Fancy a dip? Our five favourite swimming pools

Britain’s luxury hotels provide state-of-the-art spas with a variety of wonderful swimming pools where guests can relax and wash away their cares, but these hedonistic havens also offer incredible countryside locations, innovative decor and iconic buildings that are steeped in history. Here’s five of our favourite…

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Above: Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa

The American essayist and philosopher Waldo Emerson advised his contemporaries to conduct life using three simple principles, to “live in the sunshine, swim the sea, [and] drink the wild air”. It was wise, if not always achievable, counsel. But on a warm summer’s day there is nothing more refreshing than dipping your toes in a babbling brook as it winds its way through the British countryside, or joining the Serpentine Swimmers as they glide alongside the Canada Geese in London’s famous Hyde Park lake. But there is another way to enjoy the relaxing benefits of water and fresh air – in a beautiful British hotel with a stunning swimming pool.

Britain’s hotels have long been known for their charm and typically English quirkiness but they also have an unrivalled level of luxury and inspiring state-of-the-art spas with a combination of outdoor and indoor swimming experiences.

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, in West Sussex, has just that – a beautiful health spa with both indoor and outdoor heated pools. The purpose-built and striking spa is designed in the style of a Sussex barn with a dramatic exposed timber frame. It has an outdoor hot tub, an indoor steam room, sauna and gym, and five beauty and therapy treatment rooms.

The spa sits adjacent to the main hotel buildings, which, on arrival, appear as a collection of 12th- and 15th-century dwellings. But appearances are deceiving, as Bailiffscourt did not begin life until 1927, when Lord Moyne, his wife Evelyn and their friend and one-time architect Amyas Phillips, set about preventing a much-loved plot of land from becoming a housing estate. Having purchased the land they began work on their vision – a ‘new medieval’ building. Using examples such as Fish House in Wiltshire, the three collected original medieval architectural pieces, which included a 15th-century door from South Wanborough church and a gatehouse from Loxwood, and pieced together the main building that we see today. The Norman chapel, already on the land, was also lovingly restored.

The effect of this impressive medley of medieval fragments is really rather splendid. It has a charming feel, possibly best described by Sir Henry “Chips” Cannon who, writing at the time, said of Bailiffscourt that “every guest room is decorated to resemble the cell of a rather ‘pansy’ monk”. Today, the rooms are less monastic and more modern comfort, but the wall hangings and oversized dark furniture helps retain the ‘feel’ that Chips described.

Walk through the door of Bailiffscourt and you’ll discover its narrow passageways and flagstone floors, which lead you through a series of cosy lounges and pretty sitting rooms, decorated with antiques and tapestries. It’s in a lovely location too – if you are feeling up to a ‘wild’ swimming experience, picturesque Climping Beach is a five-minute walk away.

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Above: The heated outdoor pool at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa

In an equally magnificent location on the edge of the ancient New Forest in Hampshire and a short walk from the beach, Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa – a five-star privately owned luxury hotel – has spa, swimming and leisure facilities which are among the very best in the country. The spa, which is home to a 17-metre pool, has been designed to match the purity of its New Forest and coastal location.

The pool is ozone treated, which simply means it is cleaned and maintained using non-chemical methods. In addition to the pool, there is a hydrotherapy spa pool with hi-tech therapy options and an outdoor whirlpool. The spa also has 10 treatment rooms, a pool bar and lounge (where healthy meals are served to dressing-gown clad residents), and an impressive gymnasium.

The spa is reason enough to stay at Chewton Glen, but you will be as impressed with the hotel, with its English country house meets ‘The Hamptons’ appearance and charm. Although it looks much younger than Bailiffscourt, the original Georgian house dates back to 1857.

The house has an interesting and famous literary link too – Captain Frederick Marryat stayed for a period during the 1840s while gathering material for his novel The Children of the New Forest. It’s likely that Chewton Glen will attract the creative set again when its new Tree House suites open in late July. Set high amongst the woodland canopy, these six remarkable tree houses seem to float across a wooded valley and provide unique and inspiring accommodation.

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Above: The hydrotherapy pool at Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa

Although Waterton Park Hotel and Hall’s swimming and leisure facilities are not in exactly the same league as the other hotels, its island location with lakeside-level swimming pool and ancient arched bridge has a charm and individuality all of its own. Add to that the warm and friendly atmosphere and range of facilities and this is a very special hotel. It sits in a quintessentially English scene – surrounded by rolling parkland (with its own lake), with a backdrop of ancient woodland and a championship golf course. It is made up of two properties: a modern and efficient looking building that overlooks its older sibling – Walton Hall, a Georgian mansion, which sits impressively on an island surrounded by the lake.

The hotel has 65 bedrooms in total, most with stunning views over the surrounding lake, woodland or golf course. For an extra special treat, opt for the romantic hideaway cottage nestled in the hotel grounds. And all of this is on the doorstep of some of Yorkshire’s greatest attractions including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the National Trust’s magnificent Nostell Priory.

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Above: Waterton Park Hotel and Hall

In an ideal location, only 45 minutes from the centre of London and nestled between the picturesque towns of Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, lies the elegant grandeur of Danesfield House Hotel & Spa. An imposing Italian Renaissance-style building, faced with locally quarried rock-chalk so that it shines pearly-white in the sun, the building as it is today was completed to great expense in 1901 and first opened as a luxury country house hotel in 1991.

Set amidst 65 acres of immaculately landscaped formal gardens, the current house is the third property to have been built in this glorious setting, with outstanding views over the River Thames to the Chiltern Hills beyond. The 86 elegant bedrooms and suites are individually furnished in distinct classic styles and many have sensational views.

Like Chewton Glen, Danesfield has an impressive and award-wining spa promising its guests the ultimate escape. It also has an ozone-cleansed pool and extensive treatment list. The pool area is a haven where guests can truly unwind. Murals and Grecian pillars add a classical elegance, while the floor-to-ceiling windows along the length of one wall afford glorious views of the gardens.

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Above: Danesfield Hotel & Spa's indoor swimming pool

If you are after peace and tranquillity, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in the heart of the English countryside and just minutes from Bath, has bundles of both. From the moment you enter the gates and head along the sweeping and majestic tree-lined driveway, you know you are somewhere very special.

The history of the house and grounds are not fully known, although the ‘ham’ ending to its original name ‘Luckenham’ suggests that it was a Saxon settlement dating from before the Norman invasion in 1066. From as far back as 1199 there was a farmhouse on the site of the main house and it is known that the land was farmed until 1688.
It was purchased by the Wallis family who built the central part of the house, the 17th-century Palladian mansion we see today.

The land and house was sold and purchased by a handful of influential and wealthy families, each – it is presumed – placing their own stamp on the property that we see today, which includes the Georgian bow-fronted Drawing Room and wood-panelled Library, both decorated with care for the period and proportions of the house and perfect for enjoying afternoon tea or quietly browsing through a book.

All the rooms are elegant and luxurious, but having maintained the feel of a true 17th-century Palladian mansion, they do vary in size, shape and outlook. Each of the 13 suites and 29 bedrooms are individually designed and all have marble bathrooms and splendid views.

More is known about the history of the spa. It was built in 2008 and quickly gained the reputation as one of the finest in the UK (it was voted ‘The UK’s Most Delicious Spa’ by The Good Spa Guide May 2010). It is in a perfectly natural setting – surrounded by a walled garden, an avenue of trees and pretty manicured lawns. To blend with its surroundings the interior of the spa has been designed using natural materials – wood, marble and glass reflect the warm hues of the estate’s 500-acre parkland.

It has nine state-of-the-art therapy rooms, and a 20-metre indoor pool with indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pool, five thermal cabins, salt water plunge pool, ‘experience showers’ and relaxation room. Adjoining the spa is The Brasserie providing contemporary all-day dining. It is simply idyllic and the perfect place to enjoy a break in any season.

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Above: The heated outdoor spa pool at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa

MAKE CONTACT:

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is part of the Pride of Britain collection of 43 independently owned hotels in the UK. Visit www.prideofbritainhotels.com for more information about the group. Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, Climping, Near Arundel, West Sussex, BN17 5RW. Tel: 01903 723511. Visit www.prideofbritainhotels.com/bailiffscourt_hotel_and_spa

Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, New Milton, New Forest, Hampshire, England, BH25 6QS. Tel: 01425 275 341  or US Toll Free Tel: 1 800 344 5087. Visit: www.chewtonglen.com

Waterton Park Hotel is part of Fine Individual Hotels, a collection of welcoming hotels that believe in their independence; they are all privately owned and individually run. For more information about the group visit www.fihotels.com. Waterton Park Hotel, Walton Hall, Wakefield, WF2 6PW. Tel: 01924 257911. Visit www.fihotels.com/hotels/catalogue/waterton-park.html

Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Henley Road, Marlow-On-Thames, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2EY. Tel: 01628 891010. Visit: www.danesfieldhouse.co.uk/home

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Bath, Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 8AZ. Tel: 01225 742777. Visit: www.lucknampark.co.uk

Note: If calling Britain from overseas, dial your international code, the 44 and drop the first zero.

Written by Sam Pears // 2nd July 2012

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