It was a dark and stormy night… but instead of having to drive home after her spa day, Spa Spy booked in and had her own private pyjama party.
Spa-ing is fun with friends and loved ones. But sometimes, to paraphrase Greta Garbo, you just want to spa alone.
Mallory Court’s Elan Spa is perfectly set up for some lone-time. If I was recovering from illness, stress or heartbreak I would want to come here (although I just noticed they have hen party packages: might be wise to check you don’t clash with one of those).
The newly built spa is set within the charming grounds of an older Arts and Crafts style country hotel, and is designed to feel like a spa within a house. It has:
Sweet, friendly staff who will go out of their way to tend to your whims, from a morning latte in the outdoor hot tub to dry robe and towel.
Homely luxury bedrooms in the spa: no need to put on clothes or make-up for 24 hours.
Room service from the hotel restaurant, plus snacks and teas, plus turndown spa bath: equals Luxury Pyjama Night In.
Nurturing, beautiful treatments by ila and ESPA.
Quintessentially English country gardens to wander through composing sonnets – well, this is Shakespeare Country.
I booked in for an ila Essence of Spa one-night break (from £340 weekdays). Entering through double glass panelled doors, I was enveloped by spa scented candles and gentle chill-out tunes (Air, Soul to Soul and Groove Armada – makes a nice change from generic whale song).
I checked into my room, which was homely and slightly grand, in muted natural colours. A huge bay window overlooked the gardens and tennis courts. It was like being in an Alan Ayckbourn play, except for the slightly trippy music playing on the stereo. This was by ila’s founder, Denise Leicester who makes music to accompany ila treatments with a bloke called Tabla Tom – okaayyy – but, actually, I rather liked it (you can of course turn it off or switch channels if you don’t).
Once changed into swimsuit and robe, I trotted down the stairs (there’s a lift too) to the main spa area. There’s a stylish gym to the front of house, a nail bar, then to the rear a café and large, bright indoor pool area overlooking the spa garden, plus sauna, steam room and rasul chamber.
It was early autumn, but I love an outdoor heated pool in all weathers so made a bee-line for the bubbly hydro pool on the decked terrace. Bubbling away admiring the rows of purple salvia and trees beneath a bright sky, my spa host Chris appeared like a magic genie and offered to bring me a drink. Splendid.
It was one of those freakishly warm September days, so I sat on a lounger before trying the outdoor sauna, next to a wood burner stove for winter warming. Cooling off with the outdoor shower, I then went indoors for lunch at the chic café, all cosy wood with notes of deep blue overlooking the pretty 10-metre indoor pool. The menu offered healthy Asian and gastro-pub inspired dishes, plus devilishly delicious deserts – chocolate mousse with green tea sorbet? Oh, go on then….
I was really impressed with the food which uses fresh, interesting ingredients, some plucked directly from Mallory Court’s fabulously ornamental kitchen gardens. On the tables are small jars of fresh roses with little chalk and blackboard tags telling you that these, too, came from the garden. If you want to see where, head outside for a Mindful Walk – they have a map on reception which adds a little historical background to your tour. It all so… darling.
After lunch, I climbed two floors to the calming and elegant treatment suite, for an Ila Chakra Wellbeing (115 minutes, £145). I was a bit dubious – call me an old cynic, Garbo eyebrow raised: it did contain the word ‘chakra’. Yet it turned out to be one of the most blissed-out treatments I’d ever had (next to a Shirodhara in the Indian Ocean and a Haki back massage in St, Mortiz).
I think Denise and Tom’s slightly weird music helped, but it was mostly my therapist Christine’s slow and deep flowing strokes. She talked about my heart and throat chakras needing special attention: whatever she did, I did feel enormously unburdened after. My thoughts had stopped whirring like dervishes and settled calmly in well-behaved rows. I felt an overwhelming need to lie down. They don’t have a relaxation room here, which some would consider a major design lapse, but when one has a room of one’s own, who cares?
Once in my PJs, I ordered room service – two healthy courses beneath the traditional silver domed hot plates, and no booze because I am healing, people – and tuned into Netflix for an hour.
My turndown bath treatment involved an ila cleanser, mud mask and bath products laid out on a wooden bath tray, with flannels tied with pink ribbons and an inflatable pillow. A bath butler would have been either more luxurious, or too intrusive. I followed the list of instructions, which also advised playing Denise and Tom’s chakra tunes as I lay in the hot soapy water with a green muddy face. I turned down my cynical voice and channelled my inner Gwynnie – at least Mr Spa Spy wasn’t here to laugh scornfully at my newfound New Age thang. It was totally OM.
I don’t know whether it was the treatment, the storm outside my window, the comfy double bed all to myself or just the whole darn relaxing package wrapped up in one cosy spa, but I slept fantastically well. In the morning, I drifted down to a buffet breakfast – fresh fruit and yoghurt followed by poached eggs on avocado and sourdough. Then it was back to the outdoor pool for a latte and birdsong before hitting the M6: back to life, back to reality…