WELCOME TO THE GREAT BRITISH HOLIDAY
It’s a great time to be in Blighty this year. You won’t have to venture far to find some of the finest hideaways in the world. From ultra-modern spas, gastronomic boltholes and design hotels, here are some of the best offerings, meaning you won’t have to venture far this summer
Gone are the days when you had to go abroad for a rejuvenating break in a luxury spa. Once the domain of countries such as Italy and Switzerland, the British Isles is now gaining a reputation for its top-notch retreats, which are offering second-to-none facilities, body enhancing treatments and five-star comfort.
Old School: The Fletcher’s Cottage Spa, East Lothian, Scotland
Although it’s brand-new, having just opened in March, The Fletcher’s Cottage Spa in Scotland certainly has a traditional appeal. It is located in the renowned Archerfield Links Golf Club, a Grade I listed property, set in a magnificent estate known for its world-class golf course and incredible views of Fidra Island and the Fife coastline beyond. Rich in ancient heritage, the house itself boasts a roll-call of past guest names, such as Mary Queen of Scots and Winston Churchill, that would make any swish hotelier green-eyed with envy, not to mention the roaring fires, antiques and lofty rooms dating back to the 17th century.
But while its past is certainly impressive, it’s the new developments that will be sure to wow 21st century guests. Relaunching as a lifestyle destination, under the name Archerfield House, the hotel features at its heart the stunning showpiece that is the £3m Fletcher’s Cottage Spa. The brainchild of Sian Parry Jones (known for her work with Urban Retreat and Aveda spas), it’s a unique rustic-luxury offering, with interiors that use reclaimed and rough-hewn materials to reflect an ethical approach to wellbeing. Natural stone, bricks, walls of logs and solid wood floors are set against oversized fireplaces and walled gardens. Lights are suspended on hessian ropes while the relaxation zone has a feature wall made from recycled potato boxes stamped with local farmers names.
Holistic and therapeutic treatments include facials from Spiezia Organics, massages and detoxing seaweed wraps from Voya, as well as a whole range of treats from Aromatherapy Associates. Wrapped up in a handmade Kenyan bathrobe with your own personalised iPod for company, guests can relax in the Rasul Mud Cure Room, the Marine Steam Room, the Himalayan Salt Room and the Herb Aroma Sauna. There are even private, wooden bath huts for those who truly want to get away from it all.
While an earthy attitude is at the centre of the Cottage’s ethos, it would be a mistake to think this is not a luxury offering. An exclusive range of organic, African-inspired fragrances is on offer from artisan perfumer Tammy Frazer, while personal spa butlers will attend to your every whim.
Contemporary: The Herb House at Lime Wood Hotel, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Tucked away in the heart of the New Forest, Lime Wood Hotel opened to much acclaim back in November 2009. A modern take on the country house hotel, it is a quirky and laidback boutique retreat with impressive interiors designed by David Collins and a glitzy clientele.
In the same way that Lime Wood has given a fresh approach to rural hospitality, its destination spa is just as innovative. Inspired by the verdant surroundings, the three-storey Herb House highlights include a huge ‘forest sauna’, a rooftop herb garden where guests can meditate and spacious, light-filled treatment rooms. Natural woods, slate and the scent of herbal infusions bring the outdoors in, while guests wanting to feel at one with nature can be pampered in the luxurious Bath Garden – a double treatment room with its own al fresco bubbling pool.
Inventive signature treatments include the Forest Dream, which features a four-hands massage and third-eye oil therapy, and Chocolate Indulgence, an Arabian-inspired treatment that uses a mocha body scrub and chocolate rasul mud to detox the body.
Fitness fiends can work out in the roof-top gym with its forest views and state-of-the-art equipment, while beauty connoisseurs will be thrilled by the use of British boutique brands, such as seaweed experts Voya, natural skincare by NUDE and Ayurvedic products by Tri Dosha. The Herb House is also the first spa to offer coveted Bamford spa treatments outside of the original Gloucestershire ‘Hay Barn’ spa.
Factor in the steaming hot pool, the Raw Bar, thermal rooms and the spa’s life-style assessment programme and you’ll discover one feel-good place.
DESIGN IN THE COUNTRY
Cutting edge architecture, contemporary art, Michelin-starred restaurants… These days, country house hotels are bringing urban thrills to our rural landscape and tempting sophisticated townies to rest their head outside of the city.
Old School: Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire
Those who enjoy the stature of one of our best-loved, grand-dame hotels – The Dorchester – will no doubt be tempted (not too far, mind) from its grand environs in Mayfair to its sister property on the borders of Windsor Great Park.
While Coworth Park has borrowed the best of the traditions associated with the ‘Dorch’ (top notch service, sublime restaurant offerings, elegant surrounds), it has also broken the mold when it comes to the typical country house hotel. Take the design philosophy, for instance. While Fox Linton Associates gives a nod to the house’s Georgian origins, it has steered clear of any twee clichés. There are no deep-pile carpets and heavy ‘swagged’ curtains here. Minimalist lines and simplicity is the order of the day – a backdrop, in fact, to the stunning setting Coworth Park is found in. The hotel is nestled in 240 acres of glorious parkland, which includes wild-flower meadows, a lime grove, sunken gardens, polo fields and an equestrian centre.
The property also breaks new ground by offering up impressive eco-credentials. It has a bio mass boiler to reduce energy waste and a ground source water circulation system for cooling the hotel. Furthermore, the Spa at Coworth continues the eco-luxury theme. It’s the world’s first hotel spa to offer treatments by Dr Alkaitis, renowned for his 100% organic, paraben-free ingredients and simple yet effective approach. Much like the hotel, itself.
Contemporary: Syon Park, Middlesex
Found on the outskirts of west London, Syon Park doesn’t have to tempt urbanites too far for a sojourn in its idyllic pastoral setting. Part of the Waldorf Astoria Group, it is set in the historic 200-acre Syon Park Estate, owned by the Duke of Northumberland, and over the past year since its opening has become an easily-accessible get-away for Londoners.
While the original New York Waldorf Astoria is legendary, the latest in the portfolio is a bit like its younger, cheekier cousin. There’s a playfulness about the interiors here – from the eye-popping Warhol portraits, the lime sofas in the bar, to the birdsong you can hear along the glass walkways. It’s fun. And so are the huge amount of activities on offer: cycling, trout-fishing and foraging with a chef mean you can easily forget you are just 30 minutes from Waterloo Station. Guests’ room keys even open a secret gate in the hotel, allowing them to venture into the Duke’s private gardens.
Inside, the town-meets-country theme is reflected everywhere. Paying homage to the butterfly house that once occupied the site, the fluttery insects are a frequent motif, seen on the menus and the Villeroy and Boch china, while the Kallima spa is named after a species.
At its core Syon Park calls on the current vogue for championing all things ‘local’. Chefs cultivate their own kitchen gardens and use the estate’s trout-lake, beehives and a huge glasshouse teaming with produce for their dishes. Even the Peacock Alley bar utilises herbs, spices and fruits from the gardens in a dazzling array of home-made liquers, infusions and cocktails. Simply delicious.
The Scilly Isles are causing an unlikely stir among gastronomes. As well as offering fantastic home-grown fare, their temperate climate means that when it comes to travel you don’t have to venture far to have your cake and eat it, too (quite literally).
The Isles of Scilly
Who knew the Isles of Scilly were the UK’s latest foodie hotspot? Due to their unique position and climate, off the coast of Cornwall, the six islands are covered with a multitude of terrains and habitats (from dune-backed beaches to craggy rock-pools, rambling moorland and country lanes) where all manner of flora, fauna, fruits and crustaceans can be found.
Hell Bay Hotel, on the tiny island of Bryher, is taking full advantage of its surroundings and the current trend for ‘field to fork’ cuisine with its new Wild Food Foraging Break.
The coastal-chic hotel, has employed wild food expert Rachel Lambert to showcase the best the isles have to offer in terms of diversity and quality of produce. With a choice of two walks per day, guests can then take their finds – including rare plants, crab and seaweed – back to the hotel’s kitchen where head chef Glenn Gatland puts them to good use in producing an elegant dinner in the three AA rosette restaurant. With its laid back Hamptons’ vibe and clement weather, meals here are eaten alfresco overlooking Bishop Rock lighthouse and far out to sea.
The tiny island of Tresco, meanwhile, is the only privately owned island in the Scillies, having been part of the Dorrien Smith family since the early part of the 19th century. With its unspoilt beaches, clear azure waters and exotic gardens, it’s a stunning little haven and can be reached by ferry, boat or helicopter from Penzance.
Just launched in May are the new Sea Garden Cottages, the final stage of the transformation of the renowned Island Hotel. The revamp has included new suites and cottages being introduced to expand the accommodation offering on Tresco. To complete the renovation, The Ruin is a new beachfront restaurant built in the ruins of a smuggler’s hideaway and which will serve freshly caught fresh and local produce cooked in its wood-fired oven.
This article was originally written by me for the April 2012 issue of the Kensington and Chelsea magazine, visit http://bit.ly/JgMr3H