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The pool at The Bothy by Wildsmith spa at Heckfield Place

The best spa retreats in the UK and Ireland

Even before the Romans turned the hot springs at Bath into a resort 2,000 years ago, ancient Britons had used them to soak away their stresses. Today, you’ll find an endless variety of spas –both high tech and wholly traditional – across the UK and Ireland. We've selected some favourites for total immersion in wellbeing

01/01/2022Updated 01/11/2023

Sleep pods at The Corinthia’s ESPA Life

The Corinthia, London

Set foot in this marble clad, chandelier-filled oasis and you’ll suddenly be compelled to tuck in your core and throw those shoulders back. Inside this former wartime Ministry of Defence, you’ll find the essence of glamour, with gleaming floors, stately columns and soothing neutral tones in every direction, brightened by pops of colour from the many exquisite floral centrepieces. This oh-so-sleek theme continues into the rooms, where dramatic abstract paintings contrast with muted soft furnishings, beds that almost span the width of the room, and bookshelves stacked with Phaidon’s finest. The spa is where things dial up a notch, set over four floors, including a glossy black thermal floor that’s home to an indoor swimming pool, an enormous amphitheatre-style sauna, heated marble loungers and a vitality pool fitted with a host of bracing water jets. Night on the town in store? Revive dull skin with the Instant Glow Facial from anti-ageing guru Dr Barbara Sturm.

High Life says: Head to Velvet by Salvatore Calabrese for a nightcap in one of the Northbank’s glitziest bars, where sumptuous furnishings pair beautifully with theatrical cocktails.

Take some time out at the Corinthia

The Lakes by Yoo’s Barn Owl Cabin

The Lakes by Yoo, the Cotswolds

For city slickers keen to don your Hunters and splash about in (what feels like) your own private grounds, this Cotswold gem is pure bliss. Set on a colossal 850 acres of sprawling woodland inlaid with ten freshwater lakes, the estate’s villas are stunning, packed with lovely details that include sleek wood burners, deep velour sofas, Chesterfield ottomans and cosy woollen throws. A weekend here is high end without being snooty, and you’ll find locals rubbing shoulders with Land Rover-lording Londoners in the lakeside tepee Bar and Kitchen. A hop and skip away is the Spa by Yoo, where mind-stilling lake views are accompanied by a 20m pool, sauna, gym and steam room. A state-of-the-art cryotherapy chamber is a firm favourite with guests for its myriad anti-aging effects but, if you’re after blow-out indulgence, opt for one of the spa’s signature treatments – in partnership with Kate Moss’ Cosmoss beauty brand – which use potent, natural products designed to detoxify and restore balance.

High Life says: If you’re an active soul, welcome to your nirvana: outdoor pursuits here are in heady abundance, ranging from paddleboarding to mountain biking, over-water zip-lining and wild swimming.

Book some bliss at the Lakes by Yoo

Stained-glass ceilings by British artist Brian Clarke at Beaverbrook

Beaverbrook, Surrey

The opportunity to follow in the steps of the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill and Jean Cocteau doesn’t come along often. Granted, these are some of the suite names in this quintessentially English Grade II-listed estate – former home of newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook. Artwork curated by adman Frank Lowe adorns walls, while historians and AV geeks will appreciate the wartime aircraft diagrams alongside, which include the legendary Spitfire. Creative flair runs through to the exquisite Coach House Spa, with its stained-glass ceilings and eye-popping painted tiles designed by British artist Brian Clarke. Bundle up in a robe and tour the thermal spa, which includes a Jacuzzi, steam room and ice fountain, before a leisurely swim in the sun-dappled 20m pool, which overlooks the rolling Surrey Hills.

High Life says: Book in at the spa’s charming Meadow Hut for a vibrational Sound Bodywork Treatment, which includes a tension-melting foot bath, sage energy cleanse, and sound bathing ritual that will heighten senses and restore focus to busy minds. 

Treat yourself at Beaverbrook

Grade II-listed country house Lucknam Park

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire

A thoroughly British affair, this gloriously trad country house hotel harks all the way back to Saxon times. Within 500 acres of blossoming parkland, a mile-long avenue of lime and beech trees leads the way to the restored Palladian mansion, where a single malt in the historic library will set the tone for your stay. Survey the sun-streaked grounds from one of its most regal of suites. Then, if you aren’t yet primed for sleep between Egyptian cotton sheets in the majestic four-poster (open fire crackling in the winter months), one of Lucknam’s signature spa treatments will surely do the trick. Luxuriate in the volcanic forces of a hot stone massage or book in for one of its dramatic rehealing facials (which boosts the skin’s barrier), while the deep facial massage will melt away tension held in the jaw.

High Life says: Saddle up at Lucknam’s equestrian centre, where budding riders can trail over countless cross-country routes. 

Reset and revive at Lucknam Park

1824 Bar at The Shelbourne, Dublin

The Shelbourne, Autograph Collection, Dublin

Overlooking St Stephen’s Green, this Regency hotel sets the bar for Dublin’s five-stars. Past the top-hatted doorman, every detail is beautifully considered, from its chequerboard-floored, flower-filled lobby to the famous No.27 bar, where the best stays start with half-a-dozen Irish oysters and an expertly drawn pint of Guinness. Rooms are equally handsome, with stately marble bathrooms and, in the larger suites, unrivalled city vistas. Its three-floor spa, meanwhile, is a calm, candlelit hideaway, with an 18m pool and seven treatment rooms. Unwind with a frangipane-fragranced hot stone massage or relax into a restorative 90-minute Sleep Ritual. Afterwards, the spa’s elegant relaxation room awaits, for serene herbal teas and Champagne chasers on its cushioned chaises longues.

High Life says: Afternoon tea in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge is an institution. Claim a curving velvet sofa as the waiters conjure up a feast, from whiskey-cured smoked salmon sandwiches to featherlight yuzu eclairs.

Escape to The Shelbourne

The infamous ‘Profumo’ pool at Cliveden

Cliveden House, Berkshire

From FDR to The Beatles, Relais & Châteaux member Cliveden House has been a refuge for some of the world’s true originals. Surrounded by nearly 400 acres of National Trust land and Grade I-listed gardens, its rooms are named in homage to its starriest guests and are decked out with ornate period features, intricately woven tapestries and sumptuous, handmade four-posters. Tucked within the confines of a walled garden is the spa, where you can bathe, literally, in history. It’s here that you’ll find the iconic ‘Profumo’ pool (and the last remaining listed outdoor pool in England), where the wartime statesman first laid eyes on Christine Keeler, with whom he’d later begin his infamous affair. Sidestep the scandal and book in for a resculpting gua sha facial, which, tailored to every guest, uses nourishing Oskia oils and fluid sculpting movements to shape, plump and drain the face of excess fluid.

High Life says: Take a spin in one of the hotel’s exquisitely restored vintage boats, passing the picture-perfect towns of Marlow and Henley as you pootle along the Upper Thames.

Pamper yourself at Cliveden

The majestic Balmoral sits in the heart of Edinburgh

The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte hotel, Edinburgh

Nowhere does epic quite like Edinburgh, from the craggy heights of Arthur’s Seat to the Scott Monument’s Gothic pinnacles. The Balmoral is a perfect fit: an imposing Victorian railway hotel, topped by a landmark clocktower (famously set three minutes fast, to guard against missed trains). Its interiors are imbued with the landscape’s misty hues, with artful touches of tartan – including the doormen’s kilts. For tea, there’s the domed Palm Court, with its chandeliers and resident harpist. For something stronger, Scotch bar is stocked with more than 500 whiskies. After a day exploring Edinburgh’s hills, the spa is a sanctuary, with its Finnish sauna, Turkish steam room and 15m lap pool. Try a facial with ishga oils and creams, made from Hebridean-harvested seaweed, or lose all track of time with a two-hour face and body ritual. 

High Life says: For families, this place provides multiple thoughtful extras, from bath-time ducks and mini bathrobes to turndown milk and cookies.  

Bed down at the Balmoral

The Great Room Restaurant at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

Behind its ornate sandstone façade and Italianate carved columns, the former headquarters of the Ulster Bank makes for an opulent stay. It’s topped by a sleek rooftop gym and hot tub, with views of the shipyard’s cranes, while a candlelit spa is sequestered in the basement. Its treatments run from targeted massages and facials to three-hour restorative rituals, while the thermal suite includes a wood-lined sauna and blissful heated loungers. The rooms are equally splendid – some coolly Art Deco, others Victorian inspired, with gilded mirrors, rolltop tubs and handsome velvet headboards. Its five suites, named after literary giants, channel stately-home levels of grandeur: think marble fireplaces, palatial bathrooms and the occasional four-poster.

High Life says: In the old banking hall, the Great Room is a dining space like no other. Feast on local lobster below its cavorting cherubs and magnificently gilded friezes.

Set off for Belfast

The Bothy by Wildsmith at Heckfield Place

Heckfield Place, Hampshire

In the heart of Hampshire, this 250-year-old country pile is a true maverick among the UK’s country house hotels. With sustainability at its core, the directive for guests here is ‘slow down and immerse yourself in nature’ – a simple instruction when you’re surrounded by 438 acres of woodland spotted with ancient redwoods, Japanese cedars and English oaks. New this year is the renovated Bothy Spa (opening image), which is cleverly hidden behind a secret door in the walled garden. In a bid to return guests’ circadian rhythms to their natural order, it’s a tech-free zone, with treatments that include craniosacral holds, abdominal massage and reflex zone therapy. Inside, an elegant pool and sauna overlook jaw-dropping views of the estate, while the property’s Woodland Movement sessions are held outside year-round, and Himalayan breathwork aims to reset the body’s natural breath cycle.  

High Life says: Head to the Moon Bar and order the Rosehip Pine, a pisco sour which uses foraged pine cordial and grapefruit bitters. The bar ensures a zero-waste policy, developing bespoke cordials for its cocktails.

Unwind in style at Heckfield Place

Jersey lamb is on the menu at The Atlantic Hotel

The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

The sea views are sublime at this Jersey hotel, perched above the epic sweep of St Ouen’s Bay. Set in ten landscaped acres, it takes an understated approach to luxury, from its airy, art-dotted lobby to its pared-back rooms and suites, with their crisp, white-painted walls and oak-and-chrome headboards. Summer brings picnics in the dunes and sea-view yoga sessions, while a spa pops up on the lawns from June to September. Come the autumn, bask in the indoor pool and saunas, or book an hour-long signature massage, blending Balinese and Hawaiian techniques. Feeling suitably restored? There are glorious walks on your doorstep, from rambles to the beach and nature reserve to the hike to the La Corbière lighthouse. 

High Life says: In the Ocean Restaurant, chef Will Holland’s menus showcase the island’s finest produce, from local crab to home-smoked duck and, of course, buttered new potatoes. 

Breathe in the sea air in Jersey

The spa garden at Rockliffe Hall

Rockliffe Hall, Darlington

If you enjoy a TV in the bathroom, scroll no further. Old and new collide at the five-star Rockliffe Hall, a northern powerhouse of a hotel that has at various times housed a lord, a hospital and even a football club. Today, you’ll find R&R seekers in the 50,000sqft spa and keen golfers on its undulating course. Interiors feature classic lines elevated with contemporary patterns and colours, and the New Hall wing’s spacious bedrooms all come with south-facing views of beautiful grounds dotted with ancient oaks. Head to the spa for a transporting Neom Intensive Skin Treatment Candle oil massage before unwinding in the hydrotherapy pool to seriously consider indulging in a FACE SPAce facial. This brand-new treatment uses microcurrent devices to sculpt the face and encourage lymphatic drainage.

High Life says: A £125 tasting menu offers unbelievable value for a tour of Britain that might include everything from Orkney scallops to Highland venison and celeriac from the on-site kitchen garden. 

Check into Rockliffe Hall

Spa treatment room at the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel

Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow

Bordering Blythswood Square – the most prestigious of addresses – this stately row of Georgian townhouses is now a showstopping hotel. This is modern luxury as it should be done, from the lobby (complete with grand piano) to the private screening room. Its spa, naturally, is state of the art, whether you’re braving the snow shower or heading for the Himalayan salt room. There’s an amethyst steam room, vitality pools, two saunas and a tepidarium, with heated marble loungers and a constellation-scattered ceiling. Treatments are holistic and Hebridean-inspired, from sound therapy massages to glow-inducing, seaweed-laced facials. Continue the theme with a seaweed salt-spiked margarita at its restaurant, Iasg, which showcases Scotland’s epic seafood.

High Life says: There’s no short straw when it comes to rooms, while the suites are exceptional. For a steam room, sunken bath and skyline views, take the private lift up to the penthouse. 

Put your feet up at the Kimpton