’s cottage, the 16th-century Poyers Cottage or the Herb Cottages, some of which come with private gardens you can potter about in. Brimming with historical character and charm, The Grove is a spa break with a difference; all their treatments are in-room; all designed to make your stay as relaxing as possible. This is the best room service you will ever order. https://thegrove-narberth.co.uk
Culloden Estate, Belfast
This historic hotel (originally built for the Bishops of Down) has an enviable location; overlooking Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coastline. Set in twelve acres of stunning gardens and parkland, Culloden is, all-in-all, not a bad spot for a spa break. They have an ESPA spa here; with essential-oils-drenched holistic massages and signature treatments like its 80minute Celtic Dream full body ritual. Slink back off to your room and watch the sunset over that awe-inspiring view before wiling away your evening at the Lough bar with a great glass of red. Celtic Dream indeed. https://www.hastingshotels.com/culloden-estate-and-spa/