‘Spa resorts remind me of prison, but I’d happily do another stretch’


In the Sensory room, there are even comfier, beanbaggy seats, all facing a giant cinema screen. Sadly, all that’s playing is a load of luminous fish and serene-looking turtles on a tropical reef (I keep expecting a shark to appear).

Finally, for the truly hardcore, there’s the Deep Relaxation room: dark, hushed, with seats replaced by loungers, warmed by a lovely fake fire and with LEDs twinkling in the ceiling like posh fairy lights, it’s an anti-Narnia, where it’s always time for a post-Christmas-lunch nap but never winter. 

Forty to 80 winks later, I try out the spa’s Thermal Experiences: a Byzantine complex of rooms which run the gamut from uncomfortably hot to unbearably hot, and in every possible permutation of ickily damp and blisteringly dry.

There’s a terrific restaurant, too, called Elements, where I have a chocolate and miso tart that is way too splendid to be good for you; but I can put off the inevitable only so long. I have an appointment with Lydia.

After a few questions about things such as my skin type (“Humanoid,” I assure her), she leads me to her lair. I have a massage and a facial – the latter is like a massage but as if your face were a tiny person. The sensation is like having make-up applied by a child who wants to try out all the make-up, because the process is: something gets applied to my cheeks, eyelids or lips, it gets gently rubbed in, then something else gets applied on top, then repeat. There’s a nice bit where something very warm hovers over my face, but when I sneak a peek, it appears Lydia has donned a pair of oven mitts. (She does my face with them, too; it turns out they are more like pan scourers, but ones you have been using for a couple of weeks, so they are not as abrasive as they might be.)

The body massage, however, is world-moving. Lydia’s hands have an uncanny magic in them. There’s no nonsense talked about wellness journeys or healing rituals, just an honest-to-God miracle of manipulation, the effects of which I can still feel days later.

I may not be ready for the full Damascene conversion just yet – there are aspects of the spa experience that remind me of a messianic cult, if not a prison – but if every treatment feels as good as that massage, I could certainly do another stretch.

How to do it

Spa breaks at Carden Park Estate (01829 731000; cardenpark.co.uk) cost from £180 and include an overnight stay, a half-day Spa Garden and Thermal Experience, and a £30 dinner allowance. The nearest station is Chester, served by Avanti West Coast (avantiwestcoast.co.uk)


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