Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa
Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 1TE
Has a pool
Has thermal facilities
7 treatment rooms
Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa sits in 134 acres of Oxfordshire countryside, surrounded by 11 lakes. The Forest of Wellbeing Spa offers a range of Elemis face and body therapies and advanced CACI anti-ageing treatments, as well as some good-value spa day and stay packages. The main wet area features a swimming pool with views onto the grounds, a hydrotherapy pool and a Jacuzzi, plus there's a sauna, steam room and feature showers. The private spa garden complete with an eight-seater hot tub and loungers, and the tranquil relaxation room, provide soothing spaces to relax in.
Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa is a four-star hotel surrounded by 135 acres of countryside and golf-course close to Bicester shopping village. As you drive past the first fairway and arrive at the modern building with large car park, you rejoice that you have outfoxed your sat-nav, which will stubbornly only deliver you as far as the delivery entrance.
The Forest of Wellbeing Spa is part of a larger health-club complex within the resort, which is both its strength and its shortcoming. It's a strength because you have access to a large gym, range of daily classes, and extensive water and thermal facilities; more than many spas can offer. It's a shortcoming because the specialness of spa gets a little lost within this wider range of facilities.
The Forest of Wellbeing Spa lives within a health club. You reach the spa through the glass doors to the right of the hotel reception area. Spa staff will greet you on arrival, give you a bundle containing your robe, towel and slippers, and take you through the turnstile to the changing rooms.
The changing rooms are large, with banks of wooden lockers operated by somewhat temperamental key-codes (keep pressing). They have private changing spaces, hairdryers next to mirrors and showers which feel definitely more health-club than spa. There is a single dispenser of "wash" rather than branded products in the showers, and no moisturiser in the changing area. Everywhere was clean, and well looked after during our day, but was very basic. There is a spin-dryer for your wet swimsuit and plastic bags to take it home in. The changing rooms also house a small but charming "tropicarium" which is a small heated room at a lower temperature than traditional thermal rooms, allowing you to adjust to the real world at your own pace.
The wet area has a 20-metre pool at a good temperature for swimming and a dedicated lane for serious swimmers. A few loungers and wicker chairs and tables around the edge allow you to revive between lengths. The pool is open to children at certain times in the morning and afternoon, so check these if you prefer a peaceful paddle. The space is light and bright, with windows overlooking the golf course.
The large hydro-pool has swan pipes for massaging away shoulder stress as well as water jets, a bubble pad and air pads. In a separate thermal area are a nicely warm wooden sauna, deliciously hot, large, tiled steam room with an illuminated crystal and changing colours, green mosaic footbaths, four --rather unevenly -- heated ceramic loungers, showers for cold-water rinsing and a large spa pool with bubbles which is great for relaxing in the warm water.
The relaxation room is dimly lit with five loungers, jugs of plain and fruit-infused water, and magazines to read.
Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa has seven treatment rooms, two pedicure rooms, a spray-tanning room, and a nail bar.
During your spa day, you can use the huge gym with a variety of resistance machines and weights, or join one of the many studio classes (there may be an additional fee).
We tried the Crystal Harmony (60 minutes, £65), a full-body exfoliation, and Timexpert C+ facial (60 minutes, £70). This facial is billed as: "The first professional anti-glycation treatment." As we all know, glycation is the process in which sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form Advanced Glycation End-products (or, highly appropriately, AGEs). The science is this: When the sugar bonds with the proteins in your skin that keep it plump and springy --collagen and elastin -- those proteins become weak and altogether less plump and springy. Result? Wrinkles.
My therapist, Kirsty, began the Crystal Harmony by walking pinda svedna bags around my body, then placing small warm stones on the chakra points along my spine. She then massaged in a very fine exfoliant containing precious stones and diamond dust, first along my legs, then my back and shoulders. Once I turned onto my front, Kirsty tended to my arms, abdomen and décolletage. This is a very relaxing treatment; at the end, I felt as much soothed by the holistic massage as smoothed by the diamond dust, which left a glittery sheen on my skin.
For the facial, Kirsty cleansed my skin with a creamy rose cleanser, toned, did a little lymphatic drainage, then brushed on a glycolic peel. She warned me that this might be tingly, but it was no problem. While the peel nibbled away at dead skin cells, Kirsty treated me to a foot massage. Next, an application of Vitamin C cream, which felt deeply nourishing, followed by more lymphatic drainage: pinching and tapping along my jaw, sweeping loops around my eyes, more tapping massage on my forehead and neck. A delightfully soft and moist Vitamin C mask followed. As this mask delivered more nourishment to my skin, Kirsty turned her attention to massaging my scalp. Wonderful. To finish, she gave me a "neck kiss", using a warm folded towel to lift and stretch my neck, restoring movement and flexibility.
When both the massage and facial were over, I felt as if every part of me had been cared for; my skin looked soft and smooth, and my mind felt calm.
My spa partner also tried the "Surrender to the Forest" (90 minutes, £75) one of the spa's signature treatments, which she rated very highly. Her therapist, Sian, carried out a brief consultation to discuss her needs and helped her choose an aromatherapy oil. The treatment involves massage to the back, neck, shoulders and legs, followed by a customised facial. She writes: "The whole treatment was delightful, not harsh or causing the skin to over tighten. I had no sense that time was passing by. Everything, every section of the treatment, the informative explanations about what would happen next, were given in a gentle voice, like the treatment. At the conclusion, I felt relaxed and content."
The Forest of Wellbeing Spa offers a range of treatments by Germaine de Capuccini, with Kobido facial massage, scrubs and wraps, Jessica manicures and pedicures including gel nails, CACI and heated Lava Shells. You can also try alternative therapies such as reflexology and aromatherapy massages. The menu also includes treatments, including facials, specifically for men, and for mums-to-be. Mii make-up, waxing and eye treatments are your beauty finishing touches.
You can eat lunch in your robe in the Grays restaurant overlooking the garden; not everyone is in robes but you can feel comfortable nevertheless. You choose from a two-course spa menu which offers a main and a dessert. The mains include salads and more substantial options, such as chicken breast in tomato sauce, with a variety of choices for vegetarians. Our poached salmon and asparagus salad was perfectly cooked and delicious.
If you're staying over, the dinner menu appeals to a wide range of tastes, ranging from comfort food such as sausages and mash to freshly grilled steak. Breakfast is a selection of fruit, nuts and cereals, with hot items and freshly squeezed juices on request. Our poached egg was, once again, perfectly cooked.
Our treatments: Personalised, effective, supremely relaxing and very good value.
The little welcome pack, containing Germaine de Cappucini facial moisturiser and body lotion; this was especially welcome after a shower.
We didn’t love
The lack of spa atmosphere in the changing rooms.
Fitness bunnies: Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa is perfectly positioned whether you want to swim, gym, or take in a round of golf.
Shoppers: A spa package combined with a shopping trip -- the hotel gives you vouchers for an extra percentage off at Bicester Village -- might be the perfect combination of feel-good and buy-good.
Groups of friends: The spa caters well for groups, with a poolside lounge which can be reserved for private use.
We gave The Forest of Wellbeing Spa at Bicester Hotel, Golf and Spa a Good Spa Guide rating of 4 bubbles for its comprehensive facilities, friendly staff, and excellent treatments. The spa feels a little like an afterthought in a successful health club but it delivers on its promise of relaxation and rejuvenation. We just want more spa.
Single Spy visited in July 2016 and awarded it 4 Bubbles
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Chesterton, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 1TE
Dinner is served in the Grey's Restaurant at the hotel; light meals and afternoon tea are served in Grey's lounge bar.
52 rooms and five room types available, from Standard Doubles to Suites.
Monday to Friday 9am – 8pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am – 6pm
There are no offers for this spa.