Have we ever needed to step back from the daily grind and invest in our bodies and minds more? This widespread desire to ‘unplug’ positions the world’s top spas firmly in the spotlight. Luckily, most offer a great deal more than just an excellent massage. So, whether you need to address emotional issues, get to the bottom of a medical niggle, or take on a digital detox, allow us to introduce the globe’s hottest hideaways.
Suffering with anxiety? Digestive issues? Low energy? These doctor-directed spas are your ticket to change.
FX Mayr, Austria
Best for: Relief from the daily grind.
The original practitioners of the now-renowned Mayr cure (a rigorous approach to detox, incorporating fasting), the FX Mayr has been hosting guests with gastro-intestinal distress, exhausted immune systems and assorted maladies for more than 40 years. Expect a physical overhaul, tailored to your needs by your personal doctor, and take a seven-day vow of abstinence from solid food and digital distraction. Learn everything, from how to chew properly to your body’s vitamin deficiencies, and nap between massages and mud baths, before hiking through the Alps. Homeopathy and kinesiology are recommended alongside modern medical diagnostics – as is relaxation, which is easily found in a sauna on the banks of Lake Wörthersee.
We say: Whether you want to lose a few pounds, or revamp your lifestyle, nobody leaves without a success story – the clinic has an impressive 40 percent return rate. The enthusiastic staff resist even the most desperate bribery for extra food at dinner, and both doctors and therapists ensure that you enjoy your experience as much as the abstinence-focused principles can allow. Spacious bedrooms make for perfect resting places (occasionally, a nurse provides a hot water bottle or a hay flower liver compress), although you are encouraged to make the house your home – mosey around in one of their signature white robes.
Try this: The osteopath is life-changing, and the assortment of vitamin infusion injections can revitalise even the exhausted. The basic cure (available for seven-day+ stays) covers the complete spectrum of analysis and regenerative treatments – so embrace the lot and leave with a new understanding of your body, alongside a noteworthy glow.
Lanserhof Tegernsee, Germany
Best for: Luxury but high-tech health.
It’s easy to see why Cara D and Roman Abramovich vacay here. After a six-month refurb, cult medical retreat Lanserhof Tegernsee is hugely appealing to the health-seeking visitor who likes style with their substance. Serene, minimal bedrooms are the perfect place to rest and you’ll love the sumptuous scent of red cedarwood that seeps from beautifully curved floors and walls. With programmes based on a combination of Mayr philosophy and the latest medical developments, the focus may be on health, but plenty of the benefits are aesthetic, too.
We say: You’ll learn more about your body than ever before. After a thorough consultation with your doctor, you’ll hear about everything from muscle mass and conquering food intolerances to the benefits of cryotherapy and kneipping (a hot and cold water treatment). You’ll also be advised to rest a lot – a sauna overlooking the Nordkette mountains is as good a place as any. Meanwhile, energetic visitors can enjoy Nordic walking, QI Gong, yoga and Pilates. As tough as some of the diet plans and treatments here are, the light-hearted approach of hotel staff makes every sip of bitter Epsom salts easier.
Try this: The Detox Mud Wrap leaves skin cashmere-soft. Detoxifying seaweed is brushed on before you’re cocooned in a tent-like cloth and placed on a curious steam-emitting bed for 30 minutes. A quick rinse is followed by a relaxing hot water bottle compress while you recline overlooking the view.
From £1,395 for room and seven-day programme; lanserhof.com
Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot, Italy
Best for: Intense detoxification.
Founder Henri Chenot has spent years studying the art of the five elements of Chinese medicine to develop his carefully tailored programs. The spa puts you through an intense series of blood, vitamin and food allergy testing, as well as energy checks, a nutritionist appointment and even a body composition scan. A fully qualified doctor oversees every element of your detox experience, which includes – ahem – laxatives and a 30-hour fast. There’s a plethora of extras, too, from reflexology to tingling scalp treatments.
We say: Set among picturesque gardens in the heart of stunning Merano (where, FYI, the sun shines 300 days a year), opulent luxury is the name of the game – it’s all polished marble, sumptuous upholstery and glittering chandeliers. The detox menu, exclusive to the spa, includes no salt, sugar, dairy or meat. In spite of this, each (small, carefully chewed) mouthful is utterly delicious. The staff are stylish, helpful and impossibly discreet. Expect to be treated like a princess (and, given the hotel’s guest list, your dinner companion may well be one).
Try this: The Yoga Massage. Far less energetic than it sounds, this is one hour of pure, indulgent relaxation – lights are dimmed and soft music drifts in. Lying in the centre of a giant, perfectly soft mattress, a yoga and massage expert manipulates your body through a series of gentle and supremely resting asanas. Aromatherapy oils and gentle kneading immediately loosen tense muscles.
Best for: Balancing health with hedonism.
Detox and retox at this new hotel hotspot 2km from the centre of Mykonos town. Reflecting the island’s uber-chic reputation, minimal luxe is Kensho’s USP - think whitewashed walls and driftwood details. Perfectly-positioned swing seats demand to be curled up in, especially after a night of dancing at nearby Scorpio’s (this beach club is a must FYI) or head to the cloud-like sun-loungers dotted around the pool. Staying swanky in a suite? You might have your own pool…The restaurant’s tasty, healthy fare is concocted with local ingredients and accompanied by delicious wine. Then see off the hint of a hangover the next day downstairs in the luxurious cave-style underground treatment rooms. Befitting the mix of health and hedonism the spa menu is angled towards indulgence.
We say: Hot to trot linen-attired staff glide through the corridors, delivering a drink here, an extra towel there, you’ll barely have to lift a finger from your beach bonkbuster. True to Mykonian tradition, everything is neutral, with hints of blue - from the crisp bedsheets to the drapes that catch the Aegean breeze. The rooftop bar is a must for excellent sundowners -ask the bartender for a tailor-made cocktail, arguably more soul-soothing than any treatment programme (shh).
Try: Though we were tempted by the ‘Chocoholic’ - a gentle exfoliation in real chocolate (yes really), in the end it’s the Tan Magnificent that can’t be missed. This 90-minute treatment is just the thing to prepare sun-seeking skin for Mediterranean rays. Vitamin C, beeswax and orange exfoliate and hydrate your body, while a protecting facial reinforces against harmful UV damage.
Rooms start at approx. £290. kenshomykonos.com
Meet The Mind Spas
Give this lot your body and they will give you back your mind.
Coqui Coqui, Coba
Best for: Off-grid mindfulness.
Located on an archaeological site, this hotel and perfumery offers more than hint of Indiana Jones-esque fantasy. Each Coqui Coqui resort (there are six worldwide) has a signature scent. Here it is lime and Menli, inspired by the adjacent dense jungle gardens. Impressively, home-grown aromatherapy oils are also used in the spa. Rooms are minimal and beautifully bare in limestone. Despite there being only six rooms, service is endearingly slow, but there’s little urgency in tropical paradise. The focus here is making the most of sun-drenched days, and the resident cockerel ensures you wake early to do so. Cool off in the pool, meditate in the hand-woven hammocks, or take a botanical bath – all will help recharge emotional batteries.
We say: Couples here regroup and take stock, while solo travellers disconnect from the world at large. This is not the place for those seeking hedonism. To say that this hotel is rustic is an understatement. The jungle encroaches upon its space, salt water runs from the taps, the restaurant closes at 8pm and the Wi-Fi is hit and miss.
Try this: The deep-reaching three-hour Coqui Coqui Holistic Ritual which combines relaxing, deep tissue, acupressure and reflexology massage to tease out physical and emotional knots. Afterwards a botanical soak and detoxifying elixir enhances your now relaxed state.
Rooms start from approx. £190 coquicoqui.com
Best for: Ayurvedic immersion.
From four-night introductory stays to three-week transformations, the wellness programmes at Amanbagh are unparalleled. An initial consultation determines your dosha (belief that our constitutions are one of three types: Vata, Kapha or Pitta) and your stay will be hyper-personalised to these needs. Whether you arrive exhausted, broken-hearted or stressed and strung out, the yoga, meditation and spa sessions, alongside supportive nutrition, will ensure you leave bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
We say: A sense of old-world luxury is immediately apparent on arrival and you can imagine the resting hunting parties of the Maharaja of Alwar, who once used this destination as a testing ground for his expeditions. It’s the individual touches, from the unforgettable greeting ceremony where staff welcome you with song, to the live poolside performances, that elevate your soulful experience. A sunrise yoga session is a must, and you don’t have to be a yogi to take part – sessions are customised to your ability.
Try this: The Sarvanga Dhara experience is perfect for anyone with aches and pains, sleep issues or stress-related conditions. A choice of warm oil, medicated milk or herbal preparation is poured over the body before two therapists work together to strengthen the nervous system and enhance circulation. After a series of treatments future pain should be prevented or minimised.
Rooms from £680; aman.com/resorts/amanbagh.
Best for: Quiet and calm.
Bursting with kooky architecture and recycled features, some rooms at Keemala hang bauble-like between trees, while others sit atop pillars, pod-like in the sky (don’t worry if you haven’t a head for heights, there are ground level options, too). Offering more than a hint of Hobbit, the masterfully designed room types that are woven into the landscape will refresh the eyes of even jaded, been-there, done-that hotel visitors. So far, so gimmicky? Not a bit. The spa deserves just as much of your focus. With eight treatment suites, each complete with its own sauna, steam room and aromatherapy bath, privacy and serenity are guaranteed.
We say: Quirkier than the Thailand big hitters, Keemala oozes intimacy. If you’re feeling romantic, or just want to unwind, a bird’s nest pool villa is the one. Impressively, the personal pools are plenty big enough for laps, and fruit and veg in the restaurants come straight from the gardens, so you’ll get local flavours and unparalleled freshness.
Try this: Zone out for a languid five hours with one of two signature organic rituals. Choose the seaweed option if your skin feels parched (a perfect start or end to a week in the sun) and you’ll be buffed, cocooned, massaged and bathed. In need of inner calm? Pick the Siam beauty option, where a unique harmonising massage will soothe body and mind.
Rooms from £240; keemala.com.
Best for: A digital detox.
On black volcanic beaches on the north-east coast of Bali, this laid-back resort slots seamlessly into the landscape. With a focus on relaxation, recovery and self-discovery, expect to find everyone from doe-eyed honeymooners to high-flying businessmen. Sartorial statements aren’t a worry: guests are encouraged to wear traditional fisherman dress, and a determination to disconnect from the outside world means phones are frowned upon and there’s no WiFi or TV.
We say: The thatched Kamar rooms are simple and rustic. And sofa-strewn balconies overlooking frangipani-scattered gardens make a convincing case for meditation practice or reading. Aside from tension-melting treatments, daylight activities include weaving, writing, snorkelling, yoga and salt scrub-making. Food is delicious, fresh and healthy Indonesian fare. And to drink? Try herbal tonics such as turmeric, palm sugar and tamarind, which the book list aid digestion and eliminate toxins. After supper, lie supine on a floating platform in the pool. A starry sky uninterrupted by artificial light is magical.
Try this: Penganten Melukat.This four-part treatment involves a firm-handed, knot-ridding massage, a rice, ginger and clove scrub, a coconut milk wrap and a final wallow in a flower-infused bath.
Rooms from £200; spavillageresort.com.
Lefay Resort and Spa, Lake Garda, Italy
Best for: An east meets west fusion of science and tradition.
Lefay’s unique and innovative method blends the principles of classical Chinese medicine with Western science. This means medical techniques such as tests to assess food intolerances, stress hormone levels and cardiovascular health are combined with treatments which use acupressure points to realign the energy inside the body, including acupuncture and reflexology. Those who wish to lose weight – one of the spa’s most popular programmes – are given a nutritional consultation, personalised diet plan (the resort’s restaurants serve weight-loss options) and draining and detoxifying treatments. What makes Lefay special is its holistic approach, which means it views weight as linked to other issues, including energy, digestion and mental stress, rather than in isolation.
We say: Nestled among lemon groves in the hills overlooking stunning Lake Garda, Lefay’s location couldn’t be more picturesque. It prides itself on being eco-sustainable: electricity is largely generated on-site and rainwater is recycled. The eco-luxe feel is continued throughout the property, with calming décor featuring local walnut, olive tree wood and Italian marble. Guests float between spa treatments and the indoor and outdoor heated pools in a haze of tranquility, their every desire catered to by the always-attentive staff.
Try this: Moxibustion, which means ‘burning herb’, a traditional Chinese technique designed to relieve muscular pain and tension, stimulate healing, improve digestion and help energy flow around the body. Mugwort, a small, spongy herb, is processed into cigar-like sticks, which are lit and held an inch or two away from the skin at pressure points around the body. It might sound unusual, and involves a degree of trust that the therapist won’t burn you, but the sensation of warmth is actually extremely comforting.
Rooms start at approx. £247 per night. Programmes start at approx. £2135 per night. EasyJet fly from London xx to Verona from £39.99 www.lefayresorts.com
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Le Royal Monceau, Paris
Best for: Seeking solace from tourists.
Since Philippe Starck weighed in, this grande dame is less old-school style, more well-considered substance. Ravishingly renovated, there are two Michelin-starred restaurants, an art concierge, a cinema and the most spectacular spa, where bespoke treatments come courtesy of Clarins My Blend.
We say: Your eyes will take a while to adjust to the sheer volume of light in this spa. Handsome hot shots sprawl across oversized, bed-like benches or glide (no splashing here, please!) in the astoundingly long pool – the largest in the city. The alternate use of extreme temperatures between the hammam, eucalyptus steam room and Turkish-style plunge pool widens arteries while stimulating blood flow, metabolism and circulation.
Try this: The Clarins My Blend facial is arguably the most thorough in the world. After punching your skin concerns into a computer and undergoing an assessment that includes facial imagery, diagnostic technology draws up a bespoke recipe of peptides, boosters and botanical extracts to have you looking fresh as a daisy.
Rooms from £725; raffles.com/paris
Spaciomm, Hotel Omm, Barcelona
Best for: Night life with spa action thrown in.
This gorgeous modernist building has a Scandi-esque vibe, Michelin-star restaurant and a bar that locals flock to for food, drinks and late-night dancing. Its brilliantly central location means you are never more than 15 minutes from the best tourist spots. Here, tapas and cava are plentiful – and the food inexpensive, delicious and healthy. Book tourist attractions in advance – it’s the only way to beat the hour-long queues, even in low-season.
We say: Step out of the bright lights of Barcelona and into the calming, interior-designed spa zone. Before your treatment, you’re invited to complete a short spa ritual – a hot shower, 10 minutes in the steam room, an ice ‘refresh’, a special water circuit (sort of like six different showers – you need to try it to know it!) and then a dip in the giant Jacuzzi. And that’s all before you’ve had one of the various treatments from Natura Bissé. The spa also offers consultations with nutritionist Núria García.
Try this: The C+C vitamin C Natura Bissé facial. A 60-minute anti-ageing extravaganza that uses vitamin C-rich ingredients to restore elasticity, tone and firmness. Skin is left luminous and, a week later, the effects were still there. We also loved the gravitational room where we lay on a tilted bed that rocked back and forth to mimic – in the words of the therapist – ‘the movement of the womb’.
Rooms from £183; hotelomm.com.
Four Seasons, Hong Kong
Best for: A grown-up pit stop.
It’s hard to distinguish most buildings in Central Hong Kong from the ubiquitous office blocks - this hotel included. Inside however, sparkling light saturates the space, and the unbridled luxury synonymous with this hotel group hit you immediately. Follow your nose to the spa where you’ll find a parallel universe of peace and calm. The spa therapists are intuitive, and since Ayurvedic therapist Shyju Vallapil was drafted in, there’s a notable inward focus.
With jade place settings and heavy silver chopsticks, the Michelin-starred Lung King Heen restaurant woos before you’ve ordered, though the suckling pig and crispy scallops won’t disappoint either. In the lobby there are exquisite flower arrangements aplenty and suited men barking at their phones, but this corporate nature lessens the higher up the hotel you climb. Service is impeccable, without being intrusive (is there anything worse?).
We say: Note that this spa is strictly segregated. In the women’s area, there’s a nail bar, crystal adorned steam room (no less), a rhassoul mud chamber, and ice fountain. Outside, a slate-lined, inky infinity pool plays music underwater, and offers sweeping harbour views. On the weekend, book one of Mr Ng’s private tai chi classes. They’re totally enlightening.
Try this: Chinese Wellness Ritual. Splayed out on a marble slab inside an impressive steam room, you’re scrubbed to within an inch of your life, sploshed with rice milk and lacquered in honey. We left content, clean, cossetted and curiously energised.
Supercharge your hols with an indulging spa...
Sani Resort, Greece
Best for: Fuss-free all-inclusives.
Only an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki airport, Sani Resort delivers all the beauty of a Greek island without the tricky plane and ferry transfers that quickly turn holidays (particularly with small people) from dream to nightmare. The resort is essentially an entire (idyllic) town with four, soon to be five, luxury hotels dotted along the crystal-clear sea and white sands of the Kassandra peninsula. The on-site spas deliver wellness on tap – MySpa at Sani Beach is a highlight, with a range of treatments designed by cult anti-ageing brand Anne Semonin.
We say: The huge variety of rooms offer something to suit all demands (and budgets). Ours, at the basic end, was clean and functional, but you can seek out swankier options. However, 24 hours in, we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Multiple pools and beaches mean there is something for everyone.The staff are friendly and fun, kids’ facilities are excellent and there’s so much room you never feel crowded.
Try this: Anne Semonin’s bespoke cryotherapy facial. We’re totally on board with the cryotherapy trend (cryo = cold) and this anti-ageing facial is particularly special. Neurocosmetic ingredients act on a cellular level while the freezing action of Express Radiance ice cubes stimulate the skin’s natural defence and healing reactions.The result? A youthful glow, restored.
Rooms from £93; sani-resort.com.
Fond of the finer things? Try these...
Six Senses, Douro Valley, Portugal
Best for: Wine and well-being.
With an interactive wine library and otherworldly spa, a trip here is anything you want it to be. Whacked out? Reassess your zzz’s with the Yogic ‘Sleep With Six Senses’ programme, led by Dr Javier Suarez. From eucalyptus-infused sheets, to bamboo pyjamas, and a natty monitor that tracks everything from room luminosity and noise to REM cycles, the variables that degrade sleep become glaring. Meanwhile, those with steep cortisol levels should reset at one of wellness practitioner Toby Maguire’s biannual stress retreats.
We say: The hotel is a former manor house that takes on a thoroughly modern finesse courtesy of New York design studio Clodagh Design. Imagine abstract artwork, heavy granite slabs and azulejo tiles. Coffee-coloured bedrooms are lofty, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sun-dappled views of the river below. The beating heart of the hotel, however, is the spa, comprising an indoor and outdoor pool, various steam and dry heat chambers, and gigantic beds strewn with locally woven blankets. The fine dining is pretty diet-destroying, but no matter, as there’s sunrise yoga, tree climbing, forest walking or TRX classes to raise your heart rate. Alternatively, put Toby’s meditation techniques to the test in gigantic garlic-shaped meditation pods that scatter the 22-acre grounds.
Try this: The Integrated Wellness Programme measures key physiological biomarkers to establish the wellness issues that you need to address. So whether your spinal health is threatened by poor posture, your insides are inflamed as a result of red meat overindulgence, or you’re harbouring serious stress, a brilliantly bespoke programme will work to right wrongs.
Rooms from £230; Integrated Wellness Screening from £210; Sleep With Six Senses and Integrated Wellness is also available at other Six Senses Hotels and Resorts, including Six Senses Zighy Bay, Six Senses Laamu and Six Senses Yao Noi; sixsenses.com
Hotel Sahrai, Fez, Morocco
Best for: Urban R&R with a touch of fun.
Proving you needn’t leave the city to relax and also that Morocco isn’t all about Marrakesh, this stunning palace-turned-hotel is only minutes from the bustling medina but manages to sustain an environment of total tranquillity. And if you fancy livening things up after a day of calm, there’s a glitzy rooftop bar where you can enjoy sundowners and vibrant music.
We say: As one of only four Givenchy spas globally, it’s become a must-visit for beauty junkies who make repeat trips to enjoy its world-class treatments in a beautifully designed environment. Unlike most Moroccan spas, it’s bright and airy, maintaining a sense of culture with cleverly used Mashrabiya latticework. Our tip? Book the terrace treatment room where possible – there’s room for two if you can bear to share and you’ll both get awesome views of Fez to enjoy during your treatments. Taking a ‘spa-phobic’ friend? Worry not. With two restaurants serving distinctly non-health-resort food and a huge cocktail menu, it’s perfect for a romantic weekend away even if they despise putting in the dressing gown hours.
Try this: For instant beautification, choose the Sublime Moment by Givenchy programme. This package includes a slimming massage (for poolside posing prep), a face-remodelling facial using the cult Givenchy Smile ’N Repair line (a godsend on a hangover) and, if you are planning a visit to the cocktail bar, there’s even an in-house make-up artist.
Rooms from £120; hotelsahrai.com/givenchy-spa.
Como Shambhala Estate, Bali
Best for: Wellness overhaul.
Set against a draped jungle backdrop, the Como Shambhala Estate is not only beautiful but, more importantly, deeply effective in righting bad habits and putting you on the path to happier, healthier lifestyle choices. As much a residential health retreat as a five-star spa, don’t panic if you simply want to slump, the Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic-led programmes aren’t too totalitarian and you can still enjoy a punchy cocktail or two. As you’d expect, there is a focus on nutrition in the restaurants, but it doesn’t come at the sacrifice of taste – fresh, delicious local meals have a focus on raw field-to-table ingredients. If you’re after total privacy (like the many celebrities who visit), then plump for a private villa where you’ll have your own pool.
We say: Come with a health or well-being issue that you want to address and work on it in luxury. Choose from a three-to eight-day tailor-made programme that will reset your mind and bod with a 360-degree approach to wellness. City types come for the stress management sessions while the active programme is perfect for anyone wanting to kick-start a new fitness regime.
Try this: There’s heaps to discover in the sprawling grounds of the estate, but don’t miss The Source, an ancient spring of holy water from the River Ayung. Booka water blessing and you’ll bathe in the rejuvenating water beside a statue of the god Ganesh, allowing the rich minerals to soak into your skin while a local priest blesses you.
Rooms start from £390; comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate
Best for: Ski bunnies.
With soul-stirring views and cosy alcoves aplenty, L’Apogee is an Alpine home-from-home, with heaps of character and some of the most charming staff you’ll meet. The spa is balm for mind, body and soul, with a dazzling subterranean pool and a bill of limb-loosening therapies offered by Sisley and Bamford. In winter, head to the slopes, but remember warmer months offer fantastic hiking and biking among Courchevel’s dramatic peaks.
We say: L’Apogee is just the place to unplug and kick back. Sumptuous suites with coffered wooden ceilings and terraces that gaze out across the mountains couldn’t be cosier and the spa is whisper-quiet, decked out in darkly in marble and glass. Between treatments, hop from the salt cave to the sauna, loll on the cream, sink-in loungers or do a few lengths in the mosaic pool. Peckish? Tuck into tea-smoked sea bass and an inventive line-up of sushi and sashimi at design-led Koori, cheffed by culinary genius Jean-Luc Lefrançois. You’ll leave full of energy and raring to venture off-piste.
Try this: For plump, glowy skin, the Sisley Phyto-Aromatic Sisleÿa Facial is right on the money. After a thorough double cleanse, myriad potions and oils – tailored precisely to your skin type – are smoothed onto the face by a nimble-fingered therapist. Deep massage movements awaken facial muscles, ease tension and drain away toxins.
Rooms start at approx. £800 lapogeecourchevel.com
Best Of British
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The Gainsborough Spa, Bath
Best for: Healing waters and historical immersion.
A stone’s throw from the Roman Baths, hidden amid bustling cobbled streets and housed in an impressive 18th-century grade-II listed building, lies Gainsborough Bath Spa. The only UK spa with access to natural thermal springs, it’s no surprise that the aptly named ‘SpaVillage Bath’ sits at the heart of the hotel, meaning that each of its three wings boasts a view of this impressive thermal pool.
We say: Under an impressive glass atrium, pools are flanked by Romanesque columns and mosaics line the walls. Rooms are sympathetic to the building’s Georgian aesthetic: all high ceilings and vast windows. There are nods to the owners’ Malaysian heritage with a roster of Asian spa treatments. The impressive restaurant, partnered with Michelin-star chef Johann Lafer, is Asian-influenced, too.
Try this: The Ginger Renewal BodyTherapy which uses the healing powers of ginger for a full-body exfoliation, followed by a massage using organic ginger oil and warm healing stones.
Rooms from £285; thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk
Best for: Alfresco fun and family time.
Gleneagles may be famous for its golfing prowess, but it’s the spa that’s set industry tongues wagging. Since its eye-watering renovation in 2014, ESPA Life programmes have been rebooting and rewiring all those who pass through its doors. After a consultation with resident naturopath Louise Westra (who displays the tact of a diplomat and skill of a surgeon) a bespoke plan of physio, acupuncture, colon hydrotherapy and herbal remedies is drawn up.
We say: Therapists radiate Disney levels of geniality. Don’t be perturbed by the seemingly serious nature of the programmes – it is just as suited to those who are after a facial. In a dim-lit labyrinth, surfaces are pricked with twinkling lights and back-pummelling herb-infused showers rage down. The Scottish love for the outdoors is reflected in activities like falconry, fishing and clay-pigeon shooting, so take your brood, and the dog – everyone will be looked after. Rooms pay homage to Scottish heritage without being tyrannised by tartan.
Try this: Eye Lift, £45. Sleepy, dark-ringed peepers are a giveaway of an evening in the whisky-toting bar. ESPA Lift & Firm Intensive Eye Serum is a quick-fix that helps for the long haul, too.
Rooms from £265; gleneagles.com
Limewood, New Forest
Best for: Those in search of the 'whole package'.
From the wondrous hotel surroundings to the food (renowned chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder are the talent behind the hotel’s Italian-influenced restaurant) and the Herb House Spa (all the treatments you can think of alongside a gigantic gym and pool). Yep, it ticks all the boxes... And then there’s the cocktail bar – a proper show-stopper that more than satisfies thirsts, too.
We say: Located in a separate building from the main hotel, the Herb House Spa is light, pared-back, with pots of lavender on every corner. This place is well ahead of the well-being game and the vibe is, as it should be, one of calm. Adding to the treatments is a fragrant roof garden that comes into its own during the warmer months and a deliciously healthy food bar – Raw and Cured.
Try this: The brilliant Bamford Signature Body Treatment. This cossetting two-hour massage extravaganza will leave you loose-limbed, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Rooms from £330; limewoodhotel.co.uk
Barnsley House, UK
Best for: City dwellers with rural roots.
Crunch up the drive of this postcard-worthy Georgian house and breathe a sigh of relief. Wellies queue up outside the front door, while inside, guests hunker down fireside, newspaper – and drink – in hand. In the manicured grounds, somewhere between the kitchen garden and cinema, you’ll find the standalone spa. Comprising little more than an outdoor hydrotherapy pool, a sauna, steam room, and a couple of relaxation rooms, there’s a feeling that the size and scope, is just right. That said, hours can be spent dozing and lolling, in-between a glorious Elemis treatment or two.
We say: Barnsley House is so wholesome, it’s almost shy. The air is still and the mood is gentle. Staff are genuinely eager to please, recommending treatments, dishes and walking routes with unabashed enthusiasm. Each room has a theme of its own (meant in the least sense of the word), though all are serenely styled, set with freestanding bath tubs, rainforest showers, crispy white sheets and every gadget and gizmo you could want. The Potager Restaurant delivers superb grub that’s free from pomp and ceremony. Night cap? Submit to the mixologists choices, he has some bizarre but brilliant iterations of classics: chilli and chocolate gin and tonic, anyone?
Try this: Exotic Frangipani Wrap with Salt Scrub (85 mins, £110) breathes life into winter weary bodies. It may be the aromatic scents that waft, or the rhythmic pummelling of the therapist (or perhaps both in synergy), but you’re left feeling suitably revitalised and ready for a trundle through the fields of Cirencester.
Rooms start at £209 barnsleyhouse.com
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The Body Holiday, St Lucia
Best for: An all-inclusive health overhaul.
With a dizzying array of activities, from salsa to sailing, fitness fanatics rejoice. Palm tree-lined paths lead from the beach to the clubhouse, to the Wellness Centre. The best part? All food and drink is covered. We promise even all-inclusive refuseniks will ease into the swing of things. The impossibly toned army of staff wax lyrical about tness trends and resident experts encourage you to get involved.
We say: Whether training for a triathlon or kick-starting a new regime, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from this break. The focus is on making the most of sun-drenched days, reclining on four-poster bed loungers or atop balconies where bounteous buffets are served – calorie counting doesn’t exist.
Try this: Those looking to foxtrot to fitness should book a spot on the June dance programme. Meanwhile in November, team GB swimmers (and husband and wife duo) Keri-anne Payne and David Carry will be running a SwimFit course, including everything from technique sessions to open water time trails.
Rooms from £392; thebodyholiday.com
Tri, Sri Lanka
Best for: Yogis old and new.
Perched above Lake Koggala, Tri is a masterclass in sustainability and design. Eleven pared-back suites sprawl across gardens humming with wildlife, and there’s an outdoor lounge for kicking back with a frosty martini. The property has been crafted from recycled locally sourced jak wood, the sleek pool uses ionising filters (in place of chlorine) and shower water is heated by solar power. Tear yourself from the lakeside views and discover the tailored yoga classes led by Quantum Yoga founder Lara Baumann Drummond. In the spa, treatments run the gamut from restorative Ayurvedic massage to healing sessions. Try a guided bike tour through the rice paddies or learn how to scale a coconut palm.
We say: There are no scary schedules here. Instead, your dosha (energy) is determined upon arrival and a bespoke programme drawn up to balance body and mind. You are free to do as much or little as you want. Evenings are best spent watching the sun sink beneath the water.
Try this: Breathe deep in one of Lara’s dawn yoga classes soundtracked by Buddhist chants. Her Quantum approach is unique and challenging – alpha-bendy types are pushed, but there’s no pressure for beginners to sweat. Treatment-wise, take a session with one of the visiting master practitioners.
Rooms from £222; trilanka.com. Qatar Airways flies Heathrow to Colombo via Doha from £476.47 return; qatarairways.com
Best for: Mind and body makeovers.
The brainchild of the London-based O’Shaughnessy brothers – one a Harley Street nutritionist, the other a mind and meditation expert, those who need a thorough boost arrive here in their droves. Intimate and focused, a maximum of 14 attendees are hosted at the 16th-century chateau, making it feel both exclusive and individual. There’s also an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which may have been a draw for previous guest Rebecca Adlington. After establishing your week’s eating plan with the experts (spoiler alert: there’s no refined sugar, caffeine or gluten), you can partake in as many (or few) meditation sessions, walks, yoga sessions, cooking demos and massages as you wish.
We say: Whether you want to tackle a sluggish digestive system or work on sleeplessness, the small group sizes and large ratio of guest to experts (you’ll have access to five of them) make this retreat feel very tailored. Guests may also book in for a UK-based weekly meeting with the brothers in London on their return.
Try this: A one-to-one meditation session with Cornelius O’Shaughnessy. Even the sceptical will be swayed by his ability to help you develop a more insightful and relaxed approach to life.
Programmes from £2,195pp per week; bodhimaya.com