Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL52 3NJ
Has a pool
Has thermal facilities
6 treatment rooms
Ellenborough Park is a 15th Century Cotswold manor set in 90 acres of countryside with an AA rosette restaurant. The spa offers a thermal suite with Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and curved ‘sensation showers’, as well as ishga and ila treatments. The relaxation room has a day bed, characterful weathered mirrors and a bar serving iced water. There is also a relaxing treatment zone with magazines and teas. You need to leave the spa to enjoy the 15-metre heated outdoor pool with its pretty terrace.
Ellenborough Park packs a historic punch; this hotel's main building has survived two world wars, housed a royalist family, and experienced its fair share of scandal through the ages. Set in 90 acres of Cotswolds countryside and surrounded by mature flower gardens, the fifteenth-century manor house is built from Cotswold stone with decorative crenellation, leaded bay windows and arched doorways. The spa is in the original building, with a private entrance next to the main reception.
Through an archway set with double glass doors is Ellenborough Spa's reception with a curved reception desk. Dark panelled wood and exposed Cotswold stone are juxtaposed with modern bright white fittings and a crimson-painted wall. A large oval display cabinet is decked with ila and ishga products, Ellenborough's staple brands. In the centre of the floor is a bright kaleidoscopic blue and red mosaic.
Separate doorways lead to the female and male changing rooms. The dark wooden alcoves and panelling of the main house continue in the lockers and vanity areas in the changing rooms, while the lighting and metallic tiles are more Art Deco. The changing area is small and cosy, with a cushioned bench in the middle, a separate shower, a spacious private changing cubicle and a bathroom. The code-operated lockers are set against one wall; three individual vanity units against another. In the corner are a hairdryer and straighteners.
The glass-screened thermal suite features honey-coloured tiles and frosted windows, allowing natural light to filter through. A Jacuzzi set into the floor is backed with a string of mirrors. The small blue-lit steam room with iridescent mosaic tiles and the red-lit wooden sauna both seat up to four people comfortably. Two open "sensation showers" are set into a curve in the wall for cooling off. Four comfortable curved rattan chairs with padded covers and cushions allow you to relax after all that heat.
The spa's relaxation room with a red day-bed and three armchairs is up the open stairwell to the first floor. Old weathered mirrors and door panels are propped against the cream walls. A wooden curved bar with upholstered red spoon-back bar stools is where you can serve yourself ice-cold water. Try out some of the ishga and ila products here, too, with tubs of moisturiser and scrubs set on a shelf to one side. When you're ready to chill out, walk through to the treatment zone, a small relaxation area stocked with magazines, and a wide range of teas that you can order from a menu.
Ellenborough Park has an outdoor swimming pool but you'll need to leave the spa to find it. The alfresco wet zone has comfortable loungers, chairs and tables, and trees in trellised pots dotted around on the stone-paved terrace. In warmer weather, you can enjoy lunch or sip a cocktail on the terrace. The 15m rectangular pool at the centre is heated to a very toasty temperature so can be enjoyed in all seasons.
We tried the Aromatherapy Massage (55 minutes, £75). Ellenborough Spa uses ishga -- hand-harvested seaweed-infused creams and oils created in the Scottish Hebrides -- and ila, an organic brand with a Moroccan ethos devised to heal body and soul.
My therapist, Jess, collected me from the relaxation room and took me through to the treatment suite, which was warmly lit with a red ambient light and candles. She talked me through pressure and technique preferences before leaving me to settle face down onto a comfortable bed swathed in towels.
A moment later, Jess reappeared and asked me to take three deep breaths, breathing in the scent of ishga's aromatherapy-oil blend. You can choose from three options: energising, balancing or relaxing. I plumped for the latter.
Jess began on my back, massaging the fragrant oil into my parched skin. She worked in fluid movements, varying the pressure intuitively according to where she felt the most tension. If she felt me tense up, she continued more gently. If she felt deep knots, she increased pressure accordingly. She moved on to my legs and feet, before asking me to turn over so she could massage the front of my legs and arms. Finally, Jess advised me to drink plenty of water to rehydrate, and took me back to the relaxation room for a hot tea.
This deliciously soothing massage was just the right combination of relaxation and function. I left with the knots in my shoulders thoroughly eased, but spent the rest of the afternoon floating peacefully on a cloud.
Elsewhere on Ellenborough Park's spa menu is a fabulous array of massages, including the ever-popular hot-stone, bamboo, and an intriguing Namaste of India brush, oil and massage ritual. There's something for the spiritual among us, too, with ila's signature Kundalini and renewal body treatments. Facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing and special occasion make-up also feature, as do specific treatments for mums-to-be.
Ellenborough Spa has a bar area but, due to its proximity to the treatment rooms, it isn't currently used as a café. Spa-day visitors can change back into their clothes and pop next door to The Brasserie in the main hotel for a fixed-price two- or three-course casual lunch featuring the likes of tomato soup, pea and asparagus risotto, and Eton Mess. We enjoyed some of the small sharing plates; tasty babaganoush with sun blushed tomato and olives, and salt & pepper calamari with a squeeze of lemon. If it's sunny, you can head to the Pedrino Poolside Bar in your robe for snacks and cocktails – alternatively the historic Great Hall at the heart of the hotel offers afternoon tea with champagne.
We had dinner in the Brasserie, which was elegant, cosy, and had a lively atmosphere. We thoroughly enjoyed a cherry-tomato and spinach tartlet and a rack of lamb washed down with a Chilean white wine. If you want a more formal experience, The Beaufort Dining Room has 3 AA Rosettes and serves contemporary British cuisine.
The outdoor pool area. It was a gloriously sunny day when we visited and the heated pool in its Cotswold-stone enclave was perfectly peaceful.
Retreating to our quintessentially English suite with a four-poster bed and a private terrace felt wonderfully indulgent after a fabulous massage.
We didn’t love
Some of the spa areas could do with a little refreshing; there were a few dusty corners and some ageing paintwork.
Ellenborough Park Spa is an excellent choice for those who want a romantic night away in the Cotswolds and are keen to spa for a couple of hours. As inside facilities are limited, day-spa guests are likely to spend some time outside of the spa zone, enjoying the sunny poolside terrace and wandering the beautifully kept grounds.
Brides-to-be are well catered for, probably because Ellenborough Park is a very popular wedding venue. Unsurprisingly, given its magnificent setting.
Horse-lovers will be thrilled by the spa's proximity to Cheltenham race course. You can actually see the finish line from the hotel; they also offer a transfer service through the grounds, so race-goers can skip the traffic.
We gave Ellenborough Spa a Good Spa Guide rating of 4 bubbles. The hotel and its location is truly stunning, our treatment was excellent, and the service all-round was very good indeed.
Spirited Spy visited in August 2016 and awarded it 4 Bubbles
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Southam Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL52 3NJ
At the hotel, 3 AA Rosette restaurant, The Beaufort Dining Room, offers three course dining or Sunday lunches. There is also The Brasserie for casual dining options and lunches. You can also opt for an afternoon tea.
Boutique collection of 61 rooms and suites available in the hotel.
Heated facilities (sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool) 7 days a week 9.30am-7.00pm
The hotel swimming pool 7 days a week (precise opening times variable, but always morning to late afternoon)
One fitness suite open 7 days a week.
There are no offers for this spa.