I first checked in at a health spa, otherwise known as a health hydro or health farm, back in the late 90s.
Since then, the sector has advanced to appeal to a wider demographic of customer – the food menus are more relaxed, upgraded facilities have more of a ‘wow’ factor, and operations – in the successful ones anyway – are super-slick and service-oriented.
Health hydros are now big business in the UK wellness arena; according to ISPA (International Spa Association) more British consumers visit spas than in the US, Canada or Australia, and they are twice as likely to indulge in a full day than their American counterparts.
One of the longest-running UK spas is the award-winning Ragdale Hall, which has been serving health-seeking visitors since 1973. Having not been to the Hall for about a decade, I decided that a stay was long overdue. So one stormy September day I grabbed my partner and we set off on the drive from London to Leicester.
Two and a half hours later and we were pulling up in front of the grand Manor house frontage, just in time for lunch. Over a welcome drink, check in involves being given a map of the resort and your room key while bags are whisked to your room.
Well appointed and comfortable with satellite TV channels and White Company toiletries in the bathroom, the beds are also very comfortable – essential when it comes to crashing out at the end of a long, stress-free day.
The buffet lunch, which takes place in the dining room populated by mainly robed guests but with the occasional fully clothed ones like us, consisted of three courses of mainly healthy options apart from dessert – although fruit is also available.
With full bellies and an afternoon at our disposal (what a fabulous feeling), we slipped on our cozzies and headed for what is arguably the Hall’s jewel in the crown – the spa. And I certainly didn’t recognise it as since I visited there have been some exciting new additions, including the slightly eerie yet alluring Candle Pool, Thought Zone and Colourflow Cave.
There’s something strangely satisfying about bobbing around in a steaming in/out waterfall pool furnished with rocks, stone and plants that, according to David, was reminiscent of an aquatic Jurassic Park/Apocalypse Now, while the rain falls and thunder cracks overhead.
The following morning I hit the gym for a pretty hardcore core conditioning class and it’s safe to say I worked off the in-room breakfast I’d enjoyed only a couple of hours earlier. Thankfully I then had my inclusive Blissful Face & Back Therapy to help me cool down again – this consisted of a 50 minute Swedish back, neck and shoulder massage, followed by a cleanse, tone and wonderfully relaxing facial massage.
Before we checked out, I also enjoyed the Chakra Silks treatment with the incredibly calming senior holistic therapist Jenifer. Created by Ragdale Hall, this gentle yet powerful treatment combines reiki with colour therapy in the form of multi-coloured silk swatches placed over the body’s chakras, to help ease away tension and anxiety, leaving you feeling grounded and relaxed.
It’s a shame the weather wasn’t playing ball during our stay as we would have been up for attempting the pitch and putt, tennis courts or mountain bikes. But that’s definitely a valid excuse for not leaving it 10 years before returning.
Check out Ragdale Hall’s regular brilliant offers, including Bring a Friend Free in December.