In a bid to see how spas are dealing with the big re-open, our Spa Spy happily hot-foots it up the M4 to the beautiful Cotswold’s town of Malmesbury to check in to Aquarias Spa at Whatley Manor.
This luxurious Five Bubble Spa has published details of its Covid-19 procedures on the website so we were able to prepare for any changes. Like all spas, pre-17th May, Aquarias Spa cannot open its thermal suite as yet. But the experience showers and (pre-booked) salt scrub showers were available.
The spa entrance is a short walk from the car park, down the steps and along a cobbled path. Donning my mask, I entered the spa and was warmly greeted by Head Therapist, Grace, also wearing a mask. Grace led me through to the spa lounge and handed me a health questionnaire (which included the standard Covid questions) and a pen, sealed in a plastic bag. She also left me with a delicious berry smoothie and warm flannel.
From here, I had my first glimpse of the beautiful bubbling centrepiece hydropool with three swan neck jets and floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the sun-trap terrace.
Grace explained all the precautions…
Grace guided me to the changing room and handed me my assigned locker key (again sealed in plastic). My robe, towel and slippers were inside. There was one other person in the changing rooms, so it was all very relaxed.
I headed straight to my first treatment – an hour in the Epsom salt-loaded floatation pod. Located in its own room – the pod is the perfect option for a social distanced spa treatment.
After a chilled-out float, I wandered straight to the tepidarium, unravelling on one of the heated stone recliners. Eager to seek out the enormous hydro-pool, I made my way down the stairs and bagged one of the brown rattan pool-side loungers.
There was one other couple in the pool area, so keeping a safe distance was easy. I saw plenty of staff milling around discreetly refreshing towels, wiping loungers and ensuring the water supply areas were clean. The entire spa also receives an ozone sanitising treatment overnight.
I had the hydro-pool all to myself for around half an hour – which felt incredibly indulgent. I tried out all the different massage jets, before swimming outside to discover even more. Serendipitously, the sun came out and I took a moment to take in the beautiful Mediterranean-feel terrace garden. Swifts darted playfully between the newly-planted orchard and sandstone building. THIS is what I had been waiting for.
I had just enough time to dry off for a spot of lunch in the courtyard, before my treatment. The Courtyard Lawn Menu has a main, three sides and dessert for £25 per person. I feasted on the mouthwatering Whatley Manor Burger with blue cheese and sweet potato fries. I skipped the other two sides and delicious sounding dessert (Red Berry Panacotta with Shortbread Crumble and Ice Cream) to squeeze in more spa-ing.
I was booked in for the brand new Gaiyoga Lifting Facial (90 minutes, £155) the perfect post-lockdown treatment. The treatment uses handmade, natural products inspired by ancient Greek goddess, Gaia, known as Mother Nature.
My therapist, Tamika, (wearing a mask) led me to the beautifully-scented treatment room and explained the treatment. She began with a relaxing foot bathing ritual, using Awakening Body Scrub, before leaving the room to give me time to de-robe and lay on the heated treatment bed.
Tamika began the 90-minute treatment with a double cleanse using the Gaia Cleansing Balm and Face Exfoliator. She continued with a tension-relieving pressure point massage, before applying the Purifying Mask. A heavenly hand and arm massage was next. She then used a combination of advanced lifting face massage technique and lymphatic drainage to increase muscle tone and volume.
Tamika finally applied jade Gua Sha stones to my face to relieve tension, reduce puffiness and improve circulation. Tamika explained that jade is said to harmonise and balance the heart chakra – aiding both emotional and physical ailments and giving the feeling of wellbeing. Whether it was Tamika’s bewitching hands or the magical jade, I felt incredibly relaxed and soothed.
By the end of the treatment I felt serene. I examined my skin, which was plump and glowy, for the first time in a while. Tamika led me to the tepidarium to doze contentedly on the recliner with a cup of green tea with cherry and rose petals.
Did I feel safe? Absolutely. There were enough procedures in place (facemasks, social distancing, individually wrapped pens and locker keys), without it being too overbearing. It felt amazing to be back in a spa – certainly worth the wait! I was just left contemplating how soon I could come back…
14th May 2021
Nature-inspired spas, cold water plunges, sound baths, deep tissue massage, delicious food.
Thin walls in treatment rooms, loungers hoggers, bright lights
Behind the scenes