As our concept of wellness expands what it means to live well, spa has grown to embrace all elements of health, beyond the thermal space. Nature has been shown to have a calming and deeply therapeutic effect on our mental wellbeing, enhancing the de-stressing effects of a spa day. Concepts such as Forest Bathing and mindful walking have influenced how spas extend their wellbeing programme beyond the confines of the spa itself. Glass walls bring the outdoors in, and you can often swim through them to enjoy outdoor hydrotherapy pools, hot tubs in forests or by rivers, and outdoor saunas in spa gardens.
Many spas have strayed further into outdoor territory, offering outdoor treatments surrounded by nature, mindful walks, outdoor yoga classes, equestrian therapy and more. Some of our favourite spas have come up with ingenious ways to use nature as a spa playground, from spa gardens to outdoor activities and mindful walks.
Even if you can’t get to a spa right now, it might be worth bearing in mind that for your first post-lockdown visit, outdoor spa-ing may feel like a safer option: you can look forward to your first post-LD spa day now by choosing the ‘voucher’ option on the right side of our spa listing pages. Meanwhile, take inspiration from these spas and create your own ways to spa in the sunshine, making sure to pack your sunscreen: read our feature on choosing the perfect spa sun care products for your skin.
The joy of spa-ing outdoors is that you can do it in all weathers. Who minds a dash of drizzle if you are bubbling away in a warm tub? The Spa at Carden has fully embraced the indoors and outdoors, with spectacular pools, outdoor firepits and loungers. But if you need a bit of a mindful moment, or to escape the British weather, you can retreat into one of their glass enclosed, heated wellness pods, relax on comfy cushions and meditate on the beautiful Cheshire countryside.
Galgorm’s spa garden set the bar high for all subsequent outdoor spa experiences in the UK. It is so multi-faceted and wonderfully creative, we wanted to move in. The highlight for us was booking a private wood-fired hot tub on the banks of the ridiculously picturesque river Maine, which runs through the resort grounds. Sipping fizz, nibbling chocs in deep warm waters while watching wildlife is truly sublime. Why doesn’t everyone have a bath beside a river?
Woodland and garden walks through the Beaverbrook Estate have been designed to allow you to meander through areas of outstanding beauty. Tranquil trails are lined with healing medicinal herbs and plants: pause and inhale the scents for a natural aromatherapy experience. Wandering through the woods has lots of health benefits: one study showed chemicals released by trees, phytoncides, could have an antimicrobial effect and boost our immune systems. The Coach House Spa continues the outdoor theme with its bright ceramic art indoors and pools outdoors. You can read more about mindful walking here.
Forest Bathing is a Japanese-inspired wellness trend that has encouraged spas to recognise the health benefits taking spa into the woods. Basically, it means immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere: studies show 15 minutes walking among trees can lower stress and improve mood. The first of the Aqua Sana Spa revamps launched the concept of spa-ing in the treetops for the ultimate forest bathing experience, its most talked-about showpiece being the treetop sauna, perched ten metres aboveground with breath-taking panoramic forest views. For more ideas on how to enhance wellbeing in nature, read our feature on Forest Bathing here.
Wild swimming is all the rage. But if you are not quite ready to fling yourself into ice-cold lakes, slimy rivers or tumultuous seas in Britain, why not take inspiration from the wild swimming pool at South Lodge. This 18-metre outdoor pool is naturally filtered and mildly warmed, set within South Lodge’s luxuriously modern spa garden. You can also warm yourself up in the outdoor hydropool, sauna or drape yourself on a lounger. Think wild swimming, premiere class.
Indulge your Black Beauty fantasies with a Spa and Saddle Day at Lucknam Park. The Equestrian Centre is a beautiful old stable block: simply popping in and stroking a soft velvety nose is enough to lower your stress levels. Hacking out in their glorious grounds with or without instruction feels wild and wonderful. Look out for one of Lucknam Park’s retreats which now include an Equine Therapy session, devised by Dawn Cameron and based on horse-whispering techniques in which you learn to communicate and bond with 2,000lbs of animal, a profoundly moving experience. Read our blog on Equine Therapy at Lucknam here.
The top floor of this forest spa is devoted to fitness and wellness, overseen by fitness guru Matt Roberts. Above the gym, with forest views is a beautiful rooftop garden, where many of the fitness classes at Herb House take place. Picture doing your tree pose among the herbs, lavender and flowers with views of the New Forest to inspire you. In lockdown, Herb House are hosting online wellbeing retreats: find your outdoor space and try some of these ideas.
Experience the amazing Roof Top Spa Garden: ease aching muscles in the bubbly infinity pool and panoramic sauna while admiring peaceful views of gardens, woodland and countryside. Get closer to nature in the Woodland Glade, where you can have a spa treatment in a Shepherd’s Hut far from the madding crowds. Enjoy the hot stone, garden of England or deep tissue massage and drift away feeling cool breezes on your skin while listening to birdsong.