Monday, 26 July 2010

Country hotel spas

It seems like the latest trend in new spas – now that every shiny identikit urban hotel has shoehorned one into the basement – is small country hotels gluing on an extension or remodeling a back room to fit in at minimum a therapy room, and in some cases a fuller range of spa facilities. So while the two main spa choices (and marketing angles) were 1) shopping/partying city-break with the girls (a la MacDonald Hotels) or 2) stately home isolation (a la Thoresby Hall), there is now a third – elegant, upgraded hotels in rural destinations where, for example, you can go walking and then wind down with a massage, or one partner can go and do scary things on mountain bikes while the other gets wrapped in mud or seaweed. This seems like a positive development; presumably it creates/preserves local jobs, provides good options for people who might otherwise take gas-guzzling short flights abroad (unless of course they're the really evil types who take internal UK flights), and encourages visitors in the British rural economy to spend money locally. All Good.

The highest-profile example of this trend in the North seems to be Verbena Spa at the Feversham Arms in the insanely cute Yorkshire village of Helmsley. The news that started me writing this post was a press release (complete with horrible punctuation errors) about the Swan, a converted seventeenth-century alehouse in Newby Bridge, on tip of Lake Windermere. You can tell the release was written for and probably by southerners – it doesn't mention the name of the village at all, just the Lake. Ho hum. But the hotel – where I'm pretty sure I've stopped for a brew, years ago, and which seems to have benefited from a major facelift – looks lovely and well-suited for short breaks, especially since (unlike Helmsley) it would be easy to do by public transport from Manchester. Some of these places say 'spa' when they mean treatment rooms offering massages, facials, wraps etc, but the Swan does have a gym, pool, sauna and steam room too. Not quite competition for Verbena's full battery of 'monsoon showers', ice room, juice bar and saunarium, but probably enough for a relaxing weekend away. I'm sure I had one of those, once upon a time...

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