Cowley Manor is an impressive, quirky hotel in the rural Cotswolds. The glass-fronted C-Side Spa is an inspired piece of modern design, sunk into the hill to one side of the hotel. The slate-lined indoor pool and outdoor heated pool are a real treat, as are the relaxing treatments with Green and Spring products, created using the spring waters and herbs from the grounds of the hotel. Highlights include the pamper picnics, poolside bar and, if you're staying, fabulous bedrooms. Make time to check out the art work scattered around the grounds.
- Family swim times
- Four treatment rooms
- 19m indoor swimming pool
- 15m outdoor swimming pool
- Relaxation room
- Steam room
- Green and Spring
- Pinks Boutique
Our Spa Spy review
Cowley Manor is a quirky Cotswold house set in 55 acres of parkland, woods and meadows, near the regency spa town of Cheltenham. Marvel at clear lakes brimming with lilies as you approach the former stately home, with its 30 bedrooms and revered restaurant.
The glass-fronted, stylish C-Side Spa uses simple, contemporary design to bring the outside in (think large windows and natural materials). Treatments showcase C-Side's own Green & Spring product range and techniques.
What's on offer?
Overlooking the indoor and outdoor pools, C-Side's open reception area is the heart of the spa. Its brick walls, white chairs and colourful cushions set the scene for a modern, funky spa experience with a taste of Mediterranean charm. Staff took time to chat through the menu and products with us, ensuring we selected the best treatment for our skin concerns (dehydrated; tired).
The entrance to C-Side's changing rooms is at the end of a glass corridor, where green slate floors, chunky wood and polished concrete create a natural space with an industrial edge. Tall, skinny lockers, long enough to hang clothes, each contain a robe, towel and flip-flops. The vanity area is complete with hairdryers and Green & Spring cleanser, toner, facial and body moisturiser. A trio of showers, partially screened by misty glass, contain Green & Spring shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner.
Design aficionados will love C-Side Spa's 17-metre slate-lined pool with its Cotswold-stone edge and emerald water. Swim to the side and stare out at the fir trees through floor-to-ceiling windows. Help yourself to water from dispensers set up between the poolside loungers. Vivid red mosaic tiles surround the two showers; take a turn under one before entering the extremely steamy steam room. A spacious wooden sauna seats around six.
C-Side's outdoor area is a real highlight; we felt like we were in a Mediterranean garden. Swim in the heated 15-metre pool or lie on a lounger with its own shade shaped like a leaf. There are multi-coloured beanbags here, too (we told you it was quirky).
The relaxation room is particularly compact, accommodating a maximum of three people at a time. A glass wall shielded by threaded curtains lines one side; there are also two comfortable leather chairs and a cosy booth strewn with purple cushions. Help yourself to a magazine, a cup of cucumber-infused water or a herbal tea. Our "calming" tea contained chamomile, lime flower, lemon balm, rose and passion flower.
C-Side Spa also has a large gym equipped with treadmills, weights and training machines where you can exercise while looking out over the terrace.
Tell us about the treatments
We tried the Green & Spring Massage (60 minutes; £80) followed by the emerginC Radiance Facial. (60 minutes; £100).
My therapist, Beckie, met me in reception and led me to a bright treatment room with illustrated bird wallpaper and pale wood floors. Beckie thoroughly explained the process of both treatments before leaving me to pick a soundtrack and get comfortable on the massage bed.
Beckie began the Green & Spring massage by cleansing my feet with warm towels, applying pressure to energy points to relax me. She then warmed some subtly scented Repair & Restore oil combining bergamot, lemon myrtle and orange with a hint of lavender, and began the massage. Unusually, Beckie massaged both my legs simultaneously; I found this to be more soothing than the usual one-at-a-time approach.
Beckie then moved up to my back and shoulders, where she spent a good amount of time on my tense shoulders before turning me over to focus on my arms and legs. If the aim of the treatment was to relax me, then it certainly did the trick.
For my emerginC facial, Beckie began by cleansing my face with their multi-fruit cleanser, which contains enzymes to remove dead skin cells. She followed this with a vitamin-packed peel to extract the stubborn blemishes from my t-zone.
Next, Beckie delivered a blast of hydration with a hydra-repair infusion capsule filled with avocado oil before applying an intensive vitamin C and retinol mask, massaging my scalp while it worked its magic. A dollop of moisturiser and eye cream later, and I was ready for my close up.
My pairing of treatments was true to its promise: I left feeling calm with soft, moisturised and glowing skin.
C-Side's Green & Spring's products embrace native ingredients from the British isles, such as English lavender, rosehip, dandelion, elderflower and thyme. The result is lightly scented products that feel "pure" on the skin. Aside from signature Green & Spring massages and emerginC facials, C-Side also stocks Pinks Boutique products for an impressive list of specialised pregnancy and post-natal treatments. Two-hour daylight or twilight spa packages include a two-course lunch or dinner.
You can dine in your robe beside reception in the open-air café with its modern white tables (there's a retractable roof if it's raining). If you are visiting for a spa day, you will have a set menu included in your visit, comprising a choice of starters, mains and desserts.
We opted for grilled mackerel followed by risotto of asparagus, pea and mint; both dishes were fresh, tasty and virtuous. So virtuous, in fact, that we could justify ending our meal with a fruity and creamy Eton mess.
Alternatively, you could try a pick-and-choose spa menu of sandwiches, salads and pizzas, or picnics to enjoy in the grounds. These include super green juices, sausage rolls, salads and strawberries with cream.
In the evening, the Malt restaurant at Cowley Manor offers some classic and unusual dishes such as octopus carpaccio or John Dory with nettle gnocci. If it's a sunny evening, opt for a seat outside and dine in view of the pretty garden.
We loved / we didn't love
The open air, Mediterranean vibe of the spa was refreshingly summery; the spa does a great job of bringing its beautiful surroundings into focus.
We loved the use of the spa's own products, Green & Spring, alongside American brand emerginC.
We didn't love
The relaxation room was small and quite noisy on our visit from the foot traffic outside.
Who do you think would like it?
Cowley Manor's romantic feel is well suited to couples: Grab a picnic hamper and go and find a secluded spot in the grounds. There are plenty of treatments on offer for men in the spa, too.
With both indoor and outdoor heated pools, families have plenty of space to splash around; kids under the age of 16 are allowed into the spa between 8am and 11am, and 3.30pm and 5pm each day.
Malt Restaurant serves an all-day menu, which can be enjoyed throughout Cowley. There's a separate evening menu and afternoon tea.
Five room types available, from Good Rooms to Best Rooms. Rates start at £195 per room per night.
Monday to Friday: 7.30am - 9pm; Saturday & Sunday: 8am - 8pm