Winter is made for resting. We may think it coincidental that the hours of darkness exceed daylight time in winter, that the temperature drops and that nature, plants and animals alike, go dormant for a few months, but could it be a gentle nudge to us humans too, to batten down the hatches, take cover and rest? It is so tempting to get over-excited about the Christmas festivities and get carried away in revelries, late nights and consumption of food and drink, but then just as easily feel exhausted rather than rested when the time comes for returning to work. We may have ticked all the boxes in terms of the social calendar, the parties and the exchanges of gifts but what about the box marked “make time for me”. Hands up if you feel you’ve started the new year with your energy stores depleted rather than replenished.
When it comes to new year resolutions, giving your body and mind some respect – in the shape of regular recuperation time, might not be such a bad idea. A weekly yoga session, 10 minutes of meditation each day or simply some alone time for a gentle stroll – away from your daily tick list – might be beneficial. Indeed, whatever helps recharge your batteries will improve your mood and ultimately your quality of life. I like writing, taking and editing photographs, baking, or losing myself in a good book. You may like running, knitting, woodwork or baking – it really is very subjective.
Because we are so used to operating at lightening-fast speed though, we need some help in slowing down, to properly engage in creative activities and enjoy the moment, rather than perennially racing to the finish line. What better way to draw a line below the routine than a Spa day? Or maybe just a half-day:enough time to stop and contemplate life, to just be, to consciously relax and offer your body the care and attention it deserves. A spot of reflexology, an Indian head massage or an aromatherapy oil massage can enhance your sense of well-being and help kick-start a healthier lifestyle.
In the Cotswolds we have a few gems, when it comes to spa venues, nestled in the dreamy rural landscape of Gloucestershire and all tantalizingly close to home if you’re based in the Cirencester area. Without wanting to draw an exhaustive list – we’re talking relaxing after all – here are some of our favourite temples of zen. They have in common a gorgeous setting, amenable interiors and of course delicious food treats.
I received a couple Spa day vouchers as a Christmas present one year for this lovely establishment, which I shared with a friend. We started our visit with a very enjoyable and almost healthy fruit smoothie, (aside from the addition of some celebratory champagne), in the outdoor hot whirlpool (heated by a real wood fire that emanates a fantastic fragrant aroma). There followed an aromatherapy massage and a facial, a swift swim in the pool, rewarded by a spot of lunch in the bright and comfy bar area. In the afternoon, we moved to the relaxation zone where we read our books to the soothing sound of gently cascading water, stopping for a restorative cup of hot tea before selecting a couple of delicious items from the Aromatherapy Associates oils range and reluctantly changing from our fluffy dressing gowns back into our battle-gear
Ok, so this one is really in nearby Wiltshire but just a stone’s throw from Tetbury – and less than half an hour’s drive away (again, we’re talking from Ciren here). It has very high standards and impeccable ethos and I have it from reputable sources that it delivers a first class experience. The spa uses ethically sourced, organic, artisan ingredients, such as Moroccan Argan oil, Hymalaian salt crystals and Damascena rose oil. Get an oxygen boost with the Natura Bissé Bubble treatment, a kind of oxygen therapy cabin where you can breathe 99.995% pure air in isolated atmosphere; the latest detoxifying beauty trend, as read in the February 2018 issue of Vogue.
I love the interiors of Cowley Manor, with its warm parquet floors and its gracious undulating, landscaped gardens. It speaks of a bygone era of crinoline dresses, banquets and gentrified country folk. A beautiful Victorian manor house set in dreamy Cotswold countryside, Cowley Manor plays host to a very serene spa in a unique setting. Set apart from the manor house itself, featuring Cotswold stone and floor to ceiling glass walls that enable you to enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, it doesn’t take long to feel a sense of tranquility. You can relax in the sauna and steam room after your holistic, nature-inspired treatments, including the latest advances in skincare with peptides and stem cells treatments. There are rooms, too, in case you want to stay the whole weekend and really pamper yourself.
In the genteel eponymous village, Barnsley House is your quintessential country house. On a smaller scale than the other establishments featured here, it possesses considerable charm and it is located just three miles from Cirencester, a very pleasant – if short – ride away. Set in lovely gardens, the spa is a secluded and peaceful hideaway, featuring a sauna, steam room and outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool. The aromatherapy treatments use essential oils and the excellent Elemis skincare range.
Bamford Haybarn Spa at Daylesford
The ultimate in refined rustic, the spa at Daylesford organic farm combines luxury and relaxation seamlessly and elegantly. The small spa is part of the larger complex at Daylesford, one that incorporates the excellent restaurant, the deli, kitchen, clothes shop and the florist’s. The common thread for all the components of the Daylesford complex is superlative quality, at a price. The spa is serene and tranquil, set aside from the rest of the buildings and looking out onto the surrounding fields. The relaxation area makes you want you curl up with a book and your favourite classical music compilation, looking up occasionally to enjoy the uninterrupted views from the glass frontage, the water fountain trickling gently in the background. That is restorative in itself, and there are the treatments still to enjoy; bliss, and then some.
The winter months, when the world is grey and cold, are made for a retreat or a spa break – after all, half of nature is doing it as we speak. So let this be a form of hibernation, putting the ‘treat’ in retreat and giving some time to restoring yourself a little, and then you can come back with a smile, refreshed, with a positive outlook, and with that season not so far away now, a spring in your step.