Go on, spoil yourself: 20 of the best spa retreats

SHA Wellness Clinic; @shawellnessclinic.com/; @facebook.com/pg/shawellnessclinic/

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SHA Wellness Clinic, Alicante, Spain

Set into Alicante’s Sierra Helada mountains, SHA’s sharp curves and clean white lines give it the overstated cool of an Ibizan super-club, or a pharmacy on the USS Enterprise.

I’d just begun an incredibly restrictive diet (part of a mad life challenge that shall one day bear fruit, maybe) and the nutrition plan for my stay was meticulously tailored to my incredibly exacting needs. Within this remit, SHA managed to create spectacularly appetising meals, worlds away from the chicken and broccoli on which I’d been subsisting until then. That I spent my four days in SHA eating these meals 3ft away from Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz was an unexpected bonus, and one upon which it would be gauche for me to dwell.

SHA’s approach to wellbeing is famously thorough and I sampled more than a dozen treatments, from yoga and training sessions to acupuncture and cupping, to deep tissue, Indiba, and aqua-cranio-cervical massage. The best of these was a mix of water therapy and shiatsu – colloquially termed “watsu” – which involved being fitted with floatation devices and being walked around a body-temperature pool held by a burly physiotherapist, for an hour of ego-dissolving bliss.

If I’d wondered what five-star wellness felt like beforehand, SHA left no room for doubt thereafter. Séamas O’Reilly
From £335 per night, shawellnessclinic.com

Six Senses Kaplankaya, Turkey

Time to relax: one of the open-air pools at Six Senses Kaplankaya in Turkey
Time to relax: one of the open-air pools at Six Senses Kaplankaya in Turkey Photograph: PR

Now, I love a properly indulgent spa that knows what it’s doing and Turkey’s Six Senses Kaplankaya, across the bay from Bodrum, is as high-end as they come. If you love dressing for dinner and joyful routes to health (in that order) and do not care for irrigation via your private parts, painful exercise or food privation, this is your spot. You can have the hardcore treatments: specialist practitioners offer everything from wellness screenings for tailored nutrition and exercise plans, to weight, sleep and stress management, and Ayurvedic practices such as pranic healing and Vedic astrology. Or you can waft about in the dream of a spa for three days, as did my friend and I.

We fell asleep in the crystal steam room, threw ice at each other in the igloo then had “experiential” showers (experiential rain is a thing; my favourites were the Arctic, accompanied by stormy sound effects, and Rainforest) and sat in the salt grotto and on hot stone benches. I gave myself over; I surrendered; I relaxed.

The capacious, modern resort comprises an indoor and outdoor pool, seven bays and three beaches. We lowered the tone and bagsied sun loungers on a slightly remote (we could still see the beach bar) rocky promontory, then devoured the exquisite buffet breakfast al fresco in the stylish Sage and Thyme restaurant, one of three.

One afternoon, we pootled about on sea bikes – catamaran-bike hybrids that are proof that exercise can be fun. Next morning we did a coastal walk before a group stretch in a cliff-top gazebo. If wellbeing springs from gratitude, I recommend watching the sun set on the Aegean from here. It’s impossible not to count your blessings. Genevieve Fox
From £1,299pp for seven nights, based on two sharing on a half-board basis, including transfers (destinology.co.uk)

Gilpin Lake House, Cumbria

Tree house: reflections of the Gilpin Lake House Spa
Tree house: reflections of the Gilpin Lake House Spa Photograph: PR

A luxurious country pile, accommodating just 12 guests, in 100 acres of grounds. No weddings, or children under seven. A Michelin-starred restaurant? Gilpin Lake House, near Windermere in Cumbria, pleases my gluttonous, antisocial heart immensely. During our weekend stay, my guest and I fall in love with the private lake here, rowing a boat out through the mists of Knipe Tarn every morning. For comfort-loving water babies there’s a heated indoor swimming pool – smallish but indulgent when booked privately for two. Later, outdoor hot tubs, also bookable just for two, are the place to drink champagne, gazing at the dramatic hills. The solitude, the birdsong! The lodges, with large bedrooms and lounges with crackling fires, afford a classic feel – yet there’s quirkiness to this family-owned enterprise. (Say hello to the resident alpacas.) I recommend a full-body massage in the Lake House’s treatment room with a lake view.

You’ll eat well, too – and I don’t mean spirulina supplement-well. Perfect petit fours, foams, parcels and puddings at HRiSHi are an elegant testament to the restaurant’s Anglo-Indian chops. (It’s a mile away, in the main Gilpin Hotel, but you’ll be chauffeured, a complimentary service that makes me believe I’m Amal Clooney.) Within the house, Gilpin staff have a Jeeves-like omnipresence, while retaining northern friendliness. There’s always a drink on hand, and an empty sofa. It’s often said the Lake District is heaven for ramblers; believe me, it’s paradise for loafers, too. Rhik Samadder
From £445 per night B&B, based on two adults sharing (thegilpin.co.uk)

Longevity Health and Wellness Hotel, Portugal

To infinity and beyond: the rooftop pool at Longevity Health & Wellness on the Algarve
To infinity and beyond: the rooftop pool at the Longevity Health and Wellness Hotel on the Algarve Photograph: PR

I can think of worse ways to start a detox than lying on the rooftop terrace of Longevity’s health and wellness spa in the Algarve soaking up the winter sun. In front of me is the mirrored expanse of an infinity pool and beyond that the Atlantic, a ribbon of navy on the horizon. I banish all thoughts that all I need to gild this glorious moment is a bowl of crisps and a glass of rosé. I am here to embrace abstinence after all: no alcohol, carbs, sugar or fat. Opened last October, the spa is clinical-chic: white and minimal. For breakfast it’s a fruit smoothie and a tiny dish of almonds. Lunch (octopus salad and a glass of water) is hours away, but luckily they keep you busy.

I try out their gym, followed by an in-depth “holistic health check” from the spa nutritionist. There are many tests including a muscle-fat analysis (right weight, but I need to convert more fat into muscle) and an analysis of my vitamin and mineral levels. The printout shows my hormonal balance is good, but intoxication level is bad. She tells me to sprinkle vegan protein powder over my nut milk and oats each morning and eat more avocado. After that it’s off for a clay body wrap and a detox massage. Day three: I feel healthy and energised. I even resist the chocolate bars in the mini-fridge and opt instead for a run along the beach. Job done. Emma Cook
Longevity Detox packages start at £1,595 per person for three nights on a half-board basis including transfers (healthandfitnesstravel.com)

Bamford Wellness Spa, Gloucestershire

Country retreats: the cosy interior of one of the Daylesford Cottages.
Country retreats: the cosy interior of one of the Daylesford Cottages. Photograph: Martin Morrell

When it opened in 2002, the Daylesford Farm estate was nicknamed the Harvey Nichols of the Cotswolds. Chipping Norton and its famous “set” are just down the road, Range Rovers abound. Set in 2,500 acres of countryside, it’s the epitome of manicured bucolic chic. But there’s true passion here. Owned by Lady Carole Bamford (of the billionaire JCB family), the whole place has a deep commitment to producing organic, seasonal and sustainable food.

Everything is a short walk, which makes a stay here deeply relaxing. There’s the Wild Rabbit, a country pub straight out of central casting and a 25-minute stroll from the main farm, and a huge farmhouse shop and café, plus picturesque stone cottages, one of which is our base for the weekend.

The converted farmhouses (the larger ones sleep up to six) are designed in an elegant rustic style, each with a small kitchen, Aga and wood burner, plus cashmere blankets and supremely comfortable beds. We signed up for the Restorative Retreat, which includes classes (meditation, yoga, pilates and sound healing) in the Bamford Wellness Spa, just across the yard. After a facial or massage, you can slouch about on the fireside sofa or, if you can muster the energy, take a bike and tootle across the fields to check out the organic egg house and the ridiculously happy sheep. Harriet Green
Midweek retreat packages at Daylesford Cottages, from £1,100 for two for a four-night stay (daylesford.com)

The best of the rest: from urban chic to a seaside hideaway, 15 more spas that are a cut above

Take the strain: a massage at Rudding Park
Take the strain: a massage at Rudding Park Photograph: PR

Rudding Park, North Yorkshire

Set in 300 acres, this award-winning hotel spa in Harrogate has a rooftop spa garden featuring a panoramic sauna, spa bath, outdoor hydrotherapy pool, plus a “Sunlight therapy room”, an anti-ageing oxygen pod, CBD treatments and a bath ritual for two in a copper tub.
Spa visits from £116, ruddingpark.co.uk

Seaham Hall, Durham

Keeping watch over the vitalising Durham Heritage Coast is this Georgian country house with 21 suites, an underground passageway and a giant ornamental elephant. Its Serenity Spa draws inspiration from both Far Eastern healing rituals and Scottish seaweed treatments; other offerings include a hammam, Indian steam room and Zen garden.
From £195 a night, seaham-hall.co.uk

One Spa, Edinburgh

Adjacent to the Sheraton Grand Hotel, this popular day spa’s Age-Defier Facial is a winner, its rooftop hydropool a crowd-puller and its thermal suite extensive. Highlights include the Himalayan salt room, amethyst crystal steam room and kenesis studio in the gym.
Spa visits from £75 per person, onespa.com

Lucknam Park, Somerset

The swanky spa in this luxurious country-house hotel, set in 500 acres of parkland near Bath, has a 20m pool with poolside fireplace, thermal cabins and hydrotherapy pool. Highlights include ESPA natural face lifts, maternity day spas and a spa and afternoon tea experience.
Spa visits from £116, lucknampark.co.uk

Monart Day Spa, Dorset

Built using local materials, Poundbury village’s recent Monart Day Spa suits steam junkies who like a thermal suite. The spa incudes a hydrotherapy pool, sanarium, caldarium, sauna, salt grotto and infrared pro cabin and aroma steam room. Treatments use ethically sourced products.
From £60, monartspa.co.uk

The Grove, Hertfordshire

The Sequoia Spa and health club at the glamorous Grove Hotel, near Watford, boasts a 22m black-tiled indoor pool and a 25m outdoor pool. Treatments include energy rebalancing, positivity and Wellness for Cancer treatments, plus spa and golf specials.
From £165, thegrove.co.uk

Portavadie, Argyll

Let the outside in at this spa on Loch Fyne with inspiring views across to the Isle of Arran. Part of a marina resort, get elemental in the outdoor infinity pool or rejuvenate in the indoor hydro pool. Signature treatments, inspired by ishga (Gaelic for water), include the Men’s ishga bespoke facial and a lava shell massage.
Day packages from £91, portavadie.com

Haeckels House Day Spa, Kent

Haeckels’s bathing machine on Margate’s Main Sands is a neo-Victorian micro spa, the front of the machine housing a wood-fired sauna for seven people, the rear serving as a small changing space. At Haeckels House itself, there are Thalassotherapy-inspired treatments and a signature seaweed facial using wild-harvested seaweed. The sauna is free.
Treatments from £30, haeckels.co.uk

Thermae Bath Spa, Somerset

A natural thermal spa, you’ve got it all here, from the majestic Minerva Bath with massage jets and lazy river, to a Georgian steam room and an infrared room to a menthol-infused ice chamber and a roof-top pool.
Day spa visits from £37, thermaebathspa.com

Grantley Hall, North Yorkshire

Plush pampering awaits at Three Graces Spa at Grantley Hall hotel, a Palladian pile with ancient parkland. Enjoy the marble-clad indoor pool, snow room and hydrotherapy pool, hot tubs, a pale-blue lounge serving re-balancing juices, and a state-of-the-art fitness suite.
Spa day packages from £225, grantleyhall.co.uk

York Hall Day Spa, London

This 1920s building in Bethnal Green is home to a six-chambered thermal spa. Detox in Aroma Steam rooms, Turkish Baths or Sauna. Spa treatments include a reflexology-based Soul Ritual and a Moroccan Rasul Ritual.
Spa sessions, male or female-only, £26, better.org.uk

Hotel Portmeirion and Castell Deudraeth, Gwynedd

This fantasia of a private village perching over the Dwyryd estuary further entices with the Mermaid Spa. Using vegan products, treatments include mud wraps, seaweed wraps and a Children’s Treat (choices include a mini-massage).
Spa visits from £60, portmeirion.wales

The Scarlet, Cornwall

Surfers can kick back in style at this luxury eco-friendly hotel. Revel in sensational sea views, a natural reed-bed swimming pool, Ayurvedic treatments, cliff-top hot tubs and a rhassoul for mud scrubs – plus an all-round cool vibe.
Day spa visits from £170 per person, scarlethotel.co.uk

Molitor Club and Spa, France

Step back in time at the retro 1930s Hotel Molitor, in the 16th arrondissement, near the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Its ocean-liner inspired Piscine Molitor is the draw, while the treatments at the hotel’s small Spa by Clarins, which offers a hamman and sauna, include a Boxer’s and a Jogger’s massage.
Treatments from £75, mltr.fr

Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa, Sweden

Splash out – and some – to experience the Northern Lights, sleep in a floating cabin on Northern Sweden’s Lule river, enjoy spa treatments and jump in and out of cold and hot baths on a patio deck.
From £3,995 per person for a three-day trip, offthemap.travel

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