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 from the Victorian-era with original features including 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, black and white beach portraits, 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 lined with purple LED lights; look up at the reflective ceiling during leisurely laps or sink into one of several oversized loungers adorned with the comfiest grey pillows. The thermal suite is home to a bubbly hot tub, toasty sauna, and large black and white-tiled 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 a door from here.
On this floor, too, are the compact yet stylish changing rooms – one unisex - complete with Natural Spa Factory products, hair dryers and straighteners, and plenty of towels; you’ll find a soft grey robe and flip-flops inside the lockers. Past the changing rooms, at the back of the spa, you’ll find an oversized copper bathroom and a private Rasul.
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.
We tried a Signature Rasul Journey (30-45 minutes £55) followed by a Warm Candle Massage (55 minutes, £85).
Having pre-picked our Natural Spa Factory scrubs via scent - mint, patchouli and green coffee for me and Yamato cold brew for my spa partner - we entered the beautifully tiled chamber – lined with The Alchemist’s signature purple LED lights - in our swimwear.
A big bowl of hand-harvested mineral-rich mud rested on the bench seating, ready for us to slather all over our bodies. Head-to-toe in mud (hair included), the lights slowly dimmed and gentle steam began to fill the room. We laid back on the benches and let this ancient combo work its magic, drawing out impurities from our skin and soothing our tired bodies. As the hourglass emptied it was time to wash off the mud using the handheld showers and vigorously apply our selected scrubs (no face and hair this time). The steam gradually turned the scrub into oil leaving our skin feeling silky smooth. At the end of our session the lights and rainforest shower automatically turned on, washing away any excess salt from the skin.
After hydrating with some orange-infused water we donned our robes and were taken to the relaxation room.
For the massage, my therapist, Kim, collected me and led me to one of the four low-lit treatment rooms. While I took a seat, Kim explained the treatment, asking about any areas of concern before inviting me to choose one of four Natural Spa Factory massage candles; I opted for the soothing and calming fig with soybean, coconut oil and beeswax – a scent that transported me to Thailand.
Kim left the room so that I could disrobe and get comfortable on the heated treatment bed, lying face down. She used the heated beeswax to relax my muscles, starting at the tops of my legs and working down to the soles of my feet, easing out tension. Next, she moved onto my shoulders and lower back, checking the pressure as she went. Turning onto my front, Kim continued the massage on the front of my legs before finishing on my arms and hands.
Kim led me to The Optimist, a relaxation room with four plush leather studded daybeds and parquet-effect flooring. While she fetched a pot of peppermint tea and pastry, I admired the statement pendant lighting and vintage prints of butterflies, plumes and bees adorning the walls.
How did it measure up?
My skin felt silky smooth; my achy muscles soothed. Natural Spa Factory’s products are free from parabens and nasties - and smell delicious. The Rasul was an absolute highlight: a fun spa-ing ritual to share with a partner or up to six friends.
Spot of lunch?
For super-relaxed dining in a stylish but spacious setting, The Bay Brasserie and Bar delivers. Sink into one of the sofas in the bar for knock-out views over Woolacombe Bay. The lunch menu consisted of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salad. We feasted on a Greek Salad with halloumi, pickled red onion and colourful heritage tomatoes; our spa partner enjoyed the smoked salmon salad with goat’s cheese dressing. We finished the meal with an Espresso to liven us up for more spa action.
Got all day?
Book a spa break: toast in the sauna, steam in the Rasul and enjoy spot of lunch before checking in to one of the sea view rooms. There’s something very magical about watching the sun set over the bay. A visit to Woolacombe wouldn’t be complete without a dip in the ocean; the water was unexpectedly warm on our mid-autumn visit.
Short on time?
Book the luxury Rasul Ritual with your favourites.