The UK’s best spa retreats for 2022
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 England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sarah Turner selects some favourites for total immersion in nature and wellbeing
Lime Wood, Hampshire
Take some time out in Lime
With wild ponies ambling through chocolate-box villages and pigs truffling around woodland, the New Forest – just over an hour from London – always feels otherworldly, and Lime Wood fits in beautifully. From its winding drive, you’ll see a mansion with 18th-century proportions and charm, but head into the Herb House spa and it’s clear that this is a hotel that balances heritage with a holistic-based sense of harmony. The indoor and outdoor pools, treatment rooms and saunas all come with dappled views of woodland, while the rooftop has sun-loungers in suntrap corners between scented herbs beds. Open since 2009, Lime Wood is willing to experiment, but it doesn’t compromise. All its treatments come from the most cultish and results-driven brands, with dreamy massages from Bamford and seaweed-centric Voya, while Sarah Chapman, London’s finest facialist, also has a berth here. Fitness classes attract top-notch teachers (Lime Wood is very popular with locals) and the spa’s dedicated restaurant Raw & Cured goes plant-based with complete panache.
High Life says: With a friend or partner? Book into Lime Wood’s Mud Room and get to throw rhassoul clay at each other, bake it on and hose it off, with none of the cleaning up.
Lucknam Park, Wiltshire
Book some bliss at Luckham
Only eight miles from the famously beautiful city of Bath and its Roman baths, behind Lucknam’s Georgian architecture and tree-lined avenues is a state-of-the-art spa that’s regularly garlanded with awards. This West Country hotel is a world of sensory wonder, from Hywel Jones’ Michelin-starred restaurant to the serene sculpture garden, all with a sense of wellness at its core. Grab some of Lucknam’s polished wellies and head over to the on-site stables for a transformative session of equine connection therapy with centre manager Dawn, or, perhaps, visit the dedicated forest bathing areas. With just 43 bedrooms in the main house and 500 acres to explore, there’s plenty of space for deep breathing and destressing, including a dedicated building for yoga and Pilates. The light-filled spa itself has hydrotherapy pools, thermal cabins, outdoor hot tubs and treatment rooms with classic and esoteric offerings. It also boasts a 20m swimming pool flanked by an in-wall fire running alongside. Indulge in facials, massage and reiki treatments as well as strolling its gardens to maximise a sense of relaxation in good weather.
High Life says: Lucknam’s four new cottages combine ultra-luxury with full access to all the facilities of the hotel, and sleep up to eight people.
Slieve Donard, Ulster
Treat yourself at Slieve
Victorians knew that creating a spa by the seaside was a wellbeing winner. When Slieve Donard resort opened in 1898, guests could head to its Turkish baths to be pummelled by freshly pumped salt water. The pounding waves of the Irish sea still provide a glorious showcase to the hotel, but the facilities have seen some serious updating. The 20m swimming pool has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the beach with the Mountains of Mourne as a brilliant backdrop and the bucket list-worth Royal County Down Golf Course draped around like a fur stole. With 180 rooms in a glorious red-brick mansion, the hotel’s spa building – fresh from its own £550,000 beautification – is more ethereal, with an amethyst steam room to dive into, hot tubs and private relaxation rooms for guests. Above all, people come to Slieve Donard to enjoy themselves, mixing a stay with hearty meals at the Oak Room or lighter food at the Lighthouse Lounge.
High Life says: Golfers get their own tonic-style treatment with back and foot exfoliation, followed by a hot stone back and a foot massage.
Get away to
Scotland’s first luxury resort opened in 1924 and it still has a wonderfully joined-up approach to luxury. A new spa started welcoming guests in September 2021 with 20 treatment rooms, a vitality pool with water jets and a new wellness café, where herb teas are personalised for guests. Skincare gurus Tata Harper and Dr Barbara Sturm deliver top-notch treatments for body and face but, for all the seriousness of the spa, there’s always a sense of indulgence at Gleneagles. A separate lodge – Bob & Cloche – houses the hotel’s nail bar and hair salon but there’s temptation at every corner, whether it’s learning how to fish with one of the hotel’s gillies, Andrew Fairlie’s Michelin-starred cuisine or the hotel’s three acclaimed golf courses.
High Life says: Joyously extended over two hours, The Long Exhale, the hotel’s new signature massage treatment, uses ingredients from the Gleneagles estate, including borage, St John’s Wort and pine.
Lake Vyrnwy, Powys
Half-timbered, whole-hearted, both cosy and grand, in a hidden but ridiculously beautiful corner of Wales, Lake Vyrnwy is a gentle family-owned hotel with a sense of polish that starts as you enter the wood-panelled hall. There are cosy fires in the public rooms, and bedrooms – there are 52 – are mostly on a grandiose scale. Aiming to cherish rather than challenge and using British-made ESPA aromatherapy products, Lake Vyrnwy’s spa is an extension of its family-owned ethos and good value. The lake this hotel overlooks may look like a force of nature but was created in 1883 by building a dam across a flooded valley alongside the Berwyn mountains. So many people came to admire the dam that a hotel was built in 1890 (George V was an early guest) and it still feels blissfully remote. Peregrine falcons regularly fly overhead and, luckily, one of the best places to observe them from is the spa’s terrace.
High Life says: A small but potent spa with a gorgeous setting that delivers results without spending a fortune.
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