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Top 7: The best spas in the UK and beyond – CityAM

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Top 7’s pick of the best spa for fitness, finding your zen, a creative reboot… and much more

Feeling frazzled, want to take your fitness to the next level or need to seriously detox with a fast? We round up the best spas and wellness breaks to reboot mind, soul and body . . . 

BEST FOR FITNESS

Guerlain Spa and Pillar Wellbeing at Raffles London at The OWO 

The hottest new opening in London has a storied history as home to some of Britain’s most infamous World War Two spies – including some unsung female heroines. The likes of Krystyna Skarbek (aka Christine Glanville, the former Polish aristocrat who became Churchill’s favourite spy) would be thrilled that her former Old War Office headquarters in Whitehall where Churchill once stomped the halls is now the lavish new UK outpost of Raffles after a rumoured £1.5billion facelift.

The elegant landmark 1906 building features the huge luxury Pillar Wellbeing and Guerlain Spa sprawling over four floors, the first in the UK dedicated to the high-end French heritage brand, one of the oldest skincare houses in the world. As you’d expect, the vibe is understated opulence. 

Pillar Wellbeing’s launch at the Guerlain Spa at Raffles London also marks the brand’s first ever physical health club, offering a state-of-the-art gym, movement studio, a sumptuous swimming pool, sauna, steam room and a dedicated health restaurant. 

Concentrating on the three core “pillars” of movement, nourishment and recovery, Pillar services include personal performance and psychological fitness coaching, individually-tailored private yoga and pilates, and swim coaching using the Shaw method. Physiotherapy, sports massage and personalised nutritional strategies are also on offer. 

But the stunningly beautiful spa is OWO’s pièce de résistance. Treatments to try include the spa’s signature Spirit Of London massage, enhanced by LED light therapy, to bring harmony to mind, body and spirit and iron out all tension, or else plump for the Royal Glow Tech Facial, which combines microdermabrasion and photobiomodulation light therapy with Guerlain’s exceptional facial techniques to smooth, plump and gets you, er, glowing up.    

What to take: Brand new PE Nation garb for Pillar Wellbeing, the latest Marysia swimsuit for the swim, sauna and steam. 

Switch off and read   . . . The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley. You guessed it – it’s all about the incredible life of Krystyna Skarbek. 

theowo.london

BEST FOR FEELING ZEN 

The Peninsula London Spa & Wellbeing Centre, Belgravia

Perched imperiously on Hyde Park Corner, The Peninsula London is the much trumpeted first British outpost of the almost century-old high-end Hong Kong-based hotel chain. 

Opened late last year, the newly-built 190 room haven embodies custom-tooled serenity with all the luxurious hallmarks of one of the world’s most iconic hotel brands, all underpinned by Far East aesthetics and rituals. Each element of the interior from the marble guardian lion sculptures (they symbolise luck, prosperity and success), hand blown crystal chandeliers to the parlour palms have been sanctioned by a feng shui master. 

The jewel in the crown is the spa, secreted underneath the cream-coloured eight floor edifice overlooking Wellington Arch, which offers a distinctly Oriental holistic spa experience, from its architect-designed 25 metre swimming pool, thermal suites and gym, to its seven luxurious wood-panelled treatment rooms, with offerings based on purpose-driven wellness. There’s a particular emphasis on alternative therapies and Chinese medicine, all underpinning its ‘Life Lived Best’ philosophy.

The Peninsula London also has an exclusive partnership with Subtle Energies, the astonishingly effective Australian aromatherapy and skincare brand founded on Ayurvedic principles. The only place in the UK offering Subtle Energies treatments, it provides a curated menu of facials, massages, body wraps and more which offer to not only nourish and rejuvenate the skin, but also uplift the senses and promote emotional balance. 

Try the Personalised Holistic treatment combining marma, a traditional Ayurvedic massage technique, and a signature aromatic facial massage to reduce stress and boost collagen to rebalance all your chakras. Enhance your experience by adding a guided 15-minute meditation, a Himalayan body polish, or shirodhara, which involves warm oil being poured onto your forehead (way more blissful than it sounds, honestly).  

What to take:

If you’re taking a dip in The Peninsula’s show-stopping pool, stick with purpose-driven swimwear. Pursuit the Label – each body-sculpting item is produced from regenerated materials, so you can be fashion-forward and eco-friendly.

Switch off and read   . . . International bestseller The Piano Teacher by Janice YK Lee. It’s about an Englishman who works as a chauffeur in Hong Kong high society in the 40s and 50s, so seems apt…

peninsula.com

BEST FOR FASTING

Buchinger Wilhelmi, Überlingen, Germany

Fasting may be the latest buzzword in the world of wellbeing, but when it comes to therapeutic spas that delve deep into its science, Buchinger Wilhelmi  on the shores of Lake Constance, is the original and best (and still run by the Buchinger family).

Developed more than a century ago by German physician Otto Buchinger, a WWI naval doctor who cured his own rheumatoid arthritis by drinking only water for three weeks after conventional medicines failed, the Buchinger therapeutic fasting method has become a staple for individuals wanting an annual ‘tune-up’ and reset. Otto is widely acknowledged as being the first doctor to document the effect of fasting on the body. Research since then has proven that just three days of fasting can rejuvenate the immune system, triggering the production of new white blood cells and alleviating the symptoms of inflammatory conditions like diabetes, arthritis and autoimmune diseases. 

Try the medically-supervised 10 day 250 calorie-a-day fast which includes a comprehensive schedule of massages and treatments, complete with regular medical checks and weigh-ins. There’s a lot of thin broths, juices and herbal tea involved.

Alternatively there are shorter stays (seven or three days) for the time poor in search of recuperation and regeneration, which give a taste of the resort, but without the therapeutic fasting and offering organic gourmet meals instead.

There’s no luxury hotel spa per se – instead, Buchinger Wilhelmi is centred around two main medical complexes in its stunningly landscaped grounds, staffed by its doctors and nurses, along with numerous treatment rooms where guests can book everything from osteopathy, physiotherapy and shiatsu massage, to Chinese abdominal massage Chi Nei Tsang and body wraps.

There’s also a heated outdoor swimming pool and free exercise sessions as well as daily guided hikes, personal trainers, life coaches and meditation sessions to distract you from your hunger pangs, which they promise will eventually give way to renewed energy levels and that you’ll leave with a serious spring in your step as well as several kilos lighter. 

What to take: Outdoor hiking kit, fitness gear, swimwear and athleisure for lounging. And splash out on some Desmond & Dempsey PJs – you may be sleeping more hours than not!  

Switch off and read   . . .The Laurels Of Lake Constance by Marie Chaix, a profoundly moving novel about the years leading up to WWII. 

Buchingher-wilhelmi.com

BEST FOR LONGEVITY

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand

Everyone knows that feeling when you arrive somewhere so paradisiacal that worries and stresses seem to instantly drain away like water down a plug. Koh Samui is already a tropical island idyll that does that – and then Kamalaya takes it to the next level.

This beachside retreat and spa located on the Thai island’s stunning south coast, nestled into verdant waterfall-strewn hills, is a luxurious paradise that takes holistic rejuvenation almost religiously. It even has its own sacred meditation cave, used by Buddhist monks for centuries. 

A peaceful haven which blends Eastern and Western science and spirituality, the multi-award winning Kamalaya has a huge team of Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese and Western medical doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, physios, fitness coaches, yoga teachers, life coaches and more at your beck and call to ensure your stay is beautifully bespoke – you can pick and choose and take everything at your own pace. 

You can, of course, simply book a luxurious holiday in five star hillside rooms or spacious villas and enjoy delicious food and the fabled Thai hospitality, while sampling the breathtakingly stunning spa. There are daily classes in the likes of yoga, pilates, Qi Gong and more to try as well as a dizzying range of treatments in the spa to enjoy – ranging from the medical, like ozone or IV therapy, to the likes Ayurvedic massage, kati vasti, traditional Thai massage, lotus scrubs and wraps, and the Kamalaya Signature Three Treasures Treatment, which includes Tui Na massage, Reiki and crystal healing, as well as aromatherapy using Kamalaya’s bespoke ‘Three Treasures’ oil blends.

But if you fancy something more tailored, try the just launched immersive six-night-long Blue Zones Retreat. Based on two decades of longevity research by Blue Zones, an organisation dedicated to helping people live better and longer lives through researching the world’s longest-lived cultures, it aims to educate guests on nutrition, movement and preserving physical, mental and emotional health, to inspire healthier and happier lives. It’s guaranteed to be a truly wonderful experience and  might even transform your life.

What to take

Your very best White Lotus-inspired wardrobe – the eagerly anticipated next series is set in Thailand, and filming has already taken place in Koh Samui. Think CAMILLA beach-ready kaftans, printed shirts and activewear.

Switch off and read   . . . Dr Peter Attia’s Outlive: the Science and Art of Longevity. This is the manual for living longer. 

Kamalaya.com

BEST FOR HIGH ACHIEVERS 

SHA Wellness Clinic, Cancun, Mexico

SHA made waves in the world of wellness when it opened near Alicante in Spain some 15 years ago – now it’s shaking things up again with its new outpost, a stunning-looking clinic overlooking the crystal clear Caribbean just up the coast from Cancun in Mexico.

To book here, you must choose a wellness programme, all of which blend science with natural medicine. They include the Leader’s Performance seven-day programme, which aims to reduce stress and optimise wellbeing and ultimately, improve performance in demanding jobs. Working with a team of health professionals, participants will have the likes of 3D body scans, ozone and IV therapy, cryotherapy, tons of medical tests along with massages, as well as having a personalised food and health plan devised for them, with a host of other regenerative treatments and health medicine on offer. 

Whichever programme you choose, they are all underpinned by the SHA Method, which it claims doesn’t just improve quality of life, but can add years to it with its integrative approach based on nine areas – healthy nutrition, natural therapies, preventive and healthy ageing medicine, advanced aesthetics, cognitive stimulation, emotional health, wellbeing and inner balance, and physical performance. All of this is accompanied by learning new habits at the Healthy Living Academy, which offers group activities such as talks, walks, healthy cooking classes and more.

The best spa for high achievers is on Mexico's Caribbean coast

Healthy eating is big here – SHA was founded by Alfredo Bataller Parietti after he managed to beat years of serious illness thanks to integrative medicine, including a macrobiotic diet. Think healthy haute cuisine that’s all mostly alkaline – open-fire cooked local seafood, wholegrains and fresh produce, with many of the organic herbs and vegetables grown nearby for the hotel’s restaurants. 

The health clinic is the star of the show here though. At six stories tall and with 100 treatment rooms offering everything from genomic medicine to serum therapy, osteopathy, hair transplants, dentistry, Asian-inspired massages, high-spec skincare, intravenous laser therapy, stem cell therapy to sexual health, it’s a temple to wellness. 

What to take Dress style here is high-end casual, so go Mexican-inspired Caravana dresses, or Oliver Spencer for men. 

Switch off and read  . . . Under The Volcano by Malcom Lowry. An astonishing novel set in Mexico, the protagonist, an alcoholic British consul, might persuade you to pass on that extra margarita.

Shawellness.com

BEST FOR A CREATIVITY REBOOT

Hotel Castello di Reschio, Umbria, Italy 

Apparently, men think about the Roman Empire several times a week (well, according to one popular TikTok meme last year). They – and women too, of course – will have plenty to ponder when wallowing in the Hotel Castello di Reschio’s Roman-inspired The Bathhouse spa, not least just how well-pampered Julius Caesar and his friends were. Lurking in the depths of the castle’s old wine cellars, The Bathhouse is so big on the antiquity stuff, you half imagine Mary Beard to pop up with stories and stats. Unique features such as a voluminous salt-water Roman bath and a natural tepidarium (a warm bath) dug into the earth will transport spa-goers to 324AD (or thereabouts), while the ancient ambience of stony subterranean cellar is enhanced by flickering candles and a lovely open-fire. 

The treatments at The Bathhouse are all bespoke, tailored towards customers’ needs. Locally-foraged ingredients such as wild camomile flowers and honey are used in treatments, before being pummelled out using infusions such as St John’s Wort (collected every summer solstice from nearby meadows). Other than that, it’s all about relaxation: luxuriating in the circular bath at the bottom of a three-storey tower, getting steamy in the hammam, or sitting on marble benches gazing at up at the millennia-old stone walls. There are also two ‘conversation baths’, in which you can sit in and bounce your newly created ideas around.

When you’re not bathing like an emperor, Hotel Castello di Reschio offers a phalanx of activities: horse-riding, foraging workshops, Italian cookery lessons, even picking up skills usually taught in monasteries such as calligraphy or paper marbling. 

What to take Good walking boots. There’s plenty of hiking to be done on the Castello di Reschio’s 3,700-acre estate and nearby hills and Assisi and Gubbio are only a short drive away and worth a stroll around.

Switch off and read . . . 

Author Umberto Eco believed that Umbria was the centre of the universe and his medieval murder mystery, Name of the Rose, is set in an Italian monastery – it’s hard to imagine a more perfect book for reading at Castello di Reschio.

reschio.com 

Best for Spa and Golf 

Adare Manor Spa, Limerick, Ireland 

Excitement is already brewing for the 2027 Ryder Cup which will be held in County Limerick’s Adare Manor and which is the fulfilment of a dream for business mogul owner JP McManus who bought the neo gothic manor house and it’s grounds with the dream of turning it into a luxurious hotel and hosting the world famous golf tournament. And what a place to hold it. 

Set in the serene countryside of County Limerick, Ireland, today it’s one of the world’s greatest hotels, exquisite inside and out – named Conde Nast Traveller’s 2022 Number One resort in the world, in fact. The Tom Fazio designed golf course offers a spectacular golfing experience amid the 840 acres of park and woodland and reveals new discoveries and challenges at every turn.

Being at one with nature is not only the ethos of Adare Manor, it also extends to its extensive spa and wellness offerings. 

Here, inspired by the Japanese practice of forest bathing, guests indulge in mindful walks through the lush surroundings; while the spa itself draws its philosophy from the ancient Ogham druidic alphabet, with treatments categorised under willow, oak, ash, and birch – each symbolising different aspects of wellness. Having partnered exclusively (in Ireland) with 111Skin, the spa offers luxurious treatments such as deep tissue massages and a signature 90-minute cheekbone-lifting, contour-defining Rose Quartz Restorative Facial, favoured by the likes of Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston and Sienna Miller. 

And beyond the spa, the Manor boasts a range of amenities including a relaxation area, manicure and pedicure salon, sauna, hair boutique, fitness centre – and an indoor pool with fairytale views of the surrounding woods and River Maigue. The place is also a foodie heaven, from the gastronomic delights at The Carriage House, to the Michelin-starred menu at The Oak Room in which Chef Michael Tweedie offers a tasting menu highlighting Ireland’s premium ingredients. 

What to take: Your Barbour and walking boots. Adare Manor also offers a fantastic choice of country pursuits from falconry to carriage driving. 

Go device free and readWithout My Cloak by Kate O’Brien (1931). Set in County Limerick, the author’s prize-winning debut, is a saga spanning three generations and kicks off with the arrival of a horse thief. Cosy up and dive in.  

Adaremanor.com

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