I remember my mum taking me to my first spa when I was a teenager. It was The Sanctuary in Covent Garden, now sadly closed down, with a swing over the pool and koi carp swimming around the relaxation beds. I was enraptured and felt so grown up. Little did I know that (cough cough) years later, I would be reviewing spas for a living.
With that in mind, I felt it was time to introduce my teenage daughter to World of Spa. Ms Spy, as she will henceforth be known, is at that stage of life when every day seems to throw up a new exam/boyfriend/friend/skin crisis. If anyone needs to relax, get some skincare advice and discover how to be comfortable in their own body, it’s her – and every other teenager on the planet.
Thinking of that magical, fairytale pool swing, I decided to take her to Ragdale Hall, a five bubble destination spa in Leicestershire, which has enchanting thermal experiences such as the candlelit cave pool (below), and an outdoor mini-river pool with waterfall.
The Ragdale map reminds me of a spa Disneyland for grown-ups, with its volcanic steam room, trippy thought zone, whirlpools, waterfalls, a storm shower with thunder and lightning, huge swimming pool, gym and classes, as well as boutique, beauty shops and large, bright treatment area. And it caters for 16 and up.
Asking around the office, my colleagues recommended it as the spa a Spa Spy goes to relax – you can’t get a better recommendation than that.
This is because Ragdale is luxurious, but without being pretentious or stuck-up, therefore perfect for a self-conscious teenager. Indeed when we arrived, my daughter was suitably awed by the crenelated, grandiose Hall surrounded by beautiful countryside, but also relaxed by our warm welcome. As soon as we parked by the entrance, we were relieved of our bags and car keys and bundled into the café for complimentary drinks.
I was only mildly concerned spending intense, quality time with my teenage offspring, as she is generally funny, smart company with only occasional stress-related mood-swing (the same could be said of her mother). But if I had a more challenging teen, the beauty of Ragdale is that if tensions arise, you can wander off and do your own thing: it all feels very safe and contained. Another bonus is breakfast-in-bed: great for teens that don't do mornings.
What I loved was that the thermal experiences brought out the child in both of us - we were still swimming under the moon when the thermal area closed at 10pm.
For most of the year, Ragdale do a fabulous Clarins mother and daughter package which they run March to September - hence you can give it to your mum as a mother's day present but choose when you want to go. But this I feel would be better suited to my mother and me, old hands at spa-ing who just need a bit of pampering.
Teenagers often have specific skin concerns, and a spa is the perfect place to go and nip bad beauty habits in the bud, as well as get some positive expert advice and encouragement.
As a teenager, I had spotty combination skin, so Clarins would probably have been perfect for me. However my daughter has inherited her father’s stress-related eczema – not overbearing, but during exam periods especially, it does suddenly break out and cause discomfort as well as embarrassment.
As luck would have it, Ragdale have just introduced their Jennifer Young range, specifically designed treatments and products for those recovering from cancer or with highly sensitive skin, eczema and psoriasis. The products are 100 percent natural and organic, which is something I’d love to encourage my daughter and all young people to use. Also each of the therapists has been trained by Jennifer Young herself, so I knew she'd get some good advice.
My daughter chose the Jennifer Young Gently Calming Facial (50 mins £60). Her therapist Charlotte tailored the treatment to release tension, with a massage that extended from the face to the shoulders and head as well as exfoliation, cleansing and moisturising. She emerged glowing and, most importantly, full of new found wisdom about how to care for her skin.
After a delicious lunch in the newly refurbished Verandah bar, it was straight back to the candle pool to unleash our inner mermaids.