Donnington Valley is a large, modern hotel just near the M4. The surrounding Berkshire countryside makes it a quiet but accessible retreat. The health club and spa at Donnington Valley is affordable and approachable, and the customer service is excellent.
There's an 18-metre pool, steam room, sauna and aroma room downstairs, where the modern white design compliments the bold artwork on the walls. Upstairs is a much more relaxed spa area in cool, earth tones. Treatments are equally special with treats from Aromatherapy Associates and Thalgo.
Treatment room for 2 with hydrotherm
18m swimming pool
Spray tan room
Our Spa Spy review
Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa is a modern country retreat, near Newbury, just five miles from the M4. The hotel is a modern brick building, cloaked in climbing plants, with a 2 AA Rosette restaurant, bar, golf club and events space. The adjoining health club and spa spans two levels and has its own entrance; if you visit the spa for a day, you won't have to find your way through the hotel.
What's on offer?
You reach the changing rooms through the open plan reception and café area, past the glass-encased gym.
The large changing area has three private changing rooms, plenty of chunky wooden lockers, soft leather banquettes, and vanities with large mirrors, hairdryers and straighteners. Separate doors lead to bathrooms and shower rooms, both decorated in azure mosaic tiles. There’s plenty of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion to keep your skin and hair clean and hydrated.
The azure colour creates a theme through Donnington Valley Spa, and runs around a curved wall to the swimming pool area. The 18-metre lap pool has a circular hot tub at one end and plenty of loungers at its sides. A combination of high ceilings, creamy walls and large windows make this space feel bright and beachy. Outside is a garden terrace with rattan furniture for soaking up the sun.
The thermal experiences are along the side of the pool; there's a super-hot steam room, a rather less steamy but fragrant aromatherapy room, a spacious wooden sauna, and two monsoon showers with powerful jets to cool off from the heat rooms. Each of the thermal rooms was deceptively large with plenty of space to stretch out, although they were a little on the dark side.
From reception, a winding staircase leads upstairs to the smaller treatment reception area; there's also a lift if you need one. The peaceful waiting area is decorated in muted earthy tones, with comfortable armchairs and plenty of glass display cabinets brimming with Thalgo and Aromatherapy Associates products. Here you'll find the mani/pedistations, and double doors lead to a roof terrace. The six treatment rooms include one couples' room with hydrotherm beds and one Aqua Sun Therapy room with a warm water bath and UV canopy.
The relaxation room is neutrally decorated for a tranquil vibe. Loungers are strewn with blankets and a central table is stocked with flavoured waters and magazines. If it's sunny, the blinds over the floor-to-ceiling windows tend to be open, making the most of the view over the terrace and golf green. On grey days, the blinds go down, giving the space a cosier, warm ambience.
Tell us about the treatments
We had the Polynesia Ritual (85 minutes, £90), a signature Thalgo treatment designed to make you feel like an island goddess.
My smiley therapist, Orla, collected me from the relaxation room and took me through to the treatment room; a modern sanctuary with dark wood units, magnolia blankets and LED candlelight.
Orla talked me through the treatment, a pampering ritual inspired by the Pacific islands of Polynesia. She began by soaking my feet in a turquoise bowl of scented bath pebbles – a homage to the azure Manihi lagoon. She then settled me onto the heated massage bed and applied the exotic scrub, a rough and invigorating concoction of Bora Bora sand, coconut shell and sea salt. Orla began on my back, moved on to my legs and feet, and finished with my arms and décolletage. My skin felt silken and subtly scented with Tahitian vanilla extract.
I rinsed off in the shower and Orla moved on to a traditional Manaha massage using rhythmic and relaxing lomi lomi techniques. She then used invigorating strokes with a warm muslin pouch stuffed with rough sea-salt crystals to encourage the oils to soak into my skin and loosen my muscles.
I started drifting into unconsciousness when Orla massaged my scalp and gently applied Thalgo's Sacred Oil to my lower legs, arms and décolletage. This heavenly oil contains ingredients sourced from the island of Raiatea and tiny pearls that leave behind a gentle dusting of gold. I left feeling dreamy with thoroughly moisturised, glowing summery skin.
The modern spa café has large windows flooding the space with natural light. An extensive menu has detailed notes on gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as a range of protein and fruit smoothies for post-workout refuelling.
We ate in our robe and enjoyed a heritage tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich on gluten-free corn loaf, a tasty bento box with poached tuna, pickled vegetables and Moroccan couscous, and a rocky road for dessert. All delicious.
If you're staying overnight, dinner is served in the hotel's award-winning WinePress restaurant. The menu is modern British; we tried a vegetarian tart and a perfectly cooked sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce.
We loved / we didn't love
We loved the continuity of the iridescent blue mosaic tiles throughout the spa, which gave it a beachy, summertime vibe.
We loved the roof terrace, secluded in the treatment zone with views over the manicured golf green.
We loved the helpful and friendly staff. You can order drinks from your poolside lounger: a lovely customer-service touch.
We didn't love the lack of towels; there's one in your locker and you can ask at reception for more, but a stack in the pool area or changing rooms would have been ideal.
There are a few areas in the changing room where the spa is starting to show its age. A little love for the lockers and floor wouldn’t go amiss.
Who do you think would like it?
Sports fanatics will love the 18-hole golf course, with water features and challenging finishing holes. There's also a large gym with a separate fitness studio.
The hotel is very close to Newbury, so business people could stop in here to work off some steam and enjoy a relaxing stint in the spa.
Wine lovers will take pleasure in Donnington Valley's wonderful wine list, which has won lots of awards.
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
We awarded Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa a Good Spa Guide rating of 5 bubbles. The good service, decadent treatment, and lovely roof terrace made for a very enjoyable spa day, but the spa could do with a little TLC.