A spa is a great place to socialise with friends. You can have some “us time” while soaking in a hot tub, lounging in robes, or enjoying a steam or sauna. There’s often a café where you can get a drink to take with you into the facilities -- Champagne, tea or a healthy juice; and you can sit down and have lunch or afternoon tea together too.
Thermal rooms are great to experience with your friends; you can try themed saunas and steam rooms, all set to varying temperatures, or scented and designed differently. There might also be foot baths you can sit at together while treating your feet, or a laconium where you can kick back and soak up the warmth. Between heat rooms you usually cool down in an ice room or by using fun experience showers such as rain, tropical, mist, or if you’re brave enough – a bucket shower. And there is usually a pool to swim in or a hydrotherapy pool with swan pipes to pummel your muscles, as well as relaxation rooms to escape to for a well-deserved rest.
A good social spa will have a wide variety of thermal facilities and plenty of space to enjoy the spa without crowding other users. Packages might accommodate for more than one person, and include drinks or food in the price. Some larger spas are set up for groups of spa-goers and won’t be quite so hush-hush either. So you needn’t worry about disturbing other people while you enjoy a catch-up with friends – unless you’re in the dedicated relax rooms in which case it’s common courtesy to keep noise to a minimum!
For the Good Spa Guide Annual Awards, we introduced ‘best spa to be social’ as a category because it is such a popular trend among spa-goers. Last year this award was won by Aqua Sana Woburn Forest, with Antara Spa, Thermae Bath Spa, Lion Quays and Y Spa shortlisted.
Woburn Forest is the newest of the Aqua Sana spas, all of which we’d recommend for social spa-ing. The large spa is set over multiple floors, with a stunning outdoor pool overlooking the forest. There are blissful foot baths set next to and opposite one another so you can enjoy them with friends, several chill out areas, and The World of Spa consisting of six individually themed spa areas to explore -- fire and ice, blossom, herbal, sensory, mineral and gemstone, and salt.
Thermae Bath Spa is set in the historic city of Bath and makes use of natural thermal waters to fill two pools – one large indoor hydrotherapy with Jacuzzi and swan pipes, and one rooftop pool with spectacular views over the city skyline. There are also multiple sensory steam rooms for you to try, and a light and spacious café to enjoy a drink or a meal in your robes.
Lion Quays covers both your swimming and hot tub needs with a 25m swimming pool plus a wonderfully luxurious hydrotherapy pool. Thermal facilities include a snow cave, starlit steam room, wooded sauna, and sanarium.
Y Spa has a spa garden with a lovely hydrotherapy pool overlooking saunas – one set to mild and the other considerably hotter. There are two differently scented steam rooms to try, along with a variety of experience showers and an ice wall. Brrr!
Whittlebury Hall has multi heat and ice experiences, with a hydro pool, aromatherapy crystal and roman salt steam rooms, traditional sauna, ice cave, experience showers, foot spas, warm benches and caldarium. These facilities circle the hydro pool and provide an invigorating experience that stimulates different sensations as you go through the cycle – perfect for a spa journey with friends.
Ragdale Hall has 12 heat and water experiences to linger, lounge and relax in. Ragdale aptly describes their thermal spa as a ‘playground for adults’; there’s a main pool of 25m with a Jacuzzi and swan pipe area, as well as an exercise pool, steam room and sanarium. Additional thermal facilities include a stunning candle-lit cave pool, waterfall pool linking inside and out, volcanic salt bath, scented room, colourflow jasmine and chamomile cave, rose themed sauna, and cave shower with tropical storm, thunder and lightning effects. Social bliss.
The Woodland Spa offers an extensive thermal journey including foot spa area, hydrotherapy pool, two steam rooms (salt and eucalyptus), experience showers (tropical, jet and cold bucket), saunarium and sauna, saltwater infinity pool from inside to out, and indoor relaxation serenity pool. It recently won our award for Best Spa in the North.
Ribby Hall stars an aqua thermal journey with seven different heat experiences: aroma room, aroma steam room, saunarium, Balinese salt inhalation, and herbal sauna. There’s an ice fountain, drench shower and monsoon experience showers to cool down between hot rooms. The spa garden features a rustic sauna and outdoor hot tub, perfect for chilling with friends. A pedidarium has two footbaths and four heated loungers, and there’s a large central indoor hydrotherapy pool.
Don’t forget if you’re visiting a social spa on a weekend it could be busy. Consider a weekday package if you can get the time out to do so.