The UK seems to be the destination hotspot this summer, says Mary Linehan, so it would be churlish to think about a mass exodus to sunnier climes. If ever there was a time to be patriotic, then 2012 is that summer.
In this Land of Hope, it only takes a couple of sunny days for us to think that the weather could be here for the long haul, and, of course, that Team GB will manage the Glory and romp home with more than the odd gold.
If you are thinking about a ‘staycation’, so that you don’t miss out on any ‘never again in my lifetime’ 2012 celebrations, then a few days on ‘spa-cation’, will make sure that you also manage a relaxing summer getaway, whatever the budget. Most ‘nice’ hotels in and around the UK have spa facilities that offer treatments and fitness programmes, but if you can splash the cash on something a little more upmarket, then it could prove to be a holiday happening of a lifetime – and you might be surprised to find that the whole experience is lifestyle-changing!
Most of us, except the very disciplined, tend to put on a few pounds while we’re away, when the definition of ‘relaxing’ is generally ‘lounging around, eating and drinking and letting it all hang out! If that’s your thing, great… but a few days in a beautiful luxury country house hotel or castle, with access to all the amenities plus the physical activities and treatments laid on, will give the more active plenty to do and the less active even more opportunity to unwind. And if you’re pushing the spa boat out there’s not much point in depriving yourself by not sampling what’s on offer – so think restaurant, think wine cellar, and then add in a treatment or two for the perfect damage limitation!
Here’s a look at just some of the venues on my starting line for 2012…
Chewton Glen, on the edge of the New Forest, offers sumptuous 5 star country house hotel and spa luxury. No attention to the finer things in life has been left undone here – the hotel and grounds plus the nearby beach and the surrounding countryside are enough to feed the soul, while the restaurant and bar feed and water the body with award-winning dishes and something like 700 wines to choose from. There are some typically English touches, too, that add finesse: croquet, archery and afternoon tea fill the time between treatments. Spot of tennis anyone?
And once you’ve sampled the restaurant menu, turn your attention to the treatment menu: spa extravagance at its most tempting, with bespoke luxury treatments and therapies available from day to twilight. In addition to a pool, saunas, hydrotherapy and shower facilities, there’s a wide range of classes (all ages and abilities) including pilates, yoga and dance.
Chewton Glen has retreat programmes throughout the year, too, including the Ila-spa Emotional Detox Retreat and Balance Residential Cleanse. You’ll never be the same again!
Star Treatment: Ananda Facial by iLA uses organic rose products and is a luxuriously indulgent and relaxing. It begins with a foot scrub, massaged in and then removed with hot mitts. After a thorough cleanse and tone, a light lympatic massage to the face opens up the body’s energy fields. A mask and moisturise finish the treatment, which also includes an invigorating scalp and relaxing shoulder massage.
Alternatively, the Lomi Lomi Hawaiian Massage is just the thing for tense backs and shoulders and tired spirits. This gentle therapeutic deep tissue massage uses long, rhythmical strokes, so you come out relaxed, renewed and rejuvenated…
The main pool at Sheen Falls
Sheen Falls Lodge
If a ‘cation’ of any description won’t feel quite the same unless a passport is involved, but you still want to stay local, then a return ticket to Cork or Kerry airports will bring you to the 5 star luxury of Sheen Falls Lodge. Voted the ‘Best Irish Hotel’ in 2011, it’s set in 300 acres of ancient woodland with cascading waterfalls, surrounded by mountains, with views of the Bay of Kenmare. It, too, boasts all the comforts of a worldclass hotel, with award-winning restaurants and bars. With the craic virtually guaranteed, there’s no blarney when it comes to the calibre of the the activities – golf, par for the course in all country house hotels, horse riding, or walking in the mountains. At the Health Club, the facilities are second to none, with the usual raft of treatments: manicures, pedicures, massage and holistic healing therapies.
Star Treatment: Phyto Marine Seaweed Wrap: First the skin is exfoliated using sea salt, before a seaweed and essential oil paste is applied top to toe. Wrapped in muslin, you’re then covered in a warming blanket and left to relax so that the amino acids and vitamins and the trace minerals can do their work detoxifying, and revitalising the skin and removing toxins from the body. Skin is soft, supple and toned. Mmmm…
If a long weekend is more to your liking, luxury a little closer to home is only a half hour drive or so up the M1 if you check into Luton Hoo, a breathtaking former stately home with a walled garden designed by Capability Brown and frequented by The Queen and Prince Philip when they first married. It’s been transformed into a grand hotel and golf course, with first class amenities, fit for royalty.
The Spa is housed in the old stables, and there is a wide range of treatments available, including facials, body treatments and massages. The beauty of it is that many of the organic oils used in its treatments are inspired by the flowers and herbs grown on the Luton Hoo estate.
Star Treatment: Circaroma Classic Facial: With aromatic organic oil blends chosen according to your skin’s needs, this fabulously relaxing rejuvenating treatment includes deep cleansing, exfoliation, and gently rhythmic massage with specific emphasis on face lift techniques. With the intention of helping to defy gravity and expression lines, it involves a variety of long, sweeping movements with circular lifting and smoothing ‘upward pulls’to release tension in the various muscle groups. Skin is revived, rejuvenated and glowing with a visible ‘lift’.
As for the rest of the UK, Scotland and Wales, of course, have castles galore with exceptional spa facilities and there is of course always The Grove, very close to home, plus a range of day spas that can supply all the indulgence you need and send you home to your own bed at night...