Take me with you...
Located in North Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Woolacombe Bay Hotel is set in the seaside town of its namesake, famous for its award-winning three-mile stretch of sand and rolling Atlantic breakers. Despite its mock-Tudor appearance, the 64-bedroom hotel is Victorian-era; original features include a striking double-height ceiling in the dining room with views across the immaculate sweep of sea-facing lawns. In contrast, the décor is fresh and modern, with statement wallpaper and a laid-back vibe.
Shall we spa?
Refurbished in 2019, The Alchemist Spa can be found at the back of the hotel, past the quirky NEO cinema with its cosy sofas and plush armchairs.
On your left is an indoor pool complete with loungers, hot tub, sauna and steam room. You'll find the large, airy reception and The Larder, serving complimentary tea and coffee (cocktails and Champagne can also be arranged), through the door ahead. On this floor, too, are the compact yet stylish changing rooms, complete with Natural Spa Factory products, Dyson hair dryers and straighteners, and plenty of towels. You’ll find soft, grey robes and flip-flops inside the lockers.
We tried The Alchemist Spa’s signature treatment Blissfully Unaware (70 minutes, £110), a bespoke back massage/facial duo using carefully blended oils from Natural Spa Factory.
My therapist, Ashley, met me in reception and led me upstairs to the one of the four low-lit treatment rooms. While I took a seat, Ashley explained the treatment, asking about any areas of concern before inviting me to choose one of four oils - Invigorating, Calming, Seaweed or Sensitive - via a scent test. I was drawn to Sensitive, known for its repairing and restoring ingredients of frankincense, geranium, rosehip and evening primrose.
Ashley then left the room so that I could disrobe and get comfortable on the treatment bed, lying face down. The treatment began with a holistic massage; Ashley using her hands and forearms to ease out the knots in my shoulders and tension in my lower back. Ashley intuitively set to work on my neck muscles, moving her magic fingers to relieve ongoing tension.
After turning onto my back, Ashley prepared my skin for the facial using Natural Spa Factory’s Illuminate range containing rice bran oil - an ingredient loved by Japanese Geisha as well as Sake Factory workers (who were renowned for having the smoothest, softest hands).
Ashley began the facial by using a Melting Cleanser, a thick vanilla-scented honey gel that turned to a milky emulsion when added to water. Next came a toner, followed by application of Facial Polish. A collagen-boosting Acerola Cherry peel-off face mask - loaded with vitamin C – was then applied. While the mask worked its magic, Ashley performed a hand and arm massage. She then peeled the pink mask off in one, before moving onto the décolleté, head and scalp.
After coming to, Ashley led me to The Optimist, a relaxation room with four plush leather studded daybeds. While she fetched a pot of peppermint tea and tasty pastry, I admired the statement pendant lighting with exposed bulbs; vintage prints of butterflies, plumes and bees adorned the walls.
How did it measure up?
Post-treatment, my skin was glowing and, as the name suggests, I felt blissed out. Natural Spa Factory’s products are free from parabens and nasties; the thick formulas felt soothing on my skin and the vanilla and white flower scent was lovely and delicate. The spa also offers treatments using local brand Dolly Lemon, as well as oncology therapies from Jennifer Young. There’s a second relaxation room, for two, for those wishing for some privacy and space.
Spot of lunch?
For super-relaxed dining in a stylish but spacious setting, The Bay Brasserie and Bar delivers. Dogs are welcome too. The food is relaxed with pizza from the pizza oven, gourmet burgers or local seafood. Barista-style coffee is on the menu, alongside handmade cakes and the obligatory Devonshire Cream Tea. Don’t miss the cocktails – best served with a sea view – or, if it’s a special occasion, a feast at the Chef’s Table.
Got all day?
Couples or small groups of friends can experience the ancient Arabic bath ritual in the private Rasul. Get your mud and scrub combo from the scrub bar and slather yourself in hand harvested, mineral-rich mud before steaming away for silky smooth skin
For optimal wallowing, finish off with a soak in the oversized copper tub; your bath butler will draw it for you, adding your choice of oil, so you can sink beneath the bubbles with a glass of something sparkly.
Active spa-goers should head to SALT Gymnasia and sign up for a hardcore Versa Climber class – a high intensity upright workout with zero impact and one of the first of its kind to be found outside of London.
Short on time?
Sun worshippers will love The Bay Lido. Bag a poolside lounger – beneath the new wooden pergolas - and order an Aperol Spritz from the smartly-attired waiters (think waistcoats, leather aprons and handlebar moustaches). Come heatwave, cool off in the Med-style outdoor pool, gently heated at 22.C. Hidden behind a wind-breaking wall, you’re protected from the sea breeze here but can steal glimpses of the heavenly blue bay beyond.
14th July 2022
Nature-inspired spas, cold water plunges, sound baths, deep tissue massage, delicious food.
Thin walls in treatment rooms, loungers hoggers, bright lights
Behind the scenes