Spa review: Whittlebury Park Spa and Hotel
Who doesn't deserve a spot of over-indulgent post-lockdown pampering? We checked in for the heavenly full works at Whittlebury Park's Spa and Hotel. And relaax.
It’s been way too long since we had a proper spa escape with the full valet service, so to speak, but with freedom on the horizon, summer in our bleary sights and the thought of that waffle robe cocoon and fluffy slippers in our hearts, we swung over to Whittlebury Park for a blissful overnight spa retreat.
At the edge of the pretty, quiet village of Whittlebury (my beloved childhood home, no less), bang on the Northants/Bucks border, Whittlebury Park boasts a whopping 700 acres of stunning grounds once used by King Henry II for hunting and jousting, stting shoulder to shoulder with Silverstone Circuit. Formerly a family farm, the landscape here was transformed in the early ’90s to become what it is today, incorporating a modern spa hotel, wedding venue, Championship golf course with driving range and pavilion and a picturesque camping and glamping destination that is always popular in motor racing season.
It’s a testament to Whittlebury’s appeal that it attracts visitors from far and wide (partly due to its location next to the circuit) but also that it’s a popular destination day spa with Northants residents too.
Relaxed and fuss-free. You can’t help but feel embraced by the unstuffy vibes here that tell you everyone is welcome. There is zero snobbery at Whittlebury, which is refreshing and means that everyone you encounter, whether staff or guest, seems to have a smile on their face. You waft around in your robe and slippers, from poolside to restaurant, and it all feels seamless and easy.
We were given a loose itinerary to give our day a bit of structure, which meant that no particular area of the spa got overly busy. If crowds are not your thing, now is definitely the time to make the most of Whittlebury whilst visitor numbers are being kept to a minimum. We had no problem nabbing a poolside lounger or a spot in the steam room.
It might be quicker to list what they don’t have. Step into the spa and the spacious reception area has lots of lovely sofas and chairs to lounge in whilst you have a cup of herbal tea and get settled. You’ll be given a wristband to automatically open doors and lockers, so no faffing about with annoying keys. As part of the Seventh Heaven Spa Stay we’d booked in for, we were given a fancy toiletry bag full of ESPA goodies to use in the showers, including an aromatherapy shower gel, facial scrub, moisturiser and body oil. The changing rooms have loads of space and lockers aplenty, not to mention hairdryers and straighteners, so a post spa primp is no problemo.
There’s a 19m swimming pool with a sauna, steam room and two jacuzzis. You can’t fail to be wowed by the intricate murals depicting ruined doric columns and desert scapes and that adorn the walls in the pool area, giving the whole thing slightly retro Roman baths vibes.
The Heat and Ice Experience is an absolute must, taking you on a journey through increasing levels of heat and humidity (a caldarium, sauna, salt steam room and crystal steam room – not for the faint hearted) before plunging you into a cold ice cave and bucket shower to really flush out all those toxins. Don’t worry, you can replenish those at the bar later.
Beside the pool is an informal cafe area and a shop in case you’ve forgotten your cozzie or gym wear. Speaking of which, there’s a state of the art gym as well as a great choice of classes you book onto, including hiit, pilates and barre fitness and if that’s not intense enough, there’s always the personal trainer to put you through your paces. Rest assured though, the nearest I got to a bicep curl during my visit was swigging fizz with brunch.
Hidden away up a flight of stairs, the treatment area is hushed and calm, with a spacious spacious lobby dotted with comfy seating to drape yourself in while you wait to be primped and pampered.
The treatment menu is pretty comprehensive, using luxe products from Elemis, ESPA, Ytsara, Payot and Jessica. I revelled in my 50 minute Elemis Superfood Facial, which is really nourishing and amazing for dull, stressed skin in need of perking up. I’m a big fan of Elemis products, a UK-based brand that has a really in-depth understanding of different skin types which, as someone with sensitive skin, makes a huge difference when putting your face in someone else’s hands. My amazing facialist knew her stuff though, and explained all the products she was using. The divine smelling Superfood Berry Boost mattifying prebiotic mask is definitely on my shopping list. After that, I may have allowed myself a little tiny snooze during my luxurious, tailored massage. Well, all this relaxing is pretty exhausting, don’t you know?
I’d happily have stayed the week in the spectacular Eden Suite, it was so comfy and spacious. I’ve lived in flats that were considerably smaller. It was quite a relief to be greeted with a bottle of pink Gardet Champagne on ice on arrival, as my lovely masseuse had instructed me to stay hyrdrated and I didn’t like to let her down. If you’re planning on a spot of entertaining while you’re here (and why not?), there’s a large dining table, desk, lounge area with leather sofas and even a fireplace, for that homely touch. ESPA toiletries and more fluffy robes grace the enormous bathroom, which has twin sinks, a large walk-in shower and a jacuzzi bath, just in case you haven’t had enough bubbles for one day. There’s also a coffee machine for the morning after, which is a non-negotiable, obvs, and gorgeous views across the grounds.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Murray’s, the hotel’s bijou fine dining restaurant, is a an absolute revelation and with 3 AA rosettes (that’s veeery good), this modern European eatery doesn’t need to shout about how fantabulous it is.
Canapés and pre-dinner drinks are served in a cosy lounge, so you can relax and peruse the menu before heading to your table. There are just a small clutch of gorgeously dressed tables in this intimate space, which gives Murray’s, a really exclusive feel. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine here, so it’s perfect for special occasions and date nights.
Head chef Harvey Lockwood is passionate about the concept of field to plate, using exceptional produce with a provenance in his artistically presented dishes. Soanes Farm chicken Caesar with Betts Farm leaves; Cornish sardines with Vale of Evesham heritage tomato; slow cooked hen egg with Smockington Farm spinach and Packington funghi (above) and Black Faced Thame lamb with Worcestershire broad beans and Buckingham asparagus were all sensational, but the real treat for me was the peach melba with raspberries from nearby Lutton Farm (below).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for? Total escapism. If you need to unwind, Whittlebury will have you floating on a cloud and feeling completely refreshed before you know what’s happening. It’s perfect for couples or as a girly break with friends. Also fab if one of you likes golf and the other would far rather get a mani-pedi and lounge poolside.
Not for? If you’re looking for an aloof vibe then this probably isn’t for you. Standards are sky high but it’s all about making guests feel welcome.
The damage: There are a wide range of spa packages to choose from, so you can tailor it to suite your budget. Spa days start from £99 per person, though we indulged in the the super-luxe Seventh Heaven Spa Stay (£319 per person) which included all of our food, drinks and treatments.