The setting for Seaham Hall is the expansive and exhilarating north east coast, so you're onto a winner already. The spa building and the facilities are impressive and expansive, and the treatments of very good quality.
Your spa journey begins at the fabulous underground walkway that connects the spa and hotel; walk along past the pebbles and running water, and a huge carved elephant greets you on the other side. Inside, there's a large, ozone-treated swimming pool, a hydrotherapy pool, and a range of thermal facilities.
We loved relaxing in the outdoor hot tubs. Serenity Spa offers excellent value for a spa escape, and will appeal to everyone who can afford it.
17 treatment rooms
20m ozone cleansed pool with massage stations
Black granite steam room with amethyst crystal
Sanarium with crystal light therapy
Sauna with quartz crystal
Hydrotherapy bath with 12 massage stations
Outdoor hot tubs
Technogym fitness suite
Aroma Stone Therapy
Our Spa Spy review
Seaham Hall is a classic Georgian manor house, now a boutique hotel high on the cliffs above the Durham Coast. Both the spa and the hotel are beautifully designed with quirks aplenty.
You can also get your geek on at Seaham Hall. Whether you're interested in science or the arts, you're walking in the footsteps of legends. Seaham was host to poet and Romantic, Lord Byron, and his daughter Ada Lovelace -- often referred to as the mother of modern computing.
While the hotel has been tastefully refurbished with bright splashes of colour and lavish furnishings, the spa draws on Asian traditions from Bali, Thailand, India and China. You'll find exotic food, holistic treatments, a huge and light pool, and excellent customer service.
What's on offer?
Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall has its own entrance; next to a sparkling fountain is a walkway that brings you to spa reception. If you're staying in the hotel, follow the underground corridor with trickling water and coloured lighting: a statue of an elephant waits to greet you. The spa reception area is bright with large windows, dark wood flooring and white walls. Take a seat on the sofas to fill out your consultation form.
There are two changing room options. If you're visiting for a spa day, you'll use the smaller, more private changing rooms just off reception. They have half size lockers, a shower stocked with shampoo and conditioner, a loo and a private changing cubicle. The vanity bar has cleanser, toner, facial moisturiser, a hairdryer, straighteners, and tissues, cotton pads and cotton buds. The décor is rich with dark woods, textured wallpaper and plum velvet stools. The larger changing rooms by the pool are more basic with fewer products but are still clean and well looked after.
Centre-stage of Serenity Spa is the 20-metre pool with ozone-treated water: it feels very warm and silky. You can swim lengths along one edge, but a circular end allows you to swim round a large metal sculptured S (for Serenity Spa). The three water experiences around the sculpture offer a strong swan pipe, and jets to massage your back or legs and calves. Padded wooden loungers and chairs surround the pool; the wet area has two glass walls, so you can cast your gaze over trees and green lawn. A door takes you outside to the two open-air wooden hot tubs which would comfortably seat eight.
The other thermal facilities are tucked around the corner from the pool, dampening the noise. The large Finnish sauna is lit by colour-rotating lights and would comfortably seat 16; it was super-hot during our visit. The sanarium is slightly cooler and smaller with similar wooden-style seating. The eucalyptus steam room is quite moderate with twinkling lights in the ceiling: it's also the smallest of the rooms and would really only seat six friendly people.
The hammam is unusual; it's a mildly heated steam room with traditional marble seating and, to one side, two showers and a hot tub. There are two cold plunge pools with an ice fountain in the middle and two large showers. The large hydrotherapy pool has air beds, strong jets to knead your back, and a big central jet creating movement in the water; it would comfortably seat eight. There's a table with cool fruit-infused water so you can stay hydrated in the heat.
Lots of little relaxation spaces are dotted around the spa, so you're never too far away from somewhere to curl up. Just off reception are the dedicated relaxation spaces. The pre-treatment waiting area has large silvery velvet chairs and a door which opens onto a balcony with loungers covered in blankets. The Zen Lounge has twelve heated leather recliners; one area is curtained off in case you want a little more privacy post-treatment. The beige recliners complement the dramatic red curtains, which in turn contrast with the green views over the grounds. Help yourself to water, dried fruits, nuts or magazines.
There's also a spa boutique, mani-pedi lounge with large white pedicure thrones, a gym and roof garden.
Tell us about the treatments
We tried the Ytsara Ultimate Serenity treatment (105 minutes, £140), which is unique to Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall and includes a scrub, wrap, back massage and mini-facial.
Ytsara is a Thai brand; my therapist, Puticha, is also Thai, so the treatment was a beautiful blend of East meets West. Puticha met me in the waiting room and took me downstairs to the treatment rooms (there's also a lift). We started with a footbath sprinkled with Thai herbs and flowers. Puticha carefully explained the steps of the treatment, letting me know the history and intentions of each one.
I settled on the wide treatment bed. Puticha applied a warm oil and quickly rubbed abrasive jasmine rice over my skin. She cleansed with hot mitts and applied a hydrating creamy wrap. I turned over so she could continue on my front, checking that I was comfortable with my stomach being included in the treatment. She wrapped me up in towels and, as the wrap worked its way into my skin, Puticha massaged my scalp with a nourishing oil. She removed all the towels bar one (for my modesty) and left the room while I rinsed off the product.
I settled back on the treatment bed and Puticha slathered my back in oil, using a large and warm bamboo stick to massage my neck and back. The warmth was lovely and great for loosening tense muscles.
The final step was the “yoga” facial. Puticha cleansed my skin, toned, exfoliated, then toned again. She applied a hydrating mask and used a cool Jade stone to stretch and massage the mask across my skin. She placed cool eye pads on my eyes and left the mask to soak in. Finally, she removed the product with hot mitts and applied a finishing serum.
I felt relaxed but focused; various elements of the treatment were unusual and interesting, but I loved the wealth of cultures brought together from the Thai flowers to the Indian "yoga" to the Chinese Jade.
I also tried Tok Sen, an unusual massage technique from northern Thailand. Puticha used two wooden tools to massage my back. The first is a long flat piece of wood, curved on one end; she ran this along my spine and shoulder blades, tapping the curved end into my muscles with the second wooden implement. Almost like working with a chisel and hammer! It apparently works well for athletes or people with a lot of tension, coaxing tight muscles to loosen. It felt very unusual but not at all painful.
Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall offers body, face and beauty treatments by Ytsara, Sundari, Ishga and Jessica. The treatment menu includes many Eastern therapies including Indian head massage, Shirodhara and Abhyanga massage. You can also try the rasul or treatments designed for men or mums-to-be.
If you visit Serenity Spa for a day, you'll eat in Ozone, a pan-Asian café. Most people eat in their robes. The menu has Indian, Thai and Chinese classics such as pad thai, chicken tikka, and pork-belly stir fry. We tried the pad thai and it was delicious. You can also have lighter sandwiches and some very lovely sweet treats.
If you stay overnight, try dinner in Byron's Restaurant. The stylishly decorated restaurant has velvet seating and huge central chandeliers. The menu is modern European with wonderful combinations of flavours and textures. We tried the turbot with mussels, potatoes and sea greens, and then burnt butter cake: a fitting end to a lovely spa day.
We loved / we didn't love
The ethos and personality of Serenity Spa: The spa has its own take on spa-ing and this really shines through. It's a great achievement to stand out in the UK spa scene.
The location: Serenity Spa is a destination in its own right, but Seaham Hall is as lovely as the spa and just a stone's throw from the Durham Coast. Wrap up in the winter and take a long beach walk before heading for a massage.
The attention to detail: There are artworks, design flourishes and interesting furniture throughout the spa and hotel. Take a moment while you spa to appreciate the carvings, sculptures and Asian furniture.
We didn't love
A very small gripe, but a couple of the thermal facilities are showing their age. They're clean and well-maintained, but there's wear and tear in the sauna and steam room.
Who do you think would like it?
Romantics: It's an obvious one, but Serenity Spa and Seaham Hall would constitute a most romantic weekend away. Beautiful suites have sea views, you have acres of land and beach walks to explore, a tempting restaurant and, of course, wonderful spa treatments.
Asian spa devotees: Serenity Spa strikes a good balance between East and West; you can dip your toes into Thai massage and advanced anti-ageing without a long-haul flight.
Explorers of northern England: The Angel of the North is less than 30 minutes' drive; Sunderland, Newcastle and Durham are all on your doorstep.
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
We awarded Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall a Good Spa Guide rating of Five Bubble Luxury. The spa has beautifully designed facilities, the treatment menu is well thought-through, and customer service is a helpful without being intrusive. Serenity Spa remains on our love list.