Londoners have found the perfect way to escape the stress of city life: head to a spa. According to the latest figures, spa goers in the capital spend up to £18 million on spa deals, much more than anywhere else in the UK. Why? Well, for starters, if spas are just outside the capital, the air is cleaner and there’s more outdoor space.
Don’t get us wrong, there are some amazing spas in the Capital itself but head an hour outside and you’ll find some beautiful countryside spas to recoup in and get a full pampering. A dose of greenery is the perfect way to reboot and destress, too - forest bathing is all the rage, and there is evidence to suggest being in nature lowers our stress levels and boosts our immune system. Even better: gaze at the trees from a warm, outdoor hot tub before enjoying a relaxing, personalised, treatment and a delicious lunch (with a glass of fizz, perhaps?).
So, jump in your car or book that train ticket and head for the hills: here’s 20 nearby country spas we think you’ll love, according to county:
By train: 46-minutes from London Bridge to Flitwick (+ 11-minute taxi)
Swim from the indoor spa pool to the warm outdoor hydrotherapy pool and soak up the surrounding forest in this stylish spa. Let the water jets ease your aching shoulders while you sit and listen to birdsong. The modern glass and timber building in the Centre Parcs village has six differently-themed spa areas, each taking you on a different sensory journey.
By car: 1 hour 2 minutes via M1
By train: 42-minutes from London Bridge to Harpenden (+ 10-minute taxi)
This grand mansion, set in 1,000 acres of gardens, ranges and parkland, is the perfect country escape - its serene spa set in what used to be the gardener’s cottage; catch a complimentary London cab from the main house if you’re missing the city. The spa really embraces the outdoors, with a rooftop garden and an 18-metre vitality pool with country views. If you can peel yourself away from the spa facilities, finish off the occasion with champagne afternoon tea in the mansion house.
By train: 38-minutes from London St Pancras International to Bedford (+ 23-minute taxi)
Entering the 350-acre estate with its wide green open space and large glittering lake feels like a breath of fresh air. The hotel and spa are sleek and modern – the piece de resistance is the outdoor hydrotherapy pool set in a redbrick courtyard. Sip a glass of Prosecco and gaze at the flickering fairy lights in the trees.
By train: 37-minutes from London Kings Cross to Arlesey (+ 7-minute taxi)
Spa in an exquisitely restored Georgian manor surrounded by 150 acres of parkland next to a flowing river, running weir and romantic gardens – take the snowdrop walk and keep an eye out for deer. There are a huge range of fitness classes, Elemis and Clarins treatments and bright pool area, too. After a treatment, curl up in the pretty garden conservatory and play board games with your spa partner.
By train: 50-minutes from London Paddington to Newbury (+ 8-minute taxi)
Feeling rakish? Head to this eighteenth-century hunting lodge with its walk-though wine cellar holding over 30,000 bottles and 3AA Restaurant. Embrace the wine theme and try the Red Grape Blissful Back Treatment, using Red Grape polish to exfoliate and renew skin, followed by a tailored back massage.The spa is small and exclusive with a central pool with its own swimming current, and there’s a raised Jacuzzi to wallow in and admire the views.
By car: 56-minutes
By train: 52-minutes from London Paddington to Bourne End (+ 7-minute taxi)
Spa with a bit of history – the beautiful outdoor heated pool at Cliveden is where Minister John Profumo first glimpsed Christine Keeler in 1961, and is now listed. Enjoy treatments by Oskia and Sarah Chapman before wandering the gardens. Book private yoga, Thai Chi or tennis sessions.
By train: 50-minutes from London Paddington to Newbury (+ 7-minute taxi)
It’s not just golfers that will delight in this modern, bright spa. A sister property of the delectable Vineyard, Donnington is set in a stunning landscape of rolling parklands, so beautifully kept and green it is almost hyper-real. The Decleor treatments are the perfect way to unwind and give your urban skin a treat.
By car: 54-minutes via A40
By train: 15-minutes from London Paddington to Slough (+ 10-minute taxi)
This striking Palladian mansion is billed as a traditional country club, with tennis courts, golf courses and a huge gym and healthclub. The spa building can’t top the main house but can boast about its delightful garden - perfect for unwinding in and particularly good for a day spa. Head to the treatment rooms for THALGO and Aromatherapy Associates treatments, before seeking out the main swimming pool, with its dramatic arched windows, down a winding path to find a sauna cabin and hydro-pool overlooking the grounds.
By car: 55-minutes via M1
By train: 15-minutes from London Euston to Watford Junction (+ 12-minute taxi)
The ultimate Londoner spa getaway, it’s hard to believe this stunning countryside estate is within the M25. The spa is stylish with a black-tiled swimming pool and designer hydro-pool, as well as luxurious Natura Bisse treatments. . For the ultimate indulgence, opt for a 1 hour 20 minute treatments - a Mindful Massage, perhaps? Or the restorative Positivity Massage. There are plenty of countryside eccentricities to make you feel like you’ve travelled far away, too, including a fake beach in a walled garden.
By car: 1 hour 9 minutes via M1
By train: 35-minutes from London Euston to Tring (+ 9-minute taxi)
This flagship Champneys spa is set in glamorous stately home with so much on offer, you need a map, a timetable and helpful member of staff (thankfully, there are plenty of those) to experience everything. Bubble away in the outdoor hot-tub then curl up in a cosy cocoon chair hanging from a tree. Take a bike to explore the 170 acres of gardens and woodlands. As well as a variety of innovative yet traditional spa treatments, recent additions include the relaxation hideaway, manicure and pedicure salon and the Marine and Wellness Spa - the first of its kind in the UK.
By car: 56 minutes via M1
By train: 36-minutes from London Bridge from St Albans City (+ 8-minute taxi)
A whitewashed Georgian manor turned stylish country retreat, this petite spa offers ESPA and Clarins treatments making it popular with the St Albans set. The swimming pool and thermal area opens onto a delightful garden. If you can, stay in one of the mews cottages with their private, award-winning spa garden and private outdoor hot tubs.
By train: 37-minutes from London St Pancras International to Ashford International (+ 15-minute taxi)
Fancy curling up in a destination spa with views of the North Downs? Head to this Champneys Spa Hotel, a Neo-Elizabethan manor sent in acres of verdant parkland. The spa is in the Pavillion and offers a 20-metre indoor pool, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool and outdoor pool and hot tub. Feeling active? Try tennis, croquet or falconry in the expansive gardens.
By car: 45 minutes via the A2
By train: 54 mins to Plantation Road station (+ 2-minute walk)
It’s hard to believe this perfect English country manor house is in Dartford: it looks like something out of Agatha Christie, set in acres of rolling lawns (perfect for croquet) and delightfully landscaped gardens. The spa is a Romanesque grotto with a therapeutic pool, swimming pool and heat facilities surrounded by temple-like pillars and painted landscapes. Treatments are, aptly, by Temple Spa.
By car: 1 hour 8 minutes via A20
By train: 46-minutes from London Victoria to Swanley (+ 15-minute taxi)
Combine a day out at Brandshatch Race Course with a relaxing spa at this elegant red-brick Georgian Mansion, a Handpicked Hotel and Spa. Enjoy an Elemis treatment, then head to the pool and thermal area with its steam room, Jacuzzi and 13-metre pool with stylish blue tiles.
By car: 58-minutes via M4
By train: 34-minutes from London Waterloo to Farnborough (Main) (+ 14-minute taxi)
Drive past the England Rugby training grounds to reach this five-star hotel and its jaw-droppingly huge spa, set in 123 acres. The first thing you’ll see is of the glamorous blue outdoor swimming pool, plus its various hydro pools. The indoor pool has underwater music, while the food and customer service are exceptional.
By car: 54-minutes via M4 and M25
By train: 47-minutes from London Waterloo to Addlestone (+ 12-minute taxi)
Set in 400 acres of leafy Surrey countryside, with three golf courses, you’ll find this ivy-clad Victorian manor with a charming spa. The highlight is the delightful landscaped spa garden surrounded by walls and tall trees. It has a small, natural pool to shock your circulation into life after heating up in the wooden outdoor sauna and raised Jacuzzi.
By train: 32-minutes from London Bridge to Redhill (+ 3-minute taxi)
Head to this warm and friendly Elemis Spa with views of the Surrey Downs, set in the grounds of the grand Victorian Nuffield Priory, now a Handpicked Hotel. There’s a 14-metre pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Sunny day? Head through the French doors and lie on a lounger in the pretty spa garden. Those staying for dinner can enjoy the 2 AA rosette Cloisters restaurant with its fantastic countryside views.
By car: 45 minutes via M4
By train: 37-minutes from London Waterloo to Egham (+ 6 minutes)
Swimmers will love this bright contemporary spa on the banks of the River Thames, with its 18-metre indoor pool and whirlpool. There’s also a large outdoor pool and hot tub with river views (only open in the summer), and a separate kids’ pool (check the website for family swim times). Cleanse your urban pores in the huge Eucalyptus-infused steam room, relax in the sauna or luxuriate with an ESPA or Guinot treatment.
By train: 37-minutes from London Victoria to Three Bridges (+ 13-minute taxi)
Set in 120 acres of gardens, woodland and Sussex parkland, this Grecian-inspired spa has a deep-blue swimming pool and an outdoor hot tub. For a real treat on a sunny day, step outside into the Zen garden, with its Jacuzzi and barrel sauna. Afterwards, snuggle under blankets in the relaxation room and marvel at breathtaking views of the Sussex countryside.
By train: 44-minutes from London Victoria to Haywards Heath (+ 9-minute taxi)
If you appreciate contemporary design but also traditional English country eccentricities, you’ll love this dramatic cubist spa set in a beautiful historic walled garden. Step into a glass cube with different pools jutting out into the surrounding pastoral landscape and Weald views. Pose by the outdoor pool and raised hot-tub, enjoy an Elemental Herbology treatment or enjoy an outer-body experience in the floatation pod.
Editor’s Note: Journey times for car and taxi were calculated using theaa.com which tends to produce longer drive estimates than Google.
For the trains, we used National Rail and calculated the shortest distances on weekends (weekend train times tend to be slower than travelling on a weekday). Travelling from London St Pancras International instead of London Bridge this can be reduce the time of your journey by 10 to 15 minutes.
25th October 2018
Clever, inspiring design, sublime views, a vast, clean and empty pool, solitary relaxation areas to read, write or commune with my muse.
Small talk, discussions about spirituality or astrology, any products containing tea tree oil or aloe (sadly am allergic), busy pools where you can’t do laps.
Behind the scenes