What better way to warm up on a wintery day than getting pampered in one of Britain’s spas and wellbeing resorts? Britain has a rich heritage in wellbeing tourism, so you can even combine your spa treatment with a spot of history.
The world’s first spa was set up in the Somerset hills, which became the fittingly-named town of Bath. The fortifying effects of natural spring waters found around Britain were discovered in the late 1600s, and relaxing in natural spring pools soon became a fashionable activity for the elite classes. The legacy is a series of elegant spa towns situated in picturesque spots all over the country, where grand Georgian architecture forms an atmospheric backdrop to cutting-edge spa treatments and luxury hotels, with a focus on living well.
Bath, south-west England
The city of Bath flourished with the fashion for spa waters and the result is an attractive town set in the green hills of Somerset in south-west England. Bath’s heritage dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain; the Romans built the temple of their bath complex in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built over the subsequent 300 years. The Roman Baths, now a tourist attraction, are excellently preserved and make a fascinating visit.
If you feel like immersing in some thermal waters yourself, head to Thermae Bath Spa, now an attraction in its own right thanks to its appealing rooftop spa pool. Unwind with views over the elegant, golden-hued architecture of Bath while soaking in the naturally warm, mineral-rich waters. Thermae Bath Spa offers various packages to enjoy its modern facilities, with whirlpools, aroma steam rooms and massage treatments on offer.
Thoroughly relaxed and in need of a treat? Head to the famous Pump Room Restaurant next to the Roman Baths. Its grand Georgian architecture with colonnades, glittering chandeliers and white tablecloths creates an atmospheric setting for the restaurant’s reputed afternoon tea. You can even sample the natural mineral water here too, although it’s an acquired taste!
By rail, Bath Spa station is eleven minutes from Bristol, or just over an hour from London Paddington.
Harrogate, northern England
Harrogate is another British spa town that was developed in Victorian times. Situated in North Yorkshire, the town is pretty and makes for a relaxing break, with the Royal Turkish Baths that opened in 1896 still offering top-notch treatments.
The beautiful building was given a £1million facelift and restored to its full Victorian glory so you can experience a contemporary spa experience amid Moorish architecture and tiling and Italian terrazzo floors. Follow the ritual of heating, cooling and cleansing before progressing through the hot room chambers, and ending up with the invigorating cold plunge pool.
Find time to treat yourself at Betty’s Tea Room, which first opened in Harrogate in 1919, and went on to expand throughout Yorkshire; you’ll feel like you’re in a different era as you are served Betty’s fine teas and delicacies.
Harrogate is a two hour and 45-minute train journey from London Kings Cross, changing at York.
Cheltenham, south-west England
While visiting the Cotswolds in south-west England, be sure to pay a visit to Cheltenham, one of the biggest towns in the picturesque region. Developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as a pleasure health resort, Cheltenham retains its Regency architecture and spa heritage.
Chapel Spa, situated in the centre of Cheltenham, offers luxurious treatments and day spa packages, which you can complement with lunch or dinner in the adjacent Story Teller Restaurant.
Cheltenham is in the county of Gloucestershire, around two hours and 20 minutes by train from London, changing at either Swindon or Bristol.
Llandrindod Wells, mid Wales
The practice of ‘taking the waters’ boomed in Llandrindod Wells in Victorian times, with the arrival of the railway resulting in it becoming the most fashionable spa town in Wales.
The legacy for this town, located in green and pleasant mid Wales, is resplendent with Victorian hotels such as the magnificent, recently restored Metropole. Originally the largest hotel in Wales upon completion in 1896, it is now still one of the country’s premier hotels. Enjoy contemporary four star spa experiences at The Rock Spa, amid the surroundings of a Victorian-style conservatory. The hotel’s award-winning Radnor & Miles Restaurant serves up a delicious a la carte menu for lunch and dinner.
Llandrindod Wells has rail connections with Crewe and Swansea, which connect onwards with London and Manchester.
Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland
A hydro spa opened in the Perthshire market town of Crieff in 1868, making it a country retreat for wealthy businessmen from Edinburgh and Glasgow. To this day, Crieff Hydro remains a relaxing retreat for visitors.
The four star spa is set amid beautiful grounds and offers an enormous range of leisure activities additional to the usual body and beauty treatments, making it a family holiday destination too. There are six cafés and restaurants on site to choose between – serving up everything from healthy soups to a sumptuous dinner. Head to the Victorian Winter Garden for the best views to accompany your afternoon tea.
Crieff is a 36-minute drive from Perth, which has railway connections with Edinburgh (one hour and 24 minutes) and Glasgow (one hour and 31 minutes).
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