There are plenty of swanky hotels whose spas don’t quite cut it - try-hard treatments, ‘seen better days’ swimming pool in dingy basements, or lacklustre lunches. Joyfully, there are also plenty of 5-star hotels with 5 bubble spas; or even better, five bubble luxury. In some very special cases, the spas manage to outrank the hotel in luxury. Here are the cream of the five-star spa hotel crop.
A hotel from a glamorous Italian jeweller was always going to be glitzy. The glitz in this instance is the onyx, oak and Vicenza stone used to create the award-winning – and frankly stunning - 2,000sq metre, two-storey spa. Shimmering with green and gold, the 25-metre pool is dramatic and moody with green-tinted water and illuminated Perspex pillars; if you think that sounds fancy, check out the vitality pool tiled in gold leaf. Bvlgari Spa isn’t all show though, with some real results-driven treatments, including the natural – and oh so effective - mesolift facial. There’s also a 150sq metre fitness space, and hair and beauty by Neville.
With its Knightsbridge postcode, Michelin-starred restaurant and in-room butler service, The Lanesborough already has luxury in the bag. Since opening three years’ ago the spa has swiped more awards than it can possibly polish. So far, so 5-star. Inside, panelled walls and marble floors are softened by leather and silks in creamy hues; the gym and fitness studio – with its ballet bars and boxing equipment – is framed by gilded gold mirrors; The Painting Room (for manis/pedis) is mirrored and marbled to the hilt. There’s a sleek pool for swimming and lounging, separate thermal suites for men and women (hydro pool; sauna) and spa butlers in the changing rooms (more cotton wool please, Jeeves). Treatments are courtesy of ila and La Prairie.
Still languishing under the most-extensive multi-million pound refurbishment in the property’s history, The Mandarin is sitting very pretty indeed. Under the watchful eye of international designer Joyce Wang, the re-imagined and enlarged spa is an oasis of calm with authentic Asian touches. Serious swimmers will love the 17-metre twin lane stainless steel pool with lap timer; for something less arduous, try the vitality pool, Amethyst Crystal steam room, sanarium or Rasul water temple for mud (glorious mud). Find your Zen in the Colour Therapy Relaxation area after; there’s also a fitness centre, Pilates studio and 13 treatments rooms offering Traditional Chinese Medicine, nail art from Bastien Gonzalez and anti-ageing facials by Nescens.
Few spas make the jaw drop, but then The Spa at South Lodge is no ordinary thing. Mimicking the natural contours of the land, the 4,000sq ft wood and glass structure – with its curved meadow roof – is just gorgeous (and we never say gorgeous). There’s an 18-metre pool with garden views, an outdoor wild swimming pool (with bar), and a bubbling outdoor hydro-pool. The thermal experiences – infused sauna, salt steam, Japanese herbal steam – are decked out in natural wood with splashes of green, a palette that continues in all 14 treatment rooms. There’s also a gym, a beauty bar, a hair salon and a spa lounge. Try the Bamboo Massage or the Ginger Salt Scrub. Like we said… gorgeous.
Just 18 miles from London, yet a world away, The Grove is a handsome red-brick building in 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside, with a championship golf course and tennis courts. Occupying the former stable block, the multi-storey Sequoia Spa has a sensational 22-metre indoor pool with black mosaic tiled-floor and wood beamed ceilings; come summer, the 25-metre outdoor pool is a delight. Relax in the gardens afterwards – on white loungers or hanging rattan chairs – and order a pot of tea. There are 18 treatment rooms for ESPA and Natura Bissé facials, massages and scrubs, as well as a gym and a spinning studio. You’ll find thermal facilities in the female changing rooms.
Style oozes out of every inch of Beaverbrook, a creamy English Country House with nods to the 1920s – staff in waistcoats, tassled lamps on trimmed gold bars. The spa is something else – a separate converted coach house adorned with stained glass ceilings, colourful ceramic tiles and mosaics, floral fabrics and large plants. It’s like stepping into nature. Swimmers will love the light-filled indoor pool and sunken outdoor pool, surrounded by spongy grass and loungers. Work out in the spacious gym or take a class in the studio. There’s an Apothecary Garden for cultivating medicinal plants and flowers used in treatments and teas, as well as a resident naturopath for integrated wellness. Treatments are holistic in approach, with facials, massages and beauty treatments alongside spa journeys.
The Fife Arms is everything you could want from a Highland fling. The grey-brick, red-trimmed property, overlooking the river Clunie, is as traditional (tartan furnishings; thistles) and as wacky (16,000 pieces of artwork, antiques and taxidermy) as you like. There’s a real Picasso in the drawing room; a Chelsea Flower Show medalist designed the gardens. It’s not plain. The Albamhor Spa – with its pine wood, botanical prints, white fur and copper bowls – is a cosy contrast (let it snow) with a sauna, experiences showers and menu of facials and massages, as well as beauty, express and signature treatments. After a bracing walk in the highlands, book in for the Fife Foot Ritual – heaven for the feet.
A castle in Donegal might sound a bit stuffy for the high-end spa-goer but Lough Eske Castle – with its neutral palette, modern restaurant and glass doors opening out onto fairytale gardens is a simply charming. The CARA Organic Beauty Spa takes residence in a separate Victorian Glass House with a 19-metre indoor pool surrounded by aqua and gold. The thermal suite has all the usual suspects (sauna, steam room, sanarium, experience showers) as well as a glass-encased infinity pool with meadow views. Work out in the fully-equipped gym or try an ESPA ritual or Anne Semonin massage or facial (a little bit of Paris in Ireland) in one of seven quaint treatment rooms.