Best British Spa Hotels


Britain’s hotels now offer even more than quality accommodation and fine fare: many now also have spa facilities so guests can pamper themselves during their stay. Here’s our guide to some of the best.

The Dorchester, London
The Dorchester Hotel

After a long day’s sightseeing – perhaps exploring the delights of an historic city, enjoying a driving tour or walking through the countryside – there’s nothing that will help you recover faster than heading back to your hotel to indulge in a sauna and a massage. Followed by dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and a good night’s sleep. Then you’ll be ready and raring to go on another day of discovering the stunning landscapes and fascinating places to visit that make up a holiday in Britain.

Spa stays and beauty treatments have become enormously popular over the past decade or so – we no longer regard them as shameless indulgence but more as a necessary part of modern living and coping with the pace of our busy lives. This is not just a female fancy either: both sexes, these days, are now happy to enjoy the benefits. So more of us will look for these facilities when choosing a hotel for our holidays or when taking a weekend break, and some will choose a hotel spa for a fully inclusive spa break.

London’s top hotels have kept abreast of this trend and have been busily adding or updating spa facilities over recent years. The Dorchester (5-star), next to Hyde Park, has recently relaunched its spa, with refurbished and expanded treatment areas and fitness suites decorated in such glittering chrome and white that it’s like floating onto the set of paradise in a classic Hollywood film, with heavenly clouds billowing at your feet and Fred Astaire waiting to grab your hand and twirl you away to gentle harp music. The new spa is the perfect match for this Grande Dame of London hotels which opened in 1931. There are steam rooms, gym, therapy suites, hairdresser and nailbar, and a ‘Spatisserie’ for light lunches, afternoon tea or spa cocktails. Come to the Dorchester Spa for one of the best facials in the country then settle into the relaxation lounge with a glass of lychee juice.

The marine spa at St David's
The marine spa at St David’s

Over in Wales’ capital, the St David’s Hotel & Spa (5-star), now part of the Principal Hayley group, also boasts a fine location. Right on the waterfront of Cardiff Bay, the hotel’s iconic shape is one of the city’s modern landmarks and bedrooms have the most stunning views over the bay. You will definitely want to remember your swimming costume for this spa: there are hydrotherapy multi-jet pools, a poolside sauna and a 15-metre exercise pool.

Scotland’s capital, meanwhile, is the home of Norton House Hotel & Spa (4-star), set in 55 acres of parkland in Ingliston, just outside Edinburgh. Built in 1860 by the Usher family as their country retreat, the mansion was converted into a hotel in the 1950s, and 2008 saw a facelift that included the new luxury spa. It’s a great example of the traditional blending seamlessly with the modern and facilities include therapeutic hydrotherapy and a Rasul mud room. The hotel was voted AA Hotel of the Year, Scotland, in recognition of excellent service, stunning design, fine cuisine and business success.

Back down to West Sussex, another hotel that combines historic with modern facilities successfully is Bailiffscourt (3-star), one of the three Historic Sussex Hotels in the Pride of Britain hotels collection. However, while you’ll be sure this lovely property is medieval, with its tiny courtyards, Gothic mullioned windows, Bailiffscourt was in fact designed  and built in the late 1920s/early 30s for Lord Moyne, then Walter Guiness of the brewing family, and his wife Evelyn who was a fan of medieval style. Original stone, woodwork, doors and windows were collected from around the county. A purpose-built spa in the style of a Sussex barn was added, its large windows bringing the outdoors in to the beautiful indoor pool area.

The new spa at Baliffscourt's mock medieval manor
The new spa at Baliffscourt’s “medieval” manor

Where Bailiffscourt is set in peaceful parkland near to Climping Beach, the spa at the Macdonald Randolph Hotel (5-star) is an oasis at the heart of the bustling university city of Oxford. Voted one of the 50 best spas in the world by the Independent broadsheet, it is set in the vaults of this Victorian neo-Gothic building, with lantern-lit walkways, atmospheric music and gentle aromas. After a visit to the Thermal Suite (the eucalyptus steam room is always a favourite), fans of body treatments will love the deeply soothing Hot Stone Massage in which smooth, heated stones are circled and placed on pressure points to release tight muscles. The hotel exudes old-school glamour and the eagle-eyed among you will recognise the Morse bar from countless television episodes of Colin Dexter’s crime drama.

Another fine hostellry, up in the market town of Helmsley, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, is the Feversham Arms. Bought by Simon and Jill Rhatigan in 2003 (when it was being run as a “kind of pub with rooms”), the Fev, as it’s affectionately called has been gradually developed into a hideaway hotel, with 33 bedrooms and suites. The opening of the Verbana Spa in October 2008 completed the picture. “Having earlier run Seaham Hall & Serenity Spa, I’d noticed that people spend most time at a spa doing nothing,” says Simon. “In fact, the doing nothing is often the best bit – so you need to give them lots of places to do that in soft comfort – hence our large relaxation lounge and spa garden. We also spent a lot of time on creating good spa tapas food – light meals and food that you can share. We also have a lovely juice bar and smoothie menu.”

Another hideaway in stunning scenery, is the Loch Ness Lodge (5-star), right beside the world-famous loch and with just seven, sumptous, individually-designed bedrooms. The spa offers a hot tub and sauna and a range of treatments and there’s fine dining in the two-rosette restaurant. “Living and working in the rugged natural environment of the Highlands, we have a wonderful seasonal range of local produce to draw from,” says the lodge’s Scott Sutherland. “We work with a number of local artisan producers who share our passion for the ‘field to mouth’ experience.” The intimate size of the lodge makes it the perfect spot for a house party, where you have the whole lodge and its spa at your disposal for friends or family.

The Von Essen collection includes several hotels with spas. One of these is The Royal Crescent (5-star) in Bath, which occupies the two central buildings of this famous crescent, both Grade I listed. There are secluded ‘secret’ gardens behind the hotel which lead to what formerly were the coach houses and stables and here you’ll find the hotel’s spa, The Bath House: appropriately named for its location in this historic city, with its Roman Baths. Bath features in Jane Austen novels and their film and television portrayals; one can just imagine the delight with which various Austen heroines would have felt at being able to experience the luxury these spas offer today.

Just outside the city sits Lucknam Park (5-star), a country house hotel. Its spa is located within the walled garden of the hotel grounds, along with the new stylish Brasserie. If you turn to page 43, our competition gives you the chance to win a stay at this luxury hotel and sample the spa facilities yourself.

And why not try…

The Mayfair London (5-star), London W1
Opened in 1927 by King George V, this luxury central London hotel and spa has had a fabulous recent refurbishment. Try the Moroccan steam cleansing rituals. Visit

Jumeirah Carlton Tower (5-star), London SW1 
The award-winning Peak Health Club and Spa is on the ninth floor of the hotel with stunning views. Visit

Pennyhill Park (5-star), Bagshot, Surrey
One of the Exclusive Hotels collection, the spa boasts eight indoor and outdoor pools, including a crystal blue ballroom swimming pool with underwater music. Visit

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park(5-star), London SW1 
This fashionable Knightsbridge hotel’s spa features a Zen colour therapy relaxation room, a sanarium and vitality pool. Visit

Cameron House (5-star), Loch Lomond, Scotland
Baronial mansion on the shores of the loch; the Carrick spa has a rooftop infinity pool with views; enjoy a round of golf, fitness classes or the gym. Visit

Chewton Glen (5-star), New Forest, Hampshire
Winner of ‘Large Hotel of the Year 2008′ in the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence. The spa has an outdoor whirlpool, a pool bar and a hydrotherapy pool.  Visit