Spa review - The Spa at Carden, Carden Park
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 February 2020
If you’ve never sipped Bollinger in a hot tub on a slightly grey afternoon in Cheshire – well, then you have the perfect excuse to book yourself into the Spa at Carden pronto
As one of Cheshire's leading luxury country hotels Carden Park near Chester has always been in possession of a respectable spa, but its new £10m purpose-built indoor/outdoor wellness Elysium, which opened at the beginning of the year, has taken things to a world-class level. At least that's the promise. And as you walk into the reception the stunning lobby, complete with sweeping staircase and water feature centrepiece, certainly says multi-million pound opulence. The rest of it, as we'll happily discover during the remainder of the day, follows suit.
My husband and I have both booked the 90-minute Five Element Aroma massage (I always make him have the same treatment as me to avoid any potential treatment envy). It starts with a quick survey to ascertain what essential oil blend is the right match for your current mood and the bespoke approach continues throughout. Too many times than I care to remember I've shelled out for expensive massages (I know, first world problems) only to be pleasantly but, ultimately, pointlessly stroked by a therapist who clearly has their mind on other things. My Carden therapist, on the other hand, seems to have sniper-like accuracy at pinpointing the knots in my back and then taking them out one by one. Hot stones feature briefly but, on the whole, this is a straightforward, excellently executed full-body massage. My husband's verdict was similar - 'One of the best I think I've ever had,' he says.
So, treatment over, and after a light lunch in the spa's Elements restaurant, the afternoon is ours to spend as we wish. Let's run through it in no particular order so as not to miss anything. There's the thermal suite - an area beyond the delightfully warm indoor pool that offers a range of experiences using hot and cold sensations. It includes a regular steam room, a salt steam room, Swedish sauna (hotter than hell), tropical showers and, aside from the other things I haven't listed, an ice-fountain from which you can literally take handfuls of crushed ice and rub it over your body… or throw it at your loved one, depending on how much you value your relationship.
Stepping outside, you can dive (not literally, it's not deep enough) straight into the heated vitality pool. With the water at a gloriously constant 37 degrees the air temperature becomes totally irrelevant. Stand under the ginormous tap for an aqua shoulder massage. It is only the brief seconds of rushing out and bundling yourself into your waiting gown where things get chilly. Heat things up further in any one of the three outdoor hot tubs. If you're lucky, you'll get one all to yourself - order yourself a bottle of fizz from the outdoor bar and while away the next hours until the sun starts to set and your skin turns prune-like.
Never ones to cut the fun short early we stayed in the main hotel, in the first-floor Woodlands suite. The huge suite - living area, bedroom, and bathroom complete with tv on the wall - is all contemporary country chic with a touch of luxe. We have dinner in the recently renovated Redmond's restaurant which is as refined and relaxing as everything else we've experienced throughout the day. I'm currently flirting with veganism and the vegan choices on the menu - two variations on chickpeas; a nice hummus for starters and a slightly disappointing chickpea burger for mains - are limited. Happily, my meat-eating other half faces no such limitations, ordering the scallops followed by the fillet steak.
We retire satiated and serene - the most relaxing day we've had in a long, long time.
Carden Park offers a range of overnight spa breaks from £145pp. cardenpark.co.uk, 01829 731000
So spa, so good
Three treatments for you to try
Garden Therapy At Carden Park
90 minutes, £125
A signature massage-and-facial treatment combining Elemental Herbology products with therapeutic herbs found in the spa's gardens and utilising grape juice from The Vineyard at Carden Park. Once you're utterly Zen you finish with a glass of Carden Park Estate Reserve sparkling wine in one of the spa's three relaxation rooms.
The Signature Oskia Glow Facial
90 minutes, £125
A radiance-boosting facial that illuminates, hydrates and tones the skin. Fragrant steam and aromatic compresses gently open pores while specialist face and eye massage techniques, lymph drainage and acupressure lift and firm. Finish with a warm rose oil mask, serums and a zen-inducing head and hand release.
Detox Booster Body Wrap
90 minutes, £105
Be cocooned in warm kaolin clay infused with rosemary, grapefruit and juniper berry on top of which is placed a thermal blanket. While the clay is doing its purifying thing the therapist will provide a head and feet massage to encourage, literally, top-to-toe relaxation. We'll be very impressed if you don't fall asleep.