The nights are drawing in, the temperatures are dipping, workloads are heaving, and the hectic countdown to Christmas is on. Banish any early winter gloom and book yourself in for a stay at one of the UK’s cosiest spa hotels for an indulgent getaway that offers a winning combination of beautiful interiors, fine cuisine and, of course, unrivalled pampering…
Best for: Hedonistic urbanites
Taking up the mantel as the Soho House group’s most desirable Oxfordshire residence (a title previously held by Babington House), the Farmhouse is billed as a ‘resort’. In fact, it feels a lot like a village, with 40 ranch-style cabins scattered round 100 acres of stream-weaved countryside, working stables (for leisurely hacks and pony rides), all weather tennis courts, a Teeny Barn (or kid’s club), an indoor outdoor swimming pool (contained within the timber-clad ‘boathouse’), and, come November, an ice rink (yes, really).
Foodies have no need to leave the premises to find hearty fare, and can choose to snack, dine or cocktail at the open-all-day main barn, feast on a Sunday roast at the Mill Room Pub, or satisfy a sushi craving at Japanese grill Pen Yen. Should farm-goers be loath to leave the comforting confines of their sheepskin-floored rooms, replete with prairie-esque four poster beds and al fresco bathtubs, they can stock up on super fresh provisions from the deli and nest down before heading to the 7-room main house to catch a flick at the private cinema (you can always hail a vintage milk float if it’s too much of a walk).
Those in search of pampering make a beeline to the Cowshed Spa (set on its own private island) to utilise the first rate ice room, steam room, sauna, hot tub and mud baths, where the popular Mud Treatment sees those in search of heavy duty detoxing caked in mud, then scrubbed with sea salt and cleansed with free falling water (those feeling brave can choose to wash away the minerals in the surrounding pond). All signature Cowshed treatments are available, including a comprehensive list of anti-ageing SkinCeuticals facials. Josh Wood at Farmhouse is also a big draw for residents looking to trial the hair maverick’s cult colour services. Not looking for a trim and half a head of highlights? Opt for a deluxe Oribe conditioning treatment, instead.
Signature winter spa treatment: Evening Primrose Body Wrap – a body brush, scrub, massage and moisturiser (plus mini facial) to both cocoon and revive dry wintery skin.
Happily, you don’t need to be a member to book a stay here. Doubles start from £220; cabins from £330. https://www.sohofarmhouse.com/
Best for: Green goddesses
Newquay is not just for summer sojourns – the brooding Cornish coastline offers an atmospheric backdrop to a seaside retreat such as the Scarlet Hotel, which offers truly one-of-a-kind surrounds both inside and out. Sympathetically designed to blend in with Mawgan Porth below, its earthy-yet-polished vibe calls to those looking for a back to nature experience with of-the-moment amenities, meaning you’ll find cliff top hot tubs, carefully designed indoor and outdoor pools (the latter of which is chemical free courtesy of a natural filter reed bed), minimal but comfy rooms (all with clifftop, meadow garden, courtyard or sea views), and lip-smacking food at the Scarlet Restaurant, which excels in European dishes created using local produce from organic, sustainable fishermen and farmers (even the loose tea used in the must-try afternoon tea is from the nearby Tregothnan Estate, the only growers in the UK).
In keeping with its eco credentials, the hotel’s spa is a holistic, contemplative space with an emphasis on Ayurveda – the ancient Indian philosophy of wellness. The three-night Tri-Dosha Ayurvedic Wellbeing Escapes (starting from £930) are much in demand; each escape is tailored to your individual needs before arrival, matching you with the correct tutor, refreshments and classes (including yoga and Nordic walking) in accordance with your dosha type. Shorter therapeutic ‘journeys’ lasting four hours can also be arranged, involving a bathing ritual, guided meditation and massage (from £210).
Those looking for more low key relaxation should try the popular bathing ritual Serenity Copper Tub and Scrub, where exfoliation is followed by a sandalwood and patchouli soak, or traditional Hammam. Anyone suffering fatigue would be wise to revive themselves by booking a Shirodhara – a soothing facial massage followed by the continual pouring of oil, said to release tension and blocked emotions. The lantern-lit, tented treatment rooms and ceiling-hung cocoon pods in the relaxation room complete the otherworldly, escape-it all environment guaranteed to restore your inner Zen.
Signature winter treatment: Honest – the Scarlet Sensory Massage and Facial incorporates an organic essential oil facial, replete with raw cucumber mask, dry back and scalp massage, all rounded off with a fruit juice shot.
A spa break is the best value way to experience The Scarlet, with prices for three nights starting from £550 and including breakfast, dinner, full use of spa facilities and a four-hour Scarlet Journey. https://www.scarlethotel.co.uk/
Best for: Frazzled mothers
An English idyll for all the brood to enjoy, few luxury hotels can boost the family-friendly credentials of Lucknam Park. Not only does the Palladian mansion offer 42 traditionally sumptuous rooms and top notch informal dining at The Brasserie (there’s also the Michelin starred Park restaurant), the 500 acre park offers a playground of activities for children, from bicycle trails and duck herding to an outdoor adventure play area and equestrian centre. If the weather’s dreadful, there’s adult & child cookery courses, too.
Within the walled gardens lies the award-winning spa, and what a spa. Boasting a 20 metre indoor swimming pool, outdoor salt water plunge pool (for those looking to boost their circulation) and hydrotherapy pool, there are multiple thermal cabins (ranging from an Amethyst Room to Aromatic Steam Room). Treatments are wide-ranging and top drawer, using gold standard brands like Ila, Anne Semonin, and Carita Paris, whose Radiance Facial – a blend of Swedish lymphatic drainage and anti-ageing skincare – is ideal for mums looking to revive tired visages. Unusually, all members of the family are catered to here, with Little Miss treatments for girls aged 10-16 enabling both mum and daughter to enjoy a Petit Pedi, and men’s therapies, such as the Tension Release Massage, ideal for harassed dads.
The Wellbeing House, located behind the main spa, offers yoga and Pilates classes (for those feeling more active) as well as Dry Floatation, which aims to sooth aching muscles and involves lying on a mattress filled with warm water in order to experience the sensation of weightlessness while the room is heated to 37 °C. Uniquely, it is also the only UK spa offering Haslauer Reflective Sunlight Therapy which replicates the change of light from sunrise to sunset, bathing you in light and essential vitamin D, and even helping to reduce the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so prevalent at this time of year.
Signature winter spa treatment: Carita’s Cinetic Lift Expert Facial gives an instant lift and glow by incorporating the range’s hero products and Pro Lift Technology for an instant complexion pick-me-up.
The Two Night Spa and Wellbeing break (from £1,105) includes a one hour spa treatment, one hour session at the Wellbeing House, unlimited use of the spa facilities, and dinner at both the Brasserie and The Park. https://www.lucknampark.co.uk
The Gilpin Hotel
Best for: Wilderness seekers
The Lake District is more synonymous with mud-caked hikers than spas, which is what makes this under-the-radar hotel so special. Describing itself as ‘emphatically not a big glitzy spa’, the Gilpin Lake House & Jetty Spa is a six suite sanctuary where a maximum of 12 guests can roam 100 acres of private grounds. The spa is set on a private lake and offers breath-taking views from the Swedish-style treatment rooms, designed with couples in mind (any treatment can be booked together). In fact, the Jetty Spa Trail is a bespoke couple’s journey designed to put partners back in tune with nature and each other.
What does it involve? First up is a private aroma consultation, where a personalised blend is created for your treatment and to take home. Then it’s on to the pool (open exclusively to you) for a bath-warm paddle (water’s heated to 30°C to sooth walk-weary legs), followed by the Salt Snug cabin to slough dead skin. Couples are then encouraged to wander the woods in their fluffy robes and wellies (don’t worry, there won’t be a soul to see you), before a sleep-inducing aroma massage and time out toasting by the fire of the cavernous Boat House. A glass of bubbly in the cedar wood hot tub, disturbed only by bird song, completes the experience.
Suitably comatose, head back to your vast and timelessly neutral-toned, stoke up the fire and start thinking of the evening ahead, hopefully dining at Desai, the Michelin starred restaurant that fuses Asian and British flavours with an emphasis on fresh Lake District produce. The fact that many guests at this hotel are repeat visitor is testament to its enveloping, almost magical atmosphere.
Signature winter spa treatment: Aside from the Jetty Spa Trail, the full body Swedish massage – ideal for aching limbs – is a popular choice.
The Spa Lodge package (from £1,165) offers a two-night stay in the incredible spa lodges (each with an outdoor sauna and hydrotherapy hot tub), a couples 30 minute massage, breakfast, seven course tasting menu and champagne cream tea. https://thegilpin.co.uk
Lime Wood House
Best for: Clean eating foodies
Given the stunning surrounds of this former Regency-era coach house in the heart of the New Forest (think verdant, wildflower strewn meadows where ponies graze), it’s unsurprising that Lime Wood’s Herb House Spa has nature at its core. Not only is the serene three-level spa positioned to make the most of its lush surrounds (the vast sauna allows forest views and the ozone-treated lap pool overlooks the exquisite gardens), a holistic approach to pampering means that only organic, Soil Association-approved ranges are used, from Aromatherapy Associates to Pai (making pregnancy massages particularly appealing to expectant mothers). There are two spacious double treatment rooms, so services à deux, such as Voya’s Wrap and Plunge (which ends in your own private steam room), are very popular. Fitness junkies using the state-of-the-art rooftop gym can even unwind their muscles with a steaming soak in a private tub.
The holistic ethos extends to dining, where the impossibly healthy Raw & Cured café serves up superfood salads, nourishing smoothies and (don’t fret) that must have glass of fizz, too. If you’re brave enough to brace the chill, jump into the outdoors hot tub with said glass of champers before retiring to the pool (towel wrapped firmly around you) for a lounge and nap.
Pick your accommodation in the main house or coach house for rooms that emanate understated luxe with soft colour palettes, four poster beds and roll top baths. The family option garden lodges offer a more rustic option with spacious living areas, well stocked in-room pantries and cosy log fires. Come evening, perch at the Art Deco bar before taking a table at HH & Co. which showcases Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s Italian-influenced dishes. Why not coincide your stay with a class from the packed timetable of cooking tutorials covering everything from Smoking Salmon to Raw & Cured Christmas?
Signature winter spa treatment: The Ancient Stone Massage combines a Swedish massage with warm volcanic stones to stimulate circulation, kick-starting sluggish systems.
‘Late Lime wood’ – available on selected dates throughout the year – offers room rates starting at £195 which includes full use of the Herb House Spa during your stay. Book a Herb House Spa Day from the spa packages menu and receive a complimentary Glow & Co treatment. http://www.limewoodhotel.co.uk/home/