If a visit to a spa is all about feeling good, why shouldn't that include your taste buds? Back in the day, if you went to a spa, people assumed that you were there to shed excess pounds, so you were allowed to nibble a lettuce leaf every third week. Fun it was not, but the world of spa has since changed.
Many spas flag up their low-fat or low-sugar dishes on the menu in case you are feeling conscientious, but relax. Nobody's going to reprimand you for having a crème brûlée. You're there to enjoy yourself, after all. Champagne and strawberries count as therapy in our book.
The Club is an ultra-smart boutique hotel just a short hop from the beach. Marine treatments are a speciality and spa facilities include a saltwater pool, sauna and steam room. When the sun shines, you can enjoy the outdoor pool and the al fresco eating area.
Bohemia is the name of The Club's main restaurant. The name suggests a hedonistic approach to the business of eating and drinking, and that's just what Chef Steve Smith aims to deliver. Expect Royal Bay oysters, Jersey Royals in season, and lashings of Jersey cream, as befits the location.
Just a year after opening in April 2004, Bohemia gained a Michelin star and has retained the accolade ever since. They're obviously doing something right.
Perfect for: Restorative marine-mineral spa treatments and fine local seafood.
If luxurious seclusion is what you're after, look no further. Lucknam is a five-star country-house hotel, hidden away in 500 acres of listed parkland. The spa, tucked away within a stone courtyard, features an indoor swimming pool and an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool, thermal cabins and much more.
After all that, you'll have earned a visit to The Park restaurant, where Head Chef, Hywel Jones tries out some daring combinations. This main fine dining restaurant has earned a Michelin star for its contemporary English food with a French twist. The spa's Brasserie offers lighter, but equally as lovely dishes. A deserving winner of our Good Spa Award for "most delicious spa" in 2010.
Perfect for: Getting away from it all -- but with the splendours of Georgian Bath nearby.
Ockenden Manor hotel is an Elizabethan manor house in the pretty Tudor village of Cuckfield. The spa, which sits inside a 19th century walled garden, offers treatments from British brands ila and REN, who source ingredients from nature, echoing the spa's location.
Both the spa and the Michelin-starred restaurant at Ockenden Manor make the most of the stunning Sussex countryside, with views onto the South Downs National Park. The Restaurant at Ockenden Manor, under the expert guidance of Chef Stephen Crane, has held its Michelin star since 2004. The menu focuses on fresh ingredients, sourced from Sussex where possible.
Perfect for: A luxurious way to enjoy the splendour of the British countryside.
Pennyhill Park Hotel is a 19th century, ivy-clad mansion with a whole 45,000 square feet of spa to explore. There's a huge thermal suite and not one, not two, but eight pools, including a fabulous outdoor pool area that is open all year.
The Spa at Pennyhill Park is regarded as one of the best spas in Britain, and rightly so. But don't just visit for the glorious pools and treatments – the food here is so impressive that The Latymer is among one of only a few restaurants in the UK to hold five AA rosettes.
At The Latymer, the focus is on local seasonal produce, with their own herb garden giving inspiration. There's also The Brasserie, for modern British cuisine, and the spa's restaurant, Themis, for light dishes.
Perfect for: The ultimate spa-and-dine experience.
The Vineyard takes its inspiration from owner Sir Peter Michael's top Californian winery. Offering a vast world-class wine list, delicious gourmet food and a luxury spa, this is the place to come when you really want to indulge yourself!
Treatments in the Vineyard Spa are in keeping with the wine theme, with signature treatments using grape extracts for their antioxidant properties. The exclusive Red Grape Deluxe Pedicure even includes a glass of wine to help you relax!
On spa days you can enjoy a bento-box lunch. If you're staying over, head to the main restaurant where Chef Daniel Galmiche offers an ultra-refined style of contemporary food. The restaurant was crowned as Restaurant of the Year 2012 by Decanter and Laurent Perrier.
Perfect for: Wine lovers, obviously! Let the sommelier choose your wine. They really do know their stuff here.
The Yeatman is an impressive spa hotel overlooking Portugal’s second city of Porto. This hilltop retreat, which opened in 2010, has a unique personality and will appeal to the most discerning luxury traveller.
The exclusive Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa is a light and airy space, with natural materials such as wood, granite, marble and glass throughout, and panoramic views. The wine theme continues in the treatment menu, as Caudalie have developed an entire range of products and treatments based on the natural anti-oxidant properties of the grape.
Food and wine are both essential elements of the Yeatman experience. The Michelin-starred restaurant delivers creative yet traditional flavours and oozes gastronomic class. The Yeatman’s wine cellar housing over 1,000 different wines, many are vintage and there are a number of rare collectors’ items on the list.
Perfect for: Wine lovers, a European city break and floating in the panoramic infinity pool.
Nestled in the Swiss Alps, the Alpina Gstaad has earned its name as one of the best hotels in Switzerland. The beautifully crafted interiors, impeccable customer service and stunning mountain views make this hotel a super-luxurious retreat.
The Six Senses Spa draws on Asian traditions in a calm and incredibly high-end space. There are twelve treatment rooms including a floatation room, a hammam, an ayurvedic room and a cave room for couples treatments. The spa is decorated with local woods and limestone and, if you venture outside, you can swim lengths while surrounded by Alpine peaks.
The Michelin-starred Sommet restaurant is the jewel in the Alpina Gstaad’s crown. Sommet offers haute cuisine (caviar, truffle and fois gras) and simpler but absolutely delicious choices from the grill. Other food options include Megu, the first outpost for New York’s fashionable Japanese restaurant, and Stübli which serves traditional Swiss dishes including raclette, fondue and roesti.
Perfect for: Hill walkers, skiers, the international jet setters and spa-istas.
12th February 2013
Warmth and sunshine; spas which take me away to another country; fruit infused waters; beach-worth pedicures; deep tissue massages.
High footfalls; treatments that over promise and under deliver; heavy lunches; loungers drapped in used towels.
Behind the scenes