UK Reviews

The Healing Waters of Bath

Roman steam roomDip your toe into the therapeutic waters of Bath for a reflection of a Roman era. Echoing a bygone time, it’s easy to imagine servants carrying vessels of mineral rich water, bathing in the warm waters that promise miraculous healing powers, being pampered in majestic surroundings with high domed ceilings while pompous and imposing Romanesque statues watch over.

From the Celts, Romans, Saxons and Georgians, Bath has long been associated with well-being which is well documented and exhibited at The Roman Baths, a first-class museum honouring the excavated remains which centre around the Sacred Spring. The rituals of spiritual contemplation, social interaction and the belief in health-giving properties of water are showcased and owe much to the Roman philosophy. Here you look and learn while a short distance away a more immersive experience awaits.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa has become the City’s crowning glory over healing waters. It’s tucked away in the quaint and aptly named Beau Street, minutes from the Roman Baths Museum and opposite the new and popular Thermae Spa facility. The hotel was originally built as a hospital, taking advantage of the curative properties of the underground springs. It was named after the artist Thomas Gainsborough and reflects a colourful history and a modern, sophisticated interpretation of its classic design. It stands as the only UK hotel with a naturally-occurring source of hot water with each guest room having its own supply of natural thermal water

The staff welcome guests like returning friends of the house. If your sat nav is not behaving, don’t despair, the hotel concierge will personally accompany you and guide you to the entrance. The rooms are elegant and tastefully furnished, complete with bathroom amenities from Asprey and a pillow menu to ensure a perfect night of slumber. It’s easy to stay in this cocoon of luxury.

Accommodating the lower ground levels, a star attraction awaits. The Spa Village offers its own version of Roman history, enjoying the privilege of exclusive access to naturally hot mineral-rich waters. This serene environment, swathed in natural light from a glass atrium, offers a range of aquatic body treatments, crafted for individual needs and conditions.

Your experience starts at the Aroma Bar where a delicate pouch of aromatherapy salts is crafted according to your mood preference.  This accompanies you throughout your time like a personal aroma mascot.  Use it as a reminder to enhance your mood during the recommended thermal circuit of three natural thermal pools, an ice alcove, traditional and infrared saunas, steam room and relaxation areas. And don’t miss the hot chocolate on tap, purported to be an ancient roman indulgent!

Treatments are designed to ensure the full benefit of the thermal waters through exfoliation, hydration and essential antioxidants and nutrients to complement the absorption of the Spring’s unique minerals. I selected the magnesium wrap, my choice based on the fact that most of us are deficient in this mineral. Apparently, magnesium is better absorbed through the skin rather than as a tablet supplement. It was a 90-minute relaxation experience combining a body scrub, massage and wrap in warm comforting towels. My skin took on a new suppleness and my mind equally nourished in relaxation. My therapist, Karbir Aliri, an expert in body nutrition, emphasised the significance of water as an essential component to relaxation, psychologically washing away stressful thoughts while immersion relaxed the muscles, allowing the breath to renew energy.

Two minutes away from the hotel is a rather different immersive experience at the Thermae Bath Spa. This popular facility is renowned for its rooftop pool created to maintain a connection with the surrounding landscape while providing therapeutic benefits. Go when the light is fading at twilight to enjoy the fabulous skyline views across the city.

The Thermae Bath Spa has involved the restoration of five historic buildings and a new contemporary structure to combine modern with a tradition of well-being which dates back over 2,000 years.

There are four natural thermal baths, one being The Minerva Bath, aptly named after the Goddess of Health and Wisdom. There are 24 treatment rooms offering a wide range of 40 therapies.

I experienced the “Nurture and Nourish” treatment which is one of the newer and recommended therapies using aromatherapy oils blended for dry or tired skin. The treatment involves a rose scrub to prepare the skin for a nourishing, light mud wrap. While wrapped cosily in towels, a facial and head massage furthers the relaxation process. The mud was showered away and the natural oils sealed in with a final massage.  I then retired to the adjoining relaxation room with a comforting cup of herbal tea in a far more calming state than when I arrived.

For that wow factor, the Wellness Suite, which was added this year, will certainly sparkle your senses with its range of colourful thermal chambers leading guests on a multi-sensory journey of seven experiences. These include Roman and Georgian inspired steam rooms, infused with aromatherapy oils, an infrared sauna, ice chamber, and an astral relaxing room, so popular that you may find a short queue. (www.thermaebathspa.com)

Bath may be brimming with restaurants but the Gainsborough Hotel’s cuisine is outstanding.  A young chef so impressed the hotel with his classic British dishes and creative use of local foods that they named the restaurant after him.  Dan Moon at The Gainsborough Restaurant offers an interesting menu as well as a creative seasonal six-course tasting option. I delved into the main menu to savour Sauteed Scallop which consisted of king prawn risotto, spring onion and yuzu – scrumptious.  The Fillet of Turbot followed, laced with crab tortellini, green peas, broad beans, girolles and crab bisque – mouth-watering and finally a menu of hard to resist desserts to include Lemon Parfait, healthy described with lavender sugar, lemon balm and raspberry sorbet.  Gluten-free requests are honoured without reminder and signature dishes modified to suit. It’s an informal yet sophisticated atmosphere with beautifully presented dishes honouring local, seasonal foods.

Before dinner, do find time to sample a cocktail made to suit your own personal taste. The bartenders are very talented and can craft a specially designed cocktail with your signature notes from a quick brief of your favourite tipples. You won’t be disappointed.  The Gainsborough bar is also well stocked with artisan gins, local ales and champagnes.

Bath’s wellness tradition is more than a bridge over flowing healthy waters.  Its natural springs have inspired architectural richness, aquatic treatments and a reverence towards the traditions and heritage of a healing destination. This is a place fashioning thermal health and wellness with the curative powers of warm hospitality.

Water floweth – The Facts on Bath’s waters:

There are three natural spring heads in the centre of Bath- The Kings Spring which fills the Roman Baths, The Hetling Spring and The Cross Spring

Each day the flow of water in 1.25 million litres at 45 centigrade.

The water contains 42 minerals. The most concentrated include calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, hydrogen carbonate, silicate and sulphur.

Places to visit…..

The Cross Bath is an 18th century open-air bathing pool where spring water rises up under natural artesian pressure through a sculptured fountain. It is a hidden sanctuary and an official sacred site, used in a similar way to years gone by for private gatherings reminiscent of Georgian bathers sipping hot chocolate with serenading musicians on the balcony above.  This hidden gem is recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

A must is to see the “halo” of Georgian houses designed by John Wood the Elder which has become Bath’s memorable piece of architecture. Walk west to the Royal Crescent.

Bath Abbey is a former cathedral which has stood since 757 AD. Visit to see its stained glass windows and towering stone columns.

Jane Austen Centre is a draw for literary enthusiasts.  Hear about her own experience of Bath when she wrote “Persuasion” and “Northanger Abbey”. www.janeausten.co.uk

The Pulteney Bridge provides a view over the horseshoe-shaped weir and views to the high grounds.

The Grand Pump Room for afternoon tea while enjoying a recital or string quarter.

Sally Lunn’s is the city’s oldest eating house and kitchen and home to the famous Sally Lunn Bun – a recipe dating back 300 years.

 

How to Book:

For the Thermae Spa bookings:

Reservations. Tel: 01225 33 1234,

Email: reservations@thermaebathspa.com

https://www.thermaebathspa.com/contact/

For The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel

Reservations. Tel: +44 (0) 1225 358 888

Email: reservations@thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

http://thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk/pages/contact-us.html

 

May we have your tension please…..

Deep in the heart of Suffolk lies the pretty village of Lavenham with its crooked buildings dating back to medieval times. Woven between quaint teashops and art galleries sits the Swan Hotel, camouflaged by its age-old timber structure. Inside with beams and alcoves, history repeats itself with intimate lounges, cozy fireplaces and meandering passageways. Here, as a guest, you are addressed by your name, not your room number while your breakfast preferences are remembered from the day before. The Swan embraces you and provides the perfect setting for stepping away from busy schedules.

“May we have your tension please….” I read this from a display card. It refers to the unique facility attached to the hotel. Chic, stylish and extremely personal, the Weavers’ House Spa is tucked behind the imposing timber structure in a separate building but linked with easy access from the hotel or through a pretty garden and decked area.

The genuine care for individual comfort and attention seeps through to this award-winning Spa. Modern and bright the experience is peppered with sweet indulgences as well as custom-created treatments. A wide range of treatments include signature packages such as the 2-hour Weavers’ House Hug which promises that you will “Swan Out” feeling totally restored while the Brush with Heaven, which uses brush sequences of different sizes and textures, aims to stimulate, massage and drain toxins. The menu is extensive, capturing every type of facial, massage, scrub and wrap specially created to make them unique, earning this Spa a basket of awards and accolades.

My spa journey started as soon as I arrived. The changing rooms are neat, bright and spotless. The robes engagingly fluffy and soft, setting me immediately into a pampering mindset. I find a little tray waiting for me in the lounge, neatly laid with a consultation form accompanied by a strawberry smoothie in a shot glass – containing those all-important antioxidants. I am then escorted to one of the six elegant treatment rooms where I was surprised by the Hydrotherm waterbed mattress. This apparently relieves pressure off the spine during a treatment. Slightly hesitant that I would lose balance, it proved to be extremely comfortable. A full massage usually requires turning, smothering your face, but this time the whole massage was done lying on my back. At the end of the treatment, totally relaxed, a zesty lemon sorbet is placed in the room as a post treatment treat, prescribed to awaken my senses! I am then led to a quiet relaxation room where a blended tea awaits complete with a macaroon. How sweet!

It’s sensory too. The inhalations help to relax the mind to deepen the effect of the treatment. The various products give a hint of the aroma aiding calm and peace. There is no noise or disturbances around.

Not wanting to turn any guest away, the Weavers’ House Spa has launched its selection of “Touch Therapies” by Jennifer Young for those living with and beyond cancer. Jennifer Young is an experienced micro-biologist and nutritionist, qualified therapist and product formulator. The therapists at the Spa have been specially trained and qualified in her treatments and skincare to provide the highest grade of treatment with quality ingredients. Touch therapies range from a facial, massage and top to toe experience. All Jennifer Young’s “Defiant Beauty” range have been developed for those affected by cancer and are 100% natural and organic.

The same personal attention has also been paid to the products they use and sell. Think cashmere, diamond dust and truffles. The products boast exotic ingredients made by the British brand, Temple Spa. Their exclusivity means availability is limited to the likes of Emirates First Class, Harrods, Selfridges, Orient Express and of course Weavers Spa as well as a scattering of selected spas across the country.

To relegate stress to history, experience products of the modern age while cocooned in a character hotel in a medieval setting, head to The Swan in Lavenham.

To book a stay at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa and treatments in Weavers’ House Spa call +44 (0) 1787 247477 or visit www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk Rooms start from £185 per night for two sharing including a full Suffolk breakfast; dinner from the a la carte menu is from £39 per person for three courses. Overnight guests have a complimentary two-hour session with use of the spa facilities including the sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge.

ESPALife at The Corinthia

The Sauna ESPA life at Corinthia

My arrival is greeted with a warm chamomile tea and a gentle smile. The reception looks like a setting for Chanel – all champagne and shiny black marble with an imposing statue. It is calm, tranquil and luxurious.

EspaLife is a next Generation Spa and located at the Corinthia Hotel in London. It is dedicated to total relaxation, is spread over four floors and said to be the largest urban facility of its kind in London and I can believe it.

The thermal floor is innovative with an ice fountain positioned close to an Amphitheatre- styled sauna, unique with glass walls, a far cry from the traditional design of a wooden sauna. There are two pools, one being a Vitality pool with a ceiling reflecting the ripples below and modern open flamed fires create an intimate atmosphere that is rich, warm and contemporary.

With a heightened focus on relaxation, heated marble beds are carefully positioned around to relax and admire the space. Privacy has been created through the clever use of curved walls to introduce individual space areas. And do try the sleep pods – a dedicated private area just for you.

The wide choice of unique treatments stem from a holistic approach. Mindful therapies have been blended with traditional practices to offer facials, massages and bespoke treatments to suit individual needs prescribed by professionally-trained therapists. Catering for all types and ailments, these range from Craniosacaral Therapy & Reflexology, Bamboo Joint Release, a Dosha Specific Ritual for balance, an Age Rebel Face Treatment for Men, a Maternity Massage, and for feet, a prescription service for Orthotics.

The Nurture and Support programme is its signature suite of complementary alternative therapies. I sampled the ESPA Mindful Massage which included the ancient practices of Pranayama and Yoga Nidra to bring about conscious relaxation. This included guided breathing and visualization. My therapist, aptly called Angel, guided me through this unusual treatment. After a consultation, the massage concentrated on the small chakra points to stimulate energy through blocked areas. Once unblocked, his voice strong and clear transported me away through breathing and visualisation to rebalance and restore my mind and body to the here and now. Did it work? I left lighter in mind, my body more balanced and a feeling of renewed positivity and more conscious of the present moment.

ESPALife has also launched a new collection of nurturing face and body rituals for those experiencing any of the symptoms, degrees and stages of cancer. This follows many years of development, working with Wellness for CancerTM,
a non-profit educational foundation and underpinned by an extensive training programme.

Beginning with a personal consultation, these gentle rituals are carefully designed to help relax, nurture and support at a time when they are needed the most, ultimately helping to aid the reduction of stress and anxiety while promoting inner calm. All experiences begin with guided breath-work and visualisation to steady the breathing along with crystals where appropriate to create a sense of calm and ensure you get the most out of your experience.

Which ever treatment you choose, rest assured, you will leave not only balanced and relaxed but equipped with advice to integrate into your daily routines to enhance your general wellbeing. But ensconced amid this tranquil oasis, you may not want to leave……. Another chamomile tea please.

The ESPA Life in the Corinthia Hotel is located close to the river Thames and a walk from Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London.