It had never occurred to me that spas weren’t universally adored. Until my boyfriend announced that he’d forgo a trip to one in favour of, er, absolutely nothing. Incredulous, I consulted some friends, male and female alike. They concurred with his contempt, saying spas conjure thoughts of prosecco and pampering (shudder.) Fluffy dressing gowns and gaggles of whatever the collective noun is for giggling hens (by this point they were convulsing.) Vats of stale water swimming with anemic looking fruit, coupled with all the bad bits of Trail Mix. Having to arrange your face in a constant state of smile because it’s easier than making hushed small talk with therapists. But no, no, no! Because spas have straightened their ties. Or loosened them. Their wellness is as nuanced as McDonalds serving salads so get naked and stop your whingeing.
With its gargantuan marble slabs, the hammam looks like it belongs on the cover of Architectural Digest. The treatments meanwhile, take place in what look like potting sheds - ones built of toffee coloured stone that you’d quite happily live in. There’s also a futuristic gym (gawping will do), a glass-ended hydrotherapy pool (lots of body-pummelling pressure jets), a salt steam room, and afterwards, the promise of a homegrown cider made in the hotel’s high-tech press. Outside, surrounded by buttery, flower-filled fields are woven nests on stilts which as far as reading spots go, trump blanket strewn beds any day.
Designed by glass artist Brain Clarke, The Coach House spa is prime Instagram fodder, and being inside it does indeed feel as though you’re in a giant stained glass window. Energetically coloured with red, yellow and blue there isn’t so much as a whiff of duck egg blue or lilac. Patterns and motifs also appear on the floor of treatment rooms, which are named after locally-grown flowers and plants. There are three pools, two outside, one of which has a spectacular checkerboard floor, and another two inside, one of which, pleasingly, looks like a 30s lido. Treatments don’t just involve oil sloshing and tepid flannels, not least because they start with a 15 minute consultation, where feet are massaged in exchange for the sharing of anxieties. It might be the therapists’ deft intuition or their access to the on-site medicinal apothecary garden, either way, you’ll walk out spirited.
Cowshed is incapable of spa snobbery. You can’t help but sink into slippers and become the cliché you were lambasting a facial ago. The pedicures are second to none, administered on wingback chairs in front of retro television sets that play films you’d forgotten existed but giddily adore. Order a hibiscus tea, gaze pensively out over the lake and ask yourself what’s so bad about this. When you’ve landed on ‘nothing, nothing at all’ head to the phone that delivers drinks long and short and hard and soft, before collapsing in the hot tub outside.
The Berekely’s posh but affable charm seeps into its spa too, though the decor is distinctly different. Laid back to the point of horizontal, it’s bio hacked the Cotswolds, from its country bumpkin name, to its hard and soft furnishings. Yes, the walls are clad in cabin wood, and body treatments come courtesy of natural brand Bamford. (There are some whizzy Oskia facials on offer too though.) Outside and one floor up (the seventh) things are a little more in keeping. Around the rooftop pool sit bright white loungers, and 360 windows offer sprawling views of the leafy Hyde Park below.