If the thought of a spa day leaves you cold, you're not alone. Our Fashion News Writer, Hannah, went to see what all the fuss is about. And she was pretty surprised by what she found...
“Lewis* (*identities have been protected, naturally) and I are going to the spa this weekend. We’re going to get couples massages. It’s going to be amazing.” Such was one of my friend’s responses to the question ‘what are you doing this weekend?’ It made me shudder. It sent cold chills through my veins. I mean, each to their own of course, but I couldn’t think of anything worse. Until now.
Yes, I have been on a spa break. And it was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most relaxing, rejuvenating two days of my life so far. Until I go back, of course.
I know it’s a perfectly normal thing to do, but BS (that’s before spa, and indeed therefore b******t) I found the whole concept of sitting around an over-chlorinated, stuffy indoor pool with a group of people I don’t know, avoiding eye contact as we shuffle in our flip flops and dressing gowns to whichever sweaty steam room is empty, completely abhorrent. I looked at those robe-clad individuals who rock up for dinner in nothing but terry towelling and wet hair as pitiful spa-bots, brainwashed to think it’s perfectly acceptable to go to lunch in your dressing gown. It made me feel uneasy.
Then something happened. For reasons I won’t go into, I decided to take my mum away to Ragdale Hall, a grand Victorian manor house quite near to Melton Mowbray. It’s been a spa for years now, and my mum had been about seven years ago with some friends. It just so happened my sister had bought her some vouchers for Mother’s Day and she asked me to accompany her. See? I shouldn’t have gone into it. Also, don’t tell my sister.
Anyway, I agreed and quite frankly: thank God I did. The hall itself is situated in beautiful grounds, all preened and pruned within an inch of their lives. An outdoor pool beckons you in, nestled snugly between the sort of horticulture that puts Titchmarsh to shame. On arrival we were greeted by cheery staff all too happy to alleviate us of our heavy bags (kidding, I’d only packed a swimsuit and my toothbrush) before ushering us through to an airy, light space in which we were encouraged to have a drink while we perused the health questionnaire. So far, so good.
Things got even better when we were asked to choose our breakfast options for the following morning, in order for it to be delivered to us in bed. Literally in bed. I was starting to like the spa.
Our room was great, too. We had twin beds and enough space so as to avoid any mother/daughter in-fighting, and the staff had kindly placed our spa schedules in our rooms so we knew when to go for lunch, dinner and the treatments we’d booked. I’ve never experienced a spa before, but I found this to be most helpful. Mainly because I entirely lost my brain during my stay, but more on that later.
Ragdale Hall offers a tour for all new guests, which may sound mind-numbingly dull but is something I would wholeheartedly encourage. The hall is vast, and it’s actually not impossible to get lost. The tour made me feel like an insider, a spa regular if you will, and it was also great to see the sheer extent of the facilities on offer. A state of the art gym (I may have avoided that during my stay, but it looked great), studio spaces, a huge thermal spa, several pools, a beauty shop, a gift shop, so many areas for relaxation that it was difficult to choose where to lie, a restaurant, another restaurant… Seriously, take the tour.
Now let me talk about the food. Lunch involves a choice of starters (brought to your table) and an entire buffet of main courses. And dessert. So many puddings, so little time. It was all delicious, and I decided (this is about 30 mins into the spa trip) that I loved the spa. I couldn’t, however, shake the uneasy feeling that crept up on me when I felt the soft, fluffy texture of towel brush past me as dressing gown after dressing gown lined up at the buffet. In my jeans, I resolutely decided I would never eat a meal in my robe.
The rest of the day was spent in a euphoric state. We went from jacuzzi to pool to steam room quite happily. My favourite was the candlelit pool, which is as majestic as it sounds, and asks for total silence. It’s like the biggest, weirdest bath you’ve ever had. In a good way.
We then both had the Face and Back Treatment, or as I like to call it: the best way to spend 50 minutes in the whole, wide world. It consists of a traditional Swedish massage, followed by a facial. I know. It’s like your birthday and Easter and Christmas, all rolled into one. I’d never been to a spa before, just bear that in mind.
Dinner was great. My mum and I did decide (somewhat snarkily, I’m sorry to say) that we’d dress for dinner. By that I mean put our normal clothes back on. It felt too weird, and my mum suggested that drinking wine in your dressing gown smacks of a life crisis. It’s a good job I don’t live with her anymore.
So there we were, among the robes, enjoying prosecco and a three course meal. The food was excellent: we both had lamb and we both loved it. I had some sort of indulgent, peanut butter pudding that was every bit as great as it sounds. Our waiter was a peach. Can I say that? Whatever, I’m at the spa.
After dinner, Ragdale often hosts various seminars and classes that are free to attend. That night, there was a make-up specialist coming in to discuss products and give a masterclass on how to use them etc. If that’s not for you, there’s a lounge full of board games and lots of outdoor space in which to relax with a glass of wine if the weather’s nice. It was, obviously, because as I have previously stated, this was the best two days of my life.
I slept better that night than ever before (or since). When I woke, I did so to a gentle knock on our bedroom door which was, of course, our breakfast. Literally breakfast in bed. I was living the dream.
The day was then spent in the aforementioned euphoric state that became so intense, I practically felt enlightened. The thermal spa has so many options, including our favourite which was an outdoor pool of sorts, which is heated and includes waterfalls and jacuzzi seats. I don’t know how else to describe it. We sat there for hours.
We decided to have more treatments on this, our last day in Nirvana. My mum opted for the tan (it’s more of a body polish, and it looks amazing. When we returned, all her friends assumed she’d been on some sort of cruise around the French Riviera). I went for the Clarins Pampering Foot Treatment, which is so incredibly indulgent that I fell asleep. Nobody minded; I think it’s happened before. It involves a full foot scrub, exfoliation, a leg and foot massage, cuticle tidy, nail file and I was having such a great time I even opted for an additional polish. My feet were those of a goddess. I hadn’t worn make-up in almost 26 hours.
Leaving the spa was very difficult. Our lunch was, once again, a delight and I no longer felt the disgust I once had on seeing dressing gowns at the table. In fact, I have no qualms in telling you that I was one of those dressing gowns. My mum and I were having such a fabulously relaxing day that we couldn’t possibly put on any normal sartorial items. We wore our robes loud and proud.
Having noted my initial reluctance to live my life in terry towelling, you may be somewhat shocked to know that I had to be wrestled out of that robe. Figuratively speaking, of course. It felt unnatural to carry anything heavier than a locker key and I didn’t even want to look at my stupid iPhone. I’d forgotten how to work it.
In the car on our on way home, we both decided that we loved Ragdale Hall, wildly and unconditionally. Neither of us went in as ‘spa people’ (whatever that means) but we emerged as fully fledged converts. We considered turning the car around.
You may have been to a spa. You may have been to several. But if you haven’t been to Ragdale Hall, you haven’t really experienced joy. My face was glowing for days afterwards and my feet (thanks to the treatment) felt like tiny angels were carrying them. Do you think I’m exaggerating? See for yourself.
Ironically, as I turned on the radio during our drive back to reality, Belinda Carlisle informed me that Heaven is a Place on Earth. Yes, Belinda, it is. And it’s called Ragdale Hall.