With new spas popping up from the impossibly quaint Cotswolds to the remote Scottish Highlands, selecting the best spas in the UK is no easy feat. And if the spas aren’t new builds, some established spas are benefitting from mega-buck makeovers, adding anything from groundbreaking skincare to glorious rooftop infinity pools. After much deliberation, to-ing and fro-ing and testing (it was the only way, trust us), here is The Good Spa Guide current guide to the best UK spas. We reserve the right to change our minds.
Brought to you by the people behind Pennyhill Park, The Spa at South Lodge is 44,000sq ft of new spa gold set in a design-led building with flowing meadow roof (eat your heart out, Grand Designs). Inside is cool and minimal, with just the right amount of glass to show off the West Sussex countryside. Swim lengths in the indoor 22-metre UV heated pool; on sunny days, drape yourself around the outdoor 18-metre natural infinity pool and bubbly hydro-pool. You’ll also find a dining terrace, a gym and several thermal experiences. Treatments – from facials to scrubs – take place in 14 individually-themed rooms.
The Spa at Carden Park, Cheshire
Carden Park recently spent £10 million building a brand-new spa and making it world class. The spa garden is second to none with glass pods, a fire pit, sauna, hot tubs, vitality pool, alfresco dining and garden bar. Ditto the new thermal suite complete with Finnish sauna, bio sauna, salt room and tepidarium. The sleek indoor pool has a sparkly ceiling, while the treatment menu features TCM-inspired and deliciously natural Elemental Herbology products. The work was well and truly worth it.
Three Graces Spa at Grantley Hall, Yorkshire
A newbie on the Yorkshire spa scene, Three Graces Spa invites you to take a deep breath and connect with the present, whatever the weather. If the sun makes an appearance, spa goers can swim lengths in the 18-metre heated outdoor pool, relax in a sunken cedar hot tub or take a dip in the indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Raining? Swim in the indoor, Grecian-inspired pool. Enjoy a treatment by Ila or Natura Bissé, and take lunch or a cream tea in the pastel-hued spa lounge with its central (and real) tree and outdoor terrace overlooking Grantley Hall’s manicured gardens.
The Scarlet, Cornwall
Children are banned, the organic restaurant is perpetually booked and the hotel’s eco credentials are second to none. By far the most inviting thing about The Scarlet, however, is its setting: a deserted stretch of caramel sand on Cornwall’s Mawgan Porth beach. Don’t arrive without pre-booking the Clifftop Hot Tub experience, a raised bath overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where you can watch the sun set with a glass of bubbly. The spa is an almost spiritual place with tented treatment rooms lit by lanterns, relaxing hanging pods, an outdoor reed-filtered pool and an indoor pool overlooking the beach.
The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Somerset
Thermal waters are the nectar of the spa world – after all this is where the concept of spa was first born. At The Gainsborough Bath Spa, guests can draw warm spring waters from the comfort of their own room, a UK first. The Romanesque Spa Village is quite something. There are three substantial thermal pools in which to wallow – the largest set under a glass-roofed atrium – as well as saunas and a steam room. The wide range of massages have an Asian‑influence including the Freedom Water Treatment, a form of Watsu which takes place in the thermal waters.
As well as being supremely top notch, Chewton Glen has many unique features, including four cleverly-designed tree-houses suspended 35ft in the air — nothing will quieten the mind, or re-connect you to your loved one, like a soak in a private hot tub overlooking the majestic New Forest. Let Chewton Glen pamper your body, too, with its impressive spa complete with 17-metre ozone-treated swimming pool, crystal steam room, an enormous thalassotherapy pool and holistic treatments by Ila and Ren. Facialist to the star Linda Meredith also brings her menu of skin treatments to Chewton Glen – book in for one and get some of that star quality.
Dormy House, Worcestershire
‘Your home-from-home in The Cotswolds’, states the website for Dormy House, a renovated farmhouse with original stone brickwork, traditional shutters and green rolling hills. In contrast to the cosy country-chic hotel, the refurbished spa is sleekly Scandinavian in design, with a 16-metre infinity pool, Juniper sauna, salt steam room, glass-walled spa lounge with central fire pit and Champagne nail bar. Sunny day? Languish in the warm, bubbling hydro-pool and hot tub before taking lunch on the wrap-around terrace with its bi-fold doors bringing the outside in. Treatments are indulgent and decadent with some unusual twists.
A river runs through it. Literally. Watch water gush past as you take lunch or dinner in the glass-walled restaurant or sit in your own waterside hot tub heated by wood-fired stove (chocolate dipped strawberries and glasses of fizz included). There’s a lot of spa on the inside -- a large swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a snow room and heat rooms -- but even more outside with several hydro pools, hot tubs, glass saunas and riverside steam rooms dotted about pristine gardens. Add the ubiquitous treatment and lunch and you’ll need more than a day.
A luxurious spa in a rather grand rural Scottish estate, with an emphasis on wellbeing in glamorous surroundings. Think gold and bronze wet facilities, elegant furnishings, mood lighting and natural textures. The steam and sauna rooms and ice fountain are separate for men and women, but the dark vitality pool with its warm mosaic loungers is unisex. The wellness philosophy is holistic, with everything from cupping to Ayurvedic and Thai massage, as well as treatments using ingredients from the surrounding Perthshire countryside.