PMost of the pandemic – and even the middle of a pandemic – has something to do with UK spa hotels. And by “something,” I mean they’ve all become unreserved and insanely expensive. Perhaps it was the result of all of us being confined to this country for a long period of time; maybe that’s because, with so many big celebrations stocked during lockdown, it’s inevitable that there’s a backlog of hen dos, birthday parties and anniversaries to celebrate with a little indulgence.
Whatever the reason, when a group of friends and I try to book a spa day and overnight in a nice-enough-but-not-so-luxury-an hour drive from London on the occasion 40th birthday last year, the response was amazing. We were told they were “booked for the next eight months” and that the cheapest package would set us back over £350 each. I mean, I love one spa as much as the next – maybe more – but £350? To sit in a series of warm rooms during the day? Has the world gone crazy?
Needless to say, the idea was quickly dropped when we discovered that many spa hotels were advertising similar wait times and prices. For the money they asked for, we could book a weeklong all-inclusive holiday in the Algarve.
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It made me wonder: what happened to the humble day spa? Going to facilities where you don’t need to pay for facilities, bed and breakfast, lunch, dinner and extra money if you want treatment? Where can you treat yourself without having to file for bankruptcy right after?
Step into The Spa at Breedon Priory, a (pretty) new kid on the property that lets you book a full day or half day in the quiet city of Melbourne, Derbyshire. Open from summer 2022 and named Best Boutique Spa at the 2023 Professional Beauty Awards, it’s a 90-minute train ride from London St Pancras to East Midlands Parkway, from where the spa is a 15-minute taxi ride away.
In my opinion, this rural retreat is the ideal size for a relaxing day. I like to have many options – a sauna, hot tub and steam room are not quite suitable – however, if a spa is too large and maze-like, I will end up with the feeling that I never experienced every inch of the facility. It’s annoying to feel stressed at the end of an R&R day because “I don’t think I’ve ever found a Himalayan rock salt sauna!”
Thankfully, Breedon Abbey has struck the right balance. I went from reception, where welcome hot chocolate and scented hand towels await, to the beautiful changing rooms, to the bright and airy main spa area. Here, a central relaxation space with super comfy couches makes the most of natural daylight and views of the property’s manicured gardens amid the 24-acre countryside. with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Just outside are two hot tubs, with sitting areas that bubble up at the touch of a button, along with more benches when the weather warms up enough to make such a potential client appealing. . Back home, I tried out all the different brands of “warm rooms” – the main reason for going to a spa, in my humble opinion – including herbal saunas and Himalayan salt saunas (told you to be in the spa). that’s A Thing), herbal sauna. and an aromatic steam room.
Then there’s the “bath experience,” all of today’s rage, combining water effects, lights, sounds, and even smells to transport you to unfamiliar lands – and the most satisfying of all. “bedroom” on the first floor. The latter is all dim lighting, deliciously soft beds and a silent cocoon where it would be rude. Are not let go for half an hour or so…
Whichever package you choose, lunch is included in the on-site Terrace Restaurant. Spa restaurants can be easy to miss; After all, they benefit from having a fixed audience who aren’t really there for the food. But here, Breedon really excelled. The warm brioche with burnt zucchini, roquefort sauce, lemon and chili to start things off are just as good as they sound; My meal consisted of wild mushroom arancini with aged parmesan and chewy tomato chutney, followed by grilled cod, chips, braised dill and crab crackers, fully flavored and portioned. perfect part. I will also give extra points for including the list of local vendors used on the menu.
A range of treatments are on offer for extra indulgence – the hour-long Temple Spa Glorious Mud experience leaves my skin as soft as a newborn pony’s – and can be added to or purchased as part of a more expensive package. But what I admire most about Breedon Abbey is that you can keep costs down by choosing to only use the facilities with a meal. Full days start at £125 for seven hours, while half days start at £95 for four hours, with each hour including welcome drinks and two-course lunches.
But of course, sometimes you want to up the luxury factor by adding an extra night. Here, Breedon Priory made the inspiring decision to present the local B&B Breedon Hall Country House, just down the road, to guests looking to create a kind of DIY package. This gorgeous Georgian manor house has five elegant, individually designed rooms, each with its own bathroom, and furnished in a classic country house style: covered bathtubs, wooden beams, textiles cream color and elegant four-poster bed. It’s the perfect combination of comfort-cozy and extreme indulgence, retaining the comfort of being in someone’s family home while feeling completely spoiled.
There’s also the option to book a stay at Meynell Mews, a self-catering row of townhouses on the grounds in a converted stable that can each accommodate up to four people. Either way, the owner Charlotte will probably invite you off in the charming cluttered living room, bring you tea and cookies, all the while making you feel so at home that you’ll find yourself putting on your slippers and hanging out. feet on the sofa.
The next morning, breakfast was everything I could dream of to cap off a pampering weekend: first-rate homemade granola and yogurt, strong coffee, butter, and the best hard-boiled egg toast I’ve ever had. I could have eaten (to be honest). The cherry came to fruition when I asked Charlotte for jogging route recommendations, and she detailed the perfect country trail to get through my three-course race.
The combination of boutique spa and boutique B&B is such a triumph that I can’t help but think we’ve gotten it all wrong all these years. Listen, listen: the spa hotel is dead; Long live spa day!
Spa at Breedon Monastery Half day packages are available from £95.
Rooms at Breedon Hall Country House from £91, B&B.
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