When the going gets tough, it seems the best way to escape the rigours of modern life is to pamper yourself and chill out. Spa diva Jane Anderson explores the growth of Britain’s luxury spa and wellness retreats.

Even in these austere times, there seems no stopping the rise of ever-more luxurious and sophisticated spas. Perhaps it’s the quest for well-being in our fast paced world or the constant desire for beauty that’s driving demand. It’s a phenomenon that has taken the hotel world by storm with any self-respecting fivestar establishment forking out for a top spa.

London’s latest major facility is the recently-opened dazzling rooftop spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane (www.fourseasons.com/london).

Normally the preserve of the penthouse suite or celebrity restaurant, this bold, basement-snubbing launch puts health and wellness on the very top tier. Designed by architect Eric Parry, this 10th floor wonder has nine glass-walled treatment rooms, each with individual relaxation pods. Views stretch over the treetops of Hyde Park and London’s cityscape.

Another recent addition to the London spa scene is So Spa by Sofitel, at the Sofitel London St James (www.sofitelstjames.com). Reaching number one spot for a UK hotel spa in Condé Nast Traveller’s coveted Readers’ Spa Awards 2011, this sophisticated urban spa is infused with French panache with a topiary French poodle in the spa garden and macaroons in the Tea Bar. So Spa features Sofitel’s signature MyBed massage tables and there’s a private Turkish steam bath (hamam). The signature So Exhilarating Body Treatment takes one hour and costs £90.

UK spas are heading in many directions. It seems that the baby boomers generation are demanding more ageinclusive treatments such as chiropractic and holistic joint therapies, thermal bathing and hydrotherapy. Within easy reach of London, Hertfordshire resort The Grove’s (www.thegrove.co.uk) Sequoia Spa is recognised as one of the finest spas in the UK and is one of only 10 in the world to offer ESPA Ayurvedic Treatments. These therapies harness the best of aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy and phytotherapy.

There’s a general feeling that spa-going is less about beauty and more about health and well-being. Clients suits those looking for total rejuvenation or hens looking for a girly weekend of pre-wedding pampering. All 89  guestrooms are set in historic gardens.Lifehouse

Taking the air in your fluffy dressing gown is encouraged and there’s even an outdoor fireplace for cosy soirées through the winter months. There are 38 treatment rooms plus a gym, outdoor fitness circuit, exercise studio, pool, thermal spa area, manicure and pedicure station, make-up bays, hairdressing salon and a spa boutique. If you have a specific goal, experts are on hand to tailor-make programmes for fitness, life coaching, nutrition, spiritual awareness and weight loss. The Oriental Bathing Experience is Lifehouse’s signature two-hour treatment, costing £120.

Those who care about the environment but love spa treatments, should make a beeline for the Titanic Mill & Spa in Yorkshire (www.titanicspa.com). It may have the look of a dark satanic mill from the outside, but this restored textile mill is the UK’s first eco spa. This carbon neutral spa has a new mud chamber. It’s also a great place for those with disabilities as its Heat Experiences have a hydro-pumped chair for pool access, wide corridors, waterproof wheelchair covers and audio loops for therapists. Spa-goers stay in one of 30 spa apartments with all mod cons. Some sleep up to six – perfect for a group of friends. A signature Titanic Twilight Heat Experience takes three hours and costs from £45.


Of course, there’s a whole raft of parents out there who loves spas as much as the next person. Thank heavens, then, for von Essen Hotels’ Woolley Grange (www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk), near Bath. Part of its Luxury Family Hotels brand, this is the perfect country house treat for families. Here, they don’t mind if your kids sit on the antiques or run around the gardens like lunatics; in fact it’s positively encouraged.

Tired parents can deposit their little ones in the Ofsted-registered Woolley Bears Den and indulge in the new spa that has been cleverly designed both inside and outside the magnificent old walled garden. The modern wooden structure calms the mind as soon as you enter.

Treatment room at So Spa by Sofitel

There are just two treatment rooms, more cosy than Zen, so there’s nothing intimidating here. As well as over 40 well-being therapies from scrubs to scalp massages (a Signature Sublime Journey Facial take an hour and costs £75), there’s also a whole selection of treatments for pregnant women using Mama Mio Mama’s Touch products.
If you fancy a dip before or after, the 12-metre pool in a glass structure overlooking the walled garden with sauna and steam rooms is sublime.

Spa facts

There’s a host of spas around the country to try. Here are a few more:

Country house spas

Babington House, Somerset: www.babingtonhouse.co.uk
Feversham Arms, Yorshire: www.fevershamarmshotel.com
Lucknam Park, near Bath: www.lucknampark.co.uk
Coworth Park, Berkshire: www.coworthpark.com
Whatley Manor, Wiltshire: www.whatleymanor.com

City spas

The Dorchester, London: www.thedorchester.com
Mandarin Oriental, London: www.mandarinoriental.com/london
Chelsea Day Spa, London: www.thechelseadayspa.co.uk
The Athenaeum Hotel Spa, London: www.athenaeumhotel.com
The Chester Grosvenor & Spa: www.chestergrosvenor.com
Waterfall Spa, Leeds: www.waterfallspa.co.uk
Blythswood Square, Glasgow: www.townhousecompany.com

Luxury spas

The Royal Yacht, Jersey: www.theroyalyacht.com
Champneys: www.champneys.com

More information


All prices and details were correct when published, please check before you visit.