Soothing Spas enhance city short breaks in England and the UK

Sightseeing can be an exhausting business. Whether you’re strolling the streets and parks of London, browsing boutiques in Edinburgh or walking the Roman walls in Canterbury, all this walking inevitably leads to sore feet, aching backs and a feeling that you’re just too tired to get to the theatre or glamorous dinner that you’d booked. The solution – stay in one of the UK’s city spa hotels, where you can slot in a reviving massage or soothing therapy before setting out refreshed to sample the night-life.

London has the biggest choice of top-notch spas, offering the latest treatments alongside the chance to celebrity-spot. The Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge (Britney Spears’ favourite hotel) is ideally located between Hyde Park and up-market store Harvey Nichols, so after a day strolling in the park or shopping spree, book a two-hour session at the spa to indulge in the crystal steam rooms and Zen relaxation areas before trying an Ayurvedic Holistic Body treatment, which includes a full body massage, foot ritual and Chakra head and scalp massage. All treatments have an oriental theme, and a two-hour slot costs £160.

For something ultra-chic, Agua – the spa at the Sanderson Hotel, tucked away behind Oxford Street – is one of London’s hippest. There are no walls, and no colours, just endless white curtains and drapes, sectioning off treatment and relaxation areas, with plenty of plush chairs to lounge in between treatments. Therapies have a new-age feel to them, with reiki and chakra massages on offer, alongside the ultra-luxurious Essential Rose Indulgence treatment, which combines a firm body and head massage with being wrapped in rose oil-infused towels. Cost £85.

Outside the capital, there are plenty of other city spa options. The Balmoral in Edinburgh
boasts the largest swimming pool in the city, complete with juice bar and decadently comfortable loungers. The emphasis is on pampering, with a wide range of facials, manicures and pedicures, along with bronzing sessions and body polishes. There are some quirky options – try the Hopi Ear candles (£45) or the Brazilian Toe Massage (£35) or play it safe with a luxurious aromatherapy facial to leave your skin looking peachy (£40).

Back in England, Chester’s medieval streets make a perfect base for exploring the north-west, and the beautiful Chester Grosvenor is located right in the heart of the city’s shopping streets. The spa is small, just five treatment rooms, but perfectly formed with a herb sauna and crystal steam room to combine with a Traveller’s Tonic massage (£70 for 80 minutes), laced with lime and ginger. The spa also has a good range of treatments for men, including a traditional wet shave (£40) and grooming face therapy (£45)

Cardiff, the Welsh capital, boasts one of the best thalassotherapy spas in the UK – perfect for washing away weariness. St David’s Hotel and Spa overlooks Cardiff Bay and uses the local seawater in its pools and treatments. The hydropool has a variety of jets and massage fountains to revitalise tired limbs, or you can just lay on an underwater lounge and be massaged gently by soft jets of water. Treatments include a Tui Na Massage Therapy, a traditional Chinese massage that promote the flow of energy through the body. Cost £60.

Further south, the honey-stone walls and buildings of Bath are perfect for a romantic city break, and the Bath Spa Hotel is an idyllic Georgian mansion house with the Vital Spa, which has its own swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and treatment rooms. Decleor is the in-house brand, with a range of facials and detoxifying body treatments, but a must-try is the Naturalmoor treatment (£60), which uses heated peat to sooth and relax tired muscles.

In the Heart of England, the home of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, is not technically a city but its pretty streets, literary history and world-class theatre have as much to offer as any of the UK’s cities. Alveston Manor is only a few minutes walk from the town centre, and boasts an 18-metre pool, steam, sauna and gym, Clarins treatments and a wide-range of aromatherapy massage. Perfect, after a day of culture, is the Hot Stone therapy (£55) where warmed stones are used during a massage to induce deep relaxation and revitalise your energies for a night of Shakespearean romance.

If you fancy something more than just a couple of treatments, most cities have day spas, oases of calm hidden away in the busy streets, where you can spend all day in a soft fluffy robe, padding between treatment rooms and relaxation areas. Obsession in Birmingham is a holistic spa, that covers body and mind rejuvenation. It features ayurvedic treatments such as Shirodhara (£35), where warm oil is poured onto your forehead before a scalp massage; and Oshadi Envelopment (£60), where herbs, spices and oils are infused to form a body mask to rehydrate and rejuvenate the skin.

The streets of York are always busy, but Alquimia Spa on bustling Stonegate, is a perfect place to wind down, with an elegant Baroque feel. The products used in treatments are made in traditional methods, using herbal oils such as rosemary, chamomile and juniper. Massages use salt and mud from the Dead Sea and marine algae from Brittany to really buff and polish the skin; the Essence of Peace of Earth massage (£75) is a de-stressing, soothing massage, perfect after a shopping spree.
Heavenly Bodies, in the heart of Oxford, provides the perfect spot for an hour or two of relaxation after a tour of the university colleges and dreaming spires. Elemis treatments are on offer alongside rasul mud therapies – where different mineralised muds are smeared on your body before washing off with a tropical shower, and floatation therapies, where you drift off in warm, perfumed water. A Rasul and Elemis wellbeing massage costs £85.

For more details on the ways to pamper yourself – including destination spas, luxury resorts, day spas, health farms and historic spa towns – see VisitBritain’s new-look website and click on ‘good living’.

Mandarin Oriental (Tel. 020 7838 9888,
Agua at Sanderson (020 7300 1400,
The Balmoral Spa (0131 556 2414,
Chester Grosvenor (01244 324024,
St David’s Hotel and Spa (029 2045 4045,
The Bath Spa Hotel (0870 400 8222,
Alveston Manor (0870 400 8181,
Obsession (0121 665 4600,
Alquimia Spa (01904 632888,
Heavenly Bodies (01865 723577,

by Annabelle Thorpe – your news source for the travel and tourism industry.

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