Angela Youngman provides ideas for a relaxing spa break, which can be combined with a shopping trip and/or overnight stay
Spas are proving to be one of the fastest growing leisure activities. More and more people are taking the time to go to a spa, stay and explore some upmarket shops in the locality. Such activities are nothing new.
People have been visiting British spas for centuries. What’s new is the sheer number of spas that are emerging together with increasing numbers of groups, such as hen parties attending them. The demand is for comfort, luxury and pampering ideally combined with some quality shopping.
The Good Spa Guide indicates that since 2006, the number of spas has risen from 50 to around 700. Many of these are destination spas attracting visitors for daylong activities or short breaks, where they can indulge in an opportunity to shop in style.
Caitlin Dalton, Editor of the Good Spa Guide says that most participants are women, who are prepared to spend and relax. Swimming pools, massage and facials are the most popular spa requirements.
Bath Spa is by far the oldest and most popular spa. Visitors have been coming to Bath since Roman times to enjoy the naturally hot thermal waters drawn from reservoirs deep underground. The result was the spa known as Aquae Sulis, the largest spa outside Rome.
Although the Roman baths remain in existence and can be visited today, they are no longer used. The nearby Thermae Bath Spa has become the main venue for people wishing to enjoy the waters.
The main spa complex is housed in the Royal Bath, which comprises two large pools, the indoor Minerva pool and the spectacular open-air rooftop pool, where you can bathe in the steaming waters while watching the views across the rooftops of Bath towards the abbey tower and the statues on guard over the original Roman Baths.
Other facilities include the Aroma Steam Rooms and the intimate Cross Bath.
Housed in a separate building, the site of the Cross Bath is where the Celts worshipped their goddess at the Cross Spring. There are several group packages available, including exclusive hire of the Cross Bath.
The newly opened Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel offers additional facilities to enjoy the thermal waters. It possesses the only natural thermal spa within a hotel in the entire UK.
Some of the rooms even have a third tap allowing guests in-bathroom access to the thermal waters, and the on-site spa incorporates a modern day Roman Bath circuit comprising saunas, steam room, ice alcove, relaxation rooms, thermal pools and finishing with a Water Ritual ceremony.
The thermal pools are set apart by Romanesque columns beneath a glass atrium. It has been designed so that visitors can ‘take the waters’ in luxury.
The hotel itself comprises two buildings, one of which can be used for private events and large group bookings. The rooms are linked by a dedicated hallway and there is a private garden for guests to enjoy.
Bath is also renowned for its high quality shops, such as Bath Aqua Glass and the Highgrove Shop, selling wares from the Prince of Wales estate. The historic Milsom Street is the centre of Bath’s shopping area, and nearby there is a covered Artisan market for unique hand made gifts.
Set amid the pretty Leicestershire countryside, Ragdale Hall is the original, dedicated spa retreat. It is a large, comfortable country house set in attractive grounds and gardens and has been described as the John Lewis of spas; good quality, well priced and with faultless service. With a wide range of treatments, relaxation rooms and a spa pool, there is plenty of choice available.
Afterwards, the nearby town of Melton Mowbray offers excellent shopping from a range of independents and well-known brands. Spa breaks start at around £300.
Chewton Glen is another country house hotel and spa retreat. Located on the edge of the New Forest National Park, and only a few minutes walk from the sea, it offers five-star luxury.
On offer are hydrotherapy pools, aromatherapy saunas, treatment rooms, dance studio, gymnasium, grooming lounge for pedicures and manicures, and a pool bar.
Visits can be combined with shopping in the nearby market towns of New Milton, Barton on Sea and Christchurch, as well as enjoying a game of golf at Chewton Glen’s own nine-hole par-three golf course.
Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa has become a major draw for spa seekers. It was one of the finalists in the Residential Spa of the Year category of the Professional Beauty Awards 2015 reflecting the standard set by its treatments and spa facilities.
Uniquely, it has its own private Blue Flag beach, and is set within 125-acres of beautiful coastline. It has proved particularly popular with people wanting an exclusive beach wedding, as guests can be accommodated at the hotel.
The spa has an extensive range of treatments, many inspired by the coastal setting including facials, lava shell massage and seaweed scrubs. Spa breaks start at £295 per person.
St Ives is just one mile south of Carbis Bay and provides excellent shopping facilities. It has attracted well-known artists for many years (this is the home of the Barbara Hepworth Museum) and this tradition has continued to make the area an ideal place to buy art and collectibles.
The St Ives Shopping Village includes shops like Designer Forum, DCC Designer Collection, which stock a range of international brands including Olsen, Luisa Cerano Samantha Wills, Viktoria and Woods.
Over in Pembrokeshireshire, South Wales, St Brides Spa Hotel offers superb views from its cliff edge dual treatment room. The full-length windows slide open to reveal the fresh sea air and the sound of the tide on the beach below.
Other facilities include salt infusions, sensation showers, marine hydros and facials. With beautiful beaches and pretty market towns, like Haverfordwest and Pembroke offering a wide choice of gourmet and innovative food to try and buy, visitors are spoilt for choice.
Try stimulating heat and ice experiences, soothing therapies and relax in thermal pools amid the majestic surroundings of Whittlebury Hall, Buckinghamshire, where spa stays start at £89.
After experiencing the relaxing spa treatments at Whittlebury, head to Bicester Village for some indulgent shopping. This is where you can buy from brands like Agent Provocator, Armani, Dior, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Givenchy, Prada and Jimmy Choos at prices lower than on the high street.
Moving northwards, Rockliffe Hall offers five-star luxury amid the County Durham countryside. With 50,000 square feet of spa and treatment facilities, a 20-metre pool where spa butlers keep glasses topped up, this has become a popular destination. Hen party pamper packages start at £185 per person.
Afterwards, a trip over to the Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Centre is the ideal venue for some shopping therapy. It contains 60 outlet shops selling more than 200 brands including Joseph, Radley, Klass, Trespass, Roman Originals, Crabtree and Evelyn.
Not far away in the beautiful Teesdale countryside, The Morritt with its adjoining Garage Spa is ideal for an unforgettable hen party. Groups of between 12 to 15 people can book exclusive use of the spa including an individual treatment session, use of the mud pit, log fired shepherds hut sauna, salt relaxation room and secret garden pods.
Costs range from £75 per person plus accommodation. With luxurious whirlpool bathrooms, four-poster beds and olde world charm, The Morritt is a lovely place to stay.
The little market towns of Greta Bridge and Barnard Castle are not far away, while Durham itself is within driving distance. Barnard Castle has a wide range of thriving independent retailers selling vintage and retro crafts, designer clothing and home décor.
On the opposite side of the Pennines, Manchester’s Radisson Blu Hotel with its Sienna Spa and Health Club offers exclusive use corporate spa days, as well as stylish Spa hen parties or small group sessions.
Typical pamper sessions may include facials, manicures, pedicures and massage treatments, as well as access to the gymnasium, swimming pool and relaxation rooms. Light lunches and champagne may also be included.
Shoppers are spoilt for choice with large top quality centres such as Intu Trafford Centre. For independent retailers, head to the Northern Quarter, which is home to Afflecks and the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.
In Scotland, Best Western’s Inverness Palace Hotel has a range of packages for hen parties keen to have a spa and shopping break. Prices start at £69 per person according to the type of treatments and cocktails, even adding in a trip to a local nightclub.
The hotel’s Sleeping Beauty Spa is renowned for its spa pampering sessions with luxury massages involving hot stones, or Elemis herbal and lavender facials. There is also a 50-foot swimming pool, a bubbling spa, steam room and sauna to complete the package.
For shopping therapy, Inverness has a great range of high quality independent shops within the town. Operated by the Edinburgh Woollen Mills, the Holm Mills Shopping Village just outside the town stocks a wide range of brands including Harris Tweed, Country Rose, Emma Blake, James Pringle, Ponden Home and Colin Montgomerie.