North West England incorporates Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside – which means it has a little bit of everything that’s brilliant about Britain.
There’s culture, partying and history in Manchester and Liverpool; bright lights and fun nights in Blackpool; the mysterious and poetic landscapes of the Lake District and the honey-coloured uniformity of neat Cotswold villages. This region is also home to some top-flight football clubs so weary footballers, WAGS and match-day widows need somewhere luxurious to relax …
Ribby Hall Village is a five-star holiday village in Wrea Green – not far from Blackpool but a world away in terms of relaxation. The adult-only spa makes effective use of space and natural light, looking out over the Lancashire countryside.
The star of this spa is the Aqua Thermal Journey, which includes seven different heat experiences. We say it’s definitely worth taking the recommended two hours to enjoy these. There’s also an indoor hydrotherapy pool, outdoor spa pool and sauna, 14 treatment rooms, a champagne bar and two AA-rosette brasserie where you can cheerfully wear your robe. Key brands here are Elemis, LDN Skins, Mii, Neom and Opi.
We don’t award five-bubble ratings lightly, but The Spa Hotel at Ribby Hall Village really delivers on affordable luxury and we love so many things about this peaceful place. Look out for overnight spa breaks with treatments, as these offer great value for money (and overnight guests have exclusive use of the spa between 9am and 10am).
Aqua Sana Whinfell Forest nestles in the woodland of the Center Parcs complex in the Cumbrian countryside. There is lots to enjoy here: we especially love the large outdoor pool, which is atmospheric and peaceful to swim in at night.
It’s fun trying out all the different heat treatments with friends. There’s a mint-scented Japanese salt steam bath, a Roman-inspired laconium, Greek herbal bath, a Balinese steam room and a Tyrolean sauna. When we last went to Aqua Sana Whinfell Forest, all the guests were chatting about which treatments were their favourites. Key brands here are Bare Minerals, CND Nails, Decléor and Elemis.
The light and bright Vitale Café gets our vote for its healthy mix of snacks and lunches – and we heartily approve of the fact that everyone tends to wear their robes while eating. Overall, this is a friendly, sociable, affordable place for day spa-goers, and offers a calming retreat for people (parents!) on an activity-packed holiday at Center Parcs.
Armathwaite Hall stands on the edge of Bassenthwaite, one of the largest and most northerly of the Lake District’s lakes. While the hotel feels very traditional country-house (we’re talking stuffed animal heads and coats of arms), the spa occupies a contemporary, sympathetically designed adjoining building. Beautifully presented and very relaxing.
As well as being fans of the 16m infinity pool and large outdoor hot tub, we love Armathwaite for its choice of unusual treatments. You can have a Monticelli mud wrap, a cellulite-reducing treatment or a lomi-lomi massage, for example. Key brands here are Comfort Zone, Just Be and Thémaé. The spa has worked with cancer patients and people recovering from accidents to help support them through treatment.
This is the place to experience Lake District luxe: walking boots and waterproofs are entirely optional. And if you’re staying over, be sure to dine in Lake View restaurant, with inspiring views of Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite.
Mottram Hall is an elegant late Georgian country-house hotel in the Cheshire countryside. We think it combines stately home and spa very pleasingly indeed. And because of its location, between Manchester and Macclesfield, it’s comfortably accessible from the north or south of England.
Like some of the finer spas of Europe, Mottram Hall’s spa has an inspiring connection to the outdoors. Here you’ll find the UK’s first Alfresco ThermoSpace. What’s that? Well, there’s an outdoor hot tub which you’ll have seen before, but also a mineral stonebath and a Brechelbath – all gentle heat and toasty pine-cone aromas. Key brands here are CACI Non-Surgical Solutions, ESPA, Jessica, Mii Cosmetics and St Tropez.
The 13m pool is big enough for swimming serious lengths, but also warm enough for you just to float around. The spa does share its facilities with the health club, so check the times and arrangements if you’d like to visit at a peaceful hour. If you’re staying over, we thoroughly recommend Mottram Hall’s Carrington Grill (we still talk dreamily about our last dinner there).
The Woodland Spa is part of Crow Wood Leisure, set within 100 acres of Lancashire woodland, pasture and rolling hills. We suggest you go with friends (a birthday celebration or classy hen party, perhaps?) and take all day to enjoy this super-sleek new spa, because the facilities are superb …
The changing rooms, for example, are reminiscent of a smart nightclub, complete with plush leather seating. There’s a ‘Thermal Experience Journey’ which includes a range of heat rooms – plus a hydrotherapy pool, outdoor infinity pool, and serenity pool in a low-lit relaxation room. Enjoy at least two hours here before you even contemplate starting your treatments. Key brands are Carita, Decleor, Neom and OPI – you can also get Lash Perfect extensions.
The staff are lovely – attentive without being intrusive, and clearly excited about their new spa. Bertram’s Restaurant is excellent and overlooks the outdoor thermal area where in the summer you can soak up the sun. Overall, a brilliant place that is highly deserving of our coveted five-bubble rating.
There’s not much we don’t love about this Good Spa Guide five-bubble-rated northern beauty. Stanley House is a lovingly restored 17th-century stone manor house, while its modern spa gazes at rural Lancashire hills from every sympathetically designed angle.
The facilities here are full of inspired ideas, from the individual dressing rooms each with their own walk-in shower and vanity table through to steam rooms infused with the scent of star anise or watermelon. There are thermal cabins, a soothing hydrotherapy pool, and lots more to enjoy during your pampering time at Stanley House. This is currently the only North West spa to offer treatments from Natura Bissé and ila. Other key brands here are Beaubronze, Organic Glam and Orly.
Food-wise, you’re in luck. There’s a spa menu using fresh, nutritional ingredients; The Grill on the Hill for exceptional food in stylish surroundings; and Mr Fred’s Bar and Lounge for a relaxed dining experience overlooking the lovely grounds. And don’t forget The Loft – an ultra-chic space over the restaurant to take your best friends and hard-earned drinks. We say: treat someone you love and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
Carden Park is a large and imposing hotel near Chester with extensive facilities and outdoor activities to keep you busy for days – whether you’re golfing, enjoying time with your family, catching up with friends or bonding with colleagues. It even has a vineyard producing Carden Park wines …
The large spa includes a 20m pool for serious swimming, as well as thermal areas, a gym, exercise studio, treatment rooms and relaxation rooms. We like that there’s a ‘Hero’ package for men, incorporating back, face and scalp treatments. When it comes to treatment brands, ESPA is the star of the show.
You can comfortably dine in The Vines brasserie in your (wonderfully fluffy) robe; otherwise there’s the more formal Redmond’s, with its live piano soundtrack at weekends. On the whole, we say Carden Park is a great family friendly choice with lots for everyone to enjoy.
You can read our full review of Carden Park. Or you can:
The original building occupied by Rookery Hall Hotel dates to 1816. This elegant hotel in Nantwich is set in 38 acres of picturesque parkland. It’s classy but not fussy or stuffily Victorian: a small row of wellies in the reception doorway sets the scene.
The spa is bright, spacious and relaxed with a glass-roofed 17m pool, thermal rooms, a rasul, gym and dedicated relaxation room. We found the Elemis treatments to be expertly delivered – and the lovely staff make it their mission to give you a warm and welcoming experience here. The other key brand here is Comfort Zone.
You’re welcome to dine in the spa café or, if you’re staying over, The Restaurant with two AA rosettes is superb for a quiet and intimate dinner – it’s very grand with mahogany panelling. On the whole, we heartily recommend Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa for a countryside spa break or a day to yourself.
This elegant Victorian hotel sit on the banks of The Mere, after which this luxurious resort is named. It’s golfing paradise (the 18-hole James Braid-designed course has hosted several prestigious championships), but of course you don’t need to be golf-inclined to enjoy this superb retreat …
The spa is housed in the former stable block – not that you’d recognise its humble beginnings. This is a seriously stylish spa: think jewel-coloured velvet chairs, gently heated pale stone floors and indoor wet and thermal areas with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out into lush gardens. The 20m pool has a dedicated lengths lane – always a plus for the serious swimmers amongst us. Key brands here are Aromatherapy Associates, Babor and Carita – and we’re besotted with the new Chocolate Back Therapy.
This is an ideal place to retreat for a romantic weekend – or to unwind alone while a loved one plays golf or attends a match at one of the region’s top football clubs. There are several pleasing dining options. We say The Mere is a shining example of what it takes to be a five-bubble spa and we’re pretty envious of Cheshire people who have it on their doorstep.
This DoubleTree by Hilton is in a restored 18th-century manor house on the outskirts of Chester – making it easily accessible for a weekend retreat (and one that’s ideal as a base for some Chester shopping). The hotel, health club and spa feel modern and fresh: facilities include a hydrotherapy pool and outdoor thermal pool with invigorating waterfall.
We think the heat experience rooms here are wonderful: purpose built, spacious and finely finished. We also like ‘The Before’ and ‘The After’ relaxation rooms. Treatments are reasonably priced and key brands include Elemis, Jessica, Moroccanoil, Pevonia and St Tropez.
Some of the facilities are shared with the hotel and health club and therefore they can get busy – although the spa treatment rooms and terrace are tucked away on a separate floor, offering a peaceful space and a café exclusively for spa guests. Other dining options are the Brasserie lounge bar and the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill, making Doubletree by Hilton Chester a sociable place to catch up with loved ones.