I like a spa, to me, it’s how I’d live my life if I was rich. A gym within two minutes walk of my bedroom so I can just nip in whenever I get a sudden spurt of energy; healthy food appears as if by magic, you spend the bits of the day not in the gym, steaming, bubbling or lying around reading pausing only so someone can rub creams/oils and other potions into various bits of you. It’s bliss.
However recently, I had to wonder – even if all those things are in place – when is a spa not a spa?
You see, for the last 20 years (I feel a bit sick saying that) my spa of choice has been Hoar Cross Hall in the Midlands – but the last two trips I’ve had it’s not been completely spa-like.
What Went Wrong
Yes, you still wander about in your dressing gown, you still spend a third of your time in the gym, a third getting pruney in various water-based activities and a third of the time being rehydrated with various lotions – but on my last trip I also got regaled by a hen party complete with veils and devils horns and this time I had three businessmen in suits appear in the tea room, one of them yelling ‘well why aren’t the car’s in position, sort it out’ into his mobile phone. Turns out, there was a JCB conference on.
Now, call me old fashioned, but spas and digging equipment don’t seem a natural match. Nor does the shrieking that tends to come with a hen party.
Perhaps I’m a spa snob but as far as I’m concerned a ‘true spa’ should not admit anyone having a business meeting and should have someone at hand to quietly remind anyone who shrieks when cold water hits their person – or in the case of the three women in their 30s throwing ice around in the detox area – that maybe a place where other people are paying a three-figure sum to relax might not be the time to re-enact memories of playing in your first snow (unless you’re at Canyon Ranch, they do things like that there and call it therapy.).
However, this does not mean I don’t think you should go to Hoar Cross Hall.
On the contrary, it’s still a place I’d pay my own money to visit. And, while I don’t think it can call itself an official spa – what I think Hoar Cross Hall can still call itself is a really nice hotel with a brilliant spa attached to it. Here’s what I think are its highlights…
Why I Still Love Hoar Cross Hall
- With two pools, three jacuzzis, numerous saunas, steams, saunarium, cool jets, hot jets and numerous bubbling things that pummel out knots, the water facilities are second only to Ragdale Hall in the line of spas I’ve been to – and Ragdale only wins because theirs go outside and I get Blue Lagoon flashbacks.
- The extra treatments aren’t massively innovative – but they also aren’t stupidly expensive which means you can indulge yourself a bit. They’ve also taken to actually asking what you want from a treatment before you start which means I can explain how I don’t like diggy fingers during my massage.
- The stay itself is also moderately priced compared to some of the big-name spas. Also, Hoar Cross Hall do a lovely thing were they don’t restrict what time you arrive or depart – some other spas literally only let you on the premises for 24 hours of a one night stay. With Hoar Cross Hall you can arrive at 9am and leave at 6pm the next day giving you two full days of pampering.
- They now have wi-fi in the rooms. Yes, I know you’re supposed to relax at a spa, but if you run your own business it’s more stressful not being able to check your emails than it is looking, realising there’s nothing important and switching your phone off.
- And then there’s the food – omg, it’s fantastic. You do have to exert willpower to avoid the fried breakfast and the hot dishes at lunch (which one day included a full roast beef dinner!) and stick with the fruit and yogurt and salad that’s available.
- But tell yourself you’re doing this because you want to save your appetite for dinner. You will not regret this; it’s three courses of heaven – my mum had scallops for her starter, which despite being tiny were packed with taste. My main course of sea bream with a tomato sauce (I was being healthy) was perfect and then, as I’d spent more than my fair share of time in the gym, I had chocolate mousse for dessert!
How to Try and Ensure the Best Stay
However, if you’re a seasoned spa-goer or you really want to go there to switch off I’d say just take a few precautions to reduce risk of encountering issues that might spoil your stay…
1) Go in the week – on our first trip the weekdays were great, it was the weekend when the hoards arrived.
2) Hit the water areas first thing in the morning or after 3pm. This is either before new people arrive or after the point when people have got used to the idea that some of the water is cold, this should minimise exposure to shrieking.
3) Book a late check out – then, you have your room to retire to if it does get crowded or noisy.
Oh, and there’s one final thing – she wasn’t there this time, but almost every single time I’ve been to Hoar Cross Hall in the last few years Julie Goodyear has been there too – and she’s fabulous to watch hold court.
For me, it’s worth going just so you can say you’ve been in the same room as Bet Lynch.