In my darker moments, I can be a jaded spa cynic. Ayurveda in the Maldives? Tick. Detoxing in Austria? Been there, done that. But I couldn’t help feeling a tingle of anticipation as I booked in for my first Katherine Daniels facial.
The Katherine Daniels products look so pretty it's easy to think they must have chosen style over substance. Yet each time I use them, my skin drinks in the product and almost glows with happiness, like I’ve given it a shot of sparkly Champagne.
Londoners and Green Belters can have Katherine Daniels facials in a few select salons. But, I have booked into the stately Stapleford Park in Leicestershire, which is more periwig than hipster. The hotel is ridiculously romantic with bags of character – hand embroidered silk wallpaper, stuffed animal heads, huge roaring fires, rocking-horses and racks of wellies in the stone-flagged hallway. It looks like a bijou palace from the outside, with long sash windows, creative topiary and sheep grazing in the frosty Capability Brown landscape.
I resided in the Lady Gretton suite with its vertiginous ceiling, velvet drapes and vast four-poster bed with (thankfully) modern mattress and bedding. No wifi in the bedrooms is taking authenticity a bit too far, but I managed to amuse myself with the complimentary sloe gin and glossy magazines.
There was time for a few laps of the eccentric hotel pool in what looks like an old conservatory. The blue-tiled pool has a mosaic eagle’s crest on the bottom, there's also a jacuzzi, steam room (both out of order) and tiny-but-working sauna. I then took a golf buggy to the spa, mostly because it was cold and quite a walk, albeit through lovely walled heritage gardens.
The Lifestyle Club is in a large stable block; half gym and studios, and half spa. Like the house, character reigns supreme. Relaxation areas with leather sofas and scented candles are set in the original horse box stalls, behind iron bars. The changing rooms are similarly quirky, with old keys hanging from the wall and antique lockers.
I made my way upstairs to a large all-white rustic room with plump sofas, wooden tables strewn with magazines and broadsheets, tweedy chairs and a tea and coffee counter. Groups of casual-chic women in white gowns relaxed, sipping orange juice and nibbling cakes.
At one end is a stand of Katherine Daniels products and seeing it against a backdrop of posh country house, I can see that it does fit well out of the urban pond. Katherine Daniels could be a heroine in a country house romance.
I had the Katherine Daniels Age Defence Nourishing Hydrating Treatment (80 minutes, £85).
My therapist, Charlotte, led me to a large, plain treatment room and left me to disrobe and lie between the sheets. When she returned, she dimmed the lights and removed my make-up with the award winning Micellar Lotion, followed with a delicious citrusy smelling cleansing gel. Charlotte then used a cleansing machine, a hand-sized grey egg-shaped device that buzzed pleasantly over my cheeks. This was followed by gentle exfoliating pads.
Cleansing done, Charlotte began the massage, sweeping facial oil up to my brow, followed with a toner. The first face mask containing hydrating hyaluronic acid was surprisingly cold. Charlotte brushed it on, warning me that it might tingle, then layered on algae paper. Not long ago, the words acid and algae would have caused me to run for the hills: now I relish the amazing rejuvenating and healing effect they have on my skin. While the mask set, Charlotte gave me an amazing head massage. She rolled off the mask and remarked how lovely my skin looked. Then another massage, this time focusing on plumping my face, but also stretching my neck and pressing my shoulders away from my ears: instant relaxation.
After applying serum, moisturiser, lip and eye balm, Charlotte left me to slowly arise. I touched my cheeks and was surprised that they felt noticably plump and soft. Sneaking a look in the mirror, I was taken aback. I certainly looked younger, but also rather gorgeous. I was therefore somewhat peeved that I didn’t have a Mr D’Arcy to meet for dinner that evening. Selfies never quite do these things justice, especially not when one has eccentric post-massage, birds-nest hair.
That evening, one had pre-dinner drinks and canapes in the library bar with a pianist tinkling away in the lobby. Then to dinner, one of the most delicious I have had -- scallops as soft as butter with a hunk of black sea bass. Finally, I retired to Lady Gretton’s chilly lair and finish off the sloe gin. The next day, my skin still looked fabulous. Too soon it was time to head back to the real world, dear reader, to Mr Spa Spy before the spell of youth wore off…