Tucked away at the bottom of a long driveway surrounded by lavender, the Aquarias Spa at the grand Whatley Manor oozes charm and exclusivity. The cool, calm spa is centred around a large hydro pool with a thermal suite where each room has its own aromatherapy scent. Upstairs there are six treatment rooms which host facials and body treatments by Natura Bissé and ila. Be sure to explore the stunning gardens and make the most of the peace and quiet the Aquarias spa offers. You may never want to leave…
- XXL robes available
- Hydrotherapy Pool
- Steam Grotto
- Salt scrub showers
- Experience showers
- Sensory Room
- Thermal Cabins
- Spa Lounge
- VIP Suite with Hydrobath
- Spa garden
- Workout studio
- Personal training
Our Spa Spy review
Whatley Manor has the most dramatic entrance. Drive down the long approach road, edged with an impressive dry stone wall, and stop in front of huge, arched oak doors. Slowly, silently (as if by magic), the doors open to reveal a nineteenth-century manor house in mellow Cotswold stone, and a courtyard full of lavender. By the time you park by the hotel entrance, someone is waiting to greet you and deal with your luggage. It all feels very private and exclusive. A perfect, peaceful start to a spa stay.
What's on offer?
Aquarias Spa is in a carefully constructed extension to the hotel; you reach the spa by going down a flight of stairs, along a walkway, and up another flight of stairs. This keeps the spa and the hotel as two quite separate areas. If you visit for a spa day, you can access the spa directly from the courtyard.
Reception sets the calm tone for the spa with honey-coloured wooden flooring and Cotswold stone walls. A friendly receptionist greeted us and whisked us away to the main facilities.
The changing rooms are peaceful and neutrally designed with stone-tiled floors, full-height honey-coloured wooden lockers and soft red seating. There's a private changing cubicle and four vanity areas with well-lit mirrors, stools and hairdryers. The showers are stocked with shampoo and conditioner, with lots of fresh towels to help yourself to.
The centrepiece of the spa is the very large hydro-pool with massage jets and three strong swan-pipes. You can even swim outside to a smaller outdoor pool area which overlooks the gardens. There are cushioned loungers around the edge of the pool and plenty of extra towels. If you visit on a sunny day, try the comfortable loungers around the outdoor pool, where you can soak up some sunshine.
The rest of the facilities are upstairs. The rooms in the thermal suite have specific aroma scents: the caldarium was ylang ylang and lime blossom; the steam grotto fresh and minty; the laconium deliciously scented with orange and mandarin. There's also a traditional wooden sauna, salt scrub shower and experience showers.
Aquarias Spa has two relaxation areas. The large tepidarium has six heated loungers and a mosaic lion standing proudly by; this is where your therapist will meet you for your treatment. The "dream wave" sensory room has two loungers, soft music and restful images on the walls so you can drift off: the perfect place for post-treatment snoozes.
The spa has five treatment rooms, and a VIP treatment suite for two people with a double-size hydro-bath.
Tell us about the treatments
We used the VIP suite so our two therapists -- Violaine and Shilpa -- carried out our treatments side-by-side. I tried a Swedish Back Massage (30 minutes, £55) and a Natura Bissé Vitamin C Facial (60 minutes, £95)
Once I had settled on the warm treatment bed, Violaine started the back massage using long flowing movements to help me relax. She lifted and rotated each shoulder as she massaged them, which was an effective way of getting deep into the muscles. She walked round the treatment bed leaning in and using her body weight to put firm pressure on each muscle group. This was remarkably relaxing and signalled the change from the massage to the facial.
Violaine cleansed my skin and exfoliated with a delicious citrus-y scrub, which she removed with hot mitts. She applied a serum, massaging my face using long smooth strokes and shorter, sharper strokes to really invigorate my skin.
Next up was a deep-cleansing mask which set on my face, covering my mouth and eyes. I confessed I was a little claustrophobic so Violaine broke the mask around my eyes and mouth so I could relax. While the mask worked its magic, she massaged my arms and hands. The whole mask lifted off in one piece and my skin felt beautifully fresh. Violaine once again cleansed, toned and applied vitamin-C-rich face and eye creams.
My spa partner had the Natura Bissé D-stress (60 minutes, £90) which involved a back massage followed by a deep-cleansing facial and a scalp and foot massage.
After our treatments, we were invited to use the hydro-bath; there were even rose petals to scatter on the water. After 20 minutes, we wrapped ourselves in soft fluffy towels and Violaine brought us a peach and passion-fruit smoothie.
We both felt very relaxed by the combination of massage and warm water. My spa partner's usually quite dry and flaky skin was much improved and my skin was clear and glowing.
Treatments at Aquarias Spa include facials and body treatments by Natura Bissé, ila, Lava Shells and nail treatments by Jessica. The spa offers a range of Swedish, deep tissue and hot stone massages, plus treatments for mums-to-be and specialist men's treatments.
The light and airy spa lounge overlooks the pool and offers freshly made sandwiches, salads, and a range of smoothies. We had wonderful smoked-salmon sandwiches with a dill mayonnaise; a perfect spa lunch. You can also order afternoon tea with a glass of champagne, and home-made ice creams and sorbets.
Stay at the hotel if you can, so you can enjoy food. My spa partner raved about the caramelised eel served with pan-fried scallops, and the garden-pea risotto. I was blown away by the turbot. We both loved the crème fraiche pannacotta served with raspberry sorbet and aniseed granita.
We loved / we didn't love
The peace and serenity of both the hotel and the spa: Whatley Manor feels private and the service is impeccable. The spa is small enough to feel intimate and personal.
The lovely gardens: There are 26 of them spread over 12 acres, so you can walk through the grounds and explore garden by garden.
The wide range of luxurious treatments in the spa: Plenty of choices, and the treatments are well-delivered by capable therapists.
We didn't love
The lack of a swimming pool: The hydro-pool is large and enjoyable, but there is no space to actually swim. Aquarias is a spa to relax in rather than being energetic.
Who do you think would like it?
Anyone celebrating a special occasion: Whatley Manor is luxurious and a real treat. Spend the day in the spa, relax and unwind, then get glammed up for a very special evening. (This Spa Spy would be very happy to spend a birthday or anniversary here. Hint, hint!)
Foodies: All the food at Whatley Manor is fresh and exciting -- even the sandwiches in the spa.
The overstressed and tired: Whatley Manor is a haven of peace and the spa a perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries.
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
There are two restaurants to choose between; The Dining Room and Grey’s Brasserie both of which are overseen by executive chef Niall Keating. The cuisine focuses on a mix of modern British comfort food using seasonal and local ingredients whenever possible . With two bars on offer there's no shortage of places for an aperitif either!
There are fifteen rooms and eight suites available in this Cotswold manor house. Each room is individually designed and styled with a modern take on traditional country decor making the rooms both stylish and homely. From standard rooms to an impressive grand suite there's a room to suit every type of getaway at Whatley Manor.
See the hotels entry on Pride of Britain Hotels.
Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 9.00pm
Saturday and Sunday from 8.00am to 8.00pm