Why tired parents should be heading to the UK’s first rooftop spa for rejuvenation in the fresh North Yorkshire air
The North Yorkshire town of Harrogate is one of the UK’s great spa destinations, its mineral spring waters soothing the aches and pains of pilgrims in search of pampering throughout the centuries.
Radiating elegance with its York stone houses, Valley Gardens and Royal Pump Room, Harrogate has regularly been voted the happiest place to live in Britain.
Head out on the Leeds road past the Yorkshire Show grounds into rolling Yorkshire countryside and you discover Rudding Park, an 18th century Grade 1 listed country house, now a handsome hotel. Privately owned by the Mackaness family since 1972, the whole place has the feel of somewhere well-loved, with a shrewd owner in charge, keeping pace with trends whilst preserving the past – always a tricky balance but hence what led them to create the UK’s first rooftop spa which opened its designer doors in May 2017 and is a haven for frazzled mums and dads.
Book a Follifoot Spa Room and you’ll be treated to your very own steam room with golden tiled seats in your bathroom. Add to that a spacious bedroom-cum-sitting room with a mix of mid-century modern and chintzy furniture adorned with clever modern art and plumped ‘R’ and ‘P’ cushions. Book a ground floor room and your back door opens onto a gorgeous patio with the new spa beyond, surrounded by the most beautiful planting. Think ornamental long grasses, rhododendrons and flowering dogwood, care of landscape architect Matthew Wilson, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time.
The contemporary spa was designed by Leeds based architects Enjoy Design, and has an aura of calmness and freedom, bringing the outside in and the inside out.
It’s deceptively huge inside with a generous swimming pool at ground level, with huge golden metal rings on the wall reminiscent of the Olympic rings and a gorgeous Juniper Log sauna. Treatment rooms lie below and the rooftop spa above. I loved the art including overblown swimming caps in Perspex cases and huge photographs of real Italian beach scenes by Elise Hassey in the changing rooms.
Leave at least a few hours before your first treatment to enjoy the rooftop. I headed for the gorgeous herbal steam bath infused with herbs from Rudding Park’s kitchen garden. Next up, the experience showers where you’re transported to the rain forest complete with colourful thunder and lightening and cool mist. A lengthy dip in the outdoor infinity pool is a must with pretty garden views of the mature English oaks and Wellingtonia redwoods, and generous jets to pummel and push the flesh. There are footbaths to heat and cool the feet and remind you how sensitive and neglected these vital assets are!
With plenty of secluded beds to flop on outside and take in the fresh Yorkshire air there’s something utterly beguiling about an English countryside spa. Maybe it’s the temperate climate and constant threat of rain that makes it so special when you can lie out. I felt the fluffy grey towels were a nod to slate roof of the original Rudding Park, happily matching the touch of grey in the soft clouds above. Gentle, a little bit dour, and ultimately super relaxing. Add birdsong, church bells and Yorkshire accents, and planting worthy of Chelsea Flower Show with bees buzzing and sun loving plants including golden oat grass. I even heard groups of northern guys chatting about relationships and work/life balance! I feel Rudding Park has done its job.
Treatments are superb too. My thermal detox wrap began with an invigorating body brush and before I knew it I was swaddled like a baby being given the most delicious foot and scalp massages. Indulgent facials make full use of UK brand Elemental Herbology’s natural unguents.
Post treatment there’s an array of relaxation rooms you can rest your brain and body. My favourite was the Visual Room with big squishy chairs and a huge hanging basket chair made for two with a full wall screen showing the most incredible landscapes such as the Icelandic Highlands and aerial shots of Saltburn by the Sea, just down the road.
The nice thing about heading off to Rudding Park for a spa treatment with your other half, perhaps leaving the kids with grandparents for a night or two, is that this place is made for romance with lots of indulgent couples treatments such as the mud rasul ritual. Not surprisingly the hotel hosts many weddings, helped along by the fact there’s a Gothic revival chapel right outside the hotel entrance designed by London Architect A.E. Purdie and completed in 1879.
And don’t underestimate the cuisine here. Horte Restaurant isn’t your average spa restaurant. Yes it’s chilled and stylish, but the food here is impressive with Three AA Rosettes to its name.
Knowledgeable waiters from Yorkshire and Perpignan, clad in grey suits from Next with natty green knitted ties, eloquently explain the courses and paired wines of the seven-course tasting menu featuring amongst other things, Whitby Crab with pea and wasabi and a cross-over course of curried mango and mushroom hazelnut cone. Return in the morning for a healthy breakfast of overnight soaked oats and charcoal lemonade, more palatable than it sounds and apparently a good detoxant.
And just past the spa reception there’s a stylish shop full of gorgeous things you never knew you needed from cashmere ponchos to flamingo umbrellas. As the shop manager says, we try and stock things you won’t find anywhere else in Harrogate.
If you do tire of the spa (practically impossible, I could live there!), there’s an 18-hole golf course and the Repton Short Course featuring a version of the famous 17th hole at Sawgrass in Florida! And on the doorstep you have Bettys Tea Rooms, Valley Gardens, Fountains Abbey World Heritage Site, Knaresborough Castle and York Minster.
Follifoot Spa Rooms costs £308 per night with breakfast for two people giving access to the Roof Top Spa and Garden.
Thermal Detox Wrap costs £90 (50 minutes)
Rejuvenating Age Support Facial costs £135 (1 hour and 15 minutes)
Tasting menu at Horte, £69 per person. 7 glasses of wine £55.
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