Last weekend Mr Welly and I packed our bags and headed north to spend a long weekend at Center Parcs‘ upmarket staycation outside Penrith.
It was to be a celebration of my father-in-law’s 70th birthday and although a little hesitant about the mass gathering ‘en famille’ (euphemism for loads of kids), it was actually more than just a bit #wellycool.
Mr & Mrs Welly Senior had generously paid for three rather plush lodges for all the family from Friday to Monday. Cute and bijou but deceptively roomy, each lodge was kitted out with high-end Villeroy & Boch bathrooms, modern kitchenette and comfy beds. Sharing with the parents-in-law meant that we could have fun during the day with the rest of the fam but gladly shut the door at night for a peaceful evening and lazy lie-ins.
Prepared for the mania that would ensue whilst at the Sub-Tropical Swimming Paradise (take that last word with a pinch of salt), I had pre-booked a Welly Review of the on-site Aqua Sana spa. With my ears still ringing from the cacophany of noise at said Sub-Tropical bath er, I mean pool, I gratefully entered the Aqua Sana and prepared to enjoy every minute of my three hour stint of rest and relaxation. The complete antithesis of course to the madness of water slides and childrens’ gleeful screams, I was pretty impressed with the sheer scale of the spa. The reception area was pristine and polished with plenty of room to showcase shelves of luscious spa products such as Decleor and Elemis.
The changing rooms were modern, bright and clean – just as you would expect when comparing with the lodges we were staying in. Robes and fluffy towels were stacked high and available to take – no limit on the number of towels a guest could use. Thinking of Center Parcs as a location for kids and families I’d kind of thought that the spa would be just an after-thought. How wrong I was. This was no simple sauna and steam room with complimentary swim – everywhere I looked there were doors leading into varying steamy, dark rooms.
Thankfully a member of staff (there were plenty of them flitting about in white plimsoles) gave me a brief tour and overview of each of the saunas and steam rooms. With 4 saunas and 5 steam rooms as well as an outdoor pool, there was a lot of relaxation to be had ahead.
Now, normally I’d usually have my camera and trusty notepad to jot things down but obviously surrounded by scantily-clad strangers I was of course bereft of all my journalistic tools. So, instead of pics by yours truly (probably not a bad thing given the dark light and my terrible photographic skills), below are a few press pics I was sent by the jolly nice chap in PR over at the Nottingham head office. And just so you get the Welly overview, I’ve supplied my own personal soundbites underneath each one:
Balinese Multi-steam Bath
“Drift away in the warm steam and therapeutic atmosphere. Lights glimmer and exotic aromas create a wonderful ambience.”
Welly thoughts: Cossie on, initially felt self-conscious lounging semi-naked on my tod in a steamy red room with other murky humans in the dark. Heady scents of jasmine soon encouraged me to get over it…
Indian Blossom Steam Room
“Inspired by the ambience of a Maharaja’s palace, this steam room improves circulation as the glittering lights and aroma transport you to faraway places.”
Welly thoughts: Pretty amazing decor here with some random frogs holding steamy court in the centre. I’m relaxed now and totally loving it. Get talking to two ladies from Northwich, Cheshire who come up here once a year for a girly get-together of wine and spa. Sounds perfectly agreeable to me.
Greek Herbal Bath
“This is a gentle and relaxing treatment with a mild temperature and average humidity.”
Welly thoughts: A drier heat, there’s a good mix of herbs roasting in the centre so yet more amazing smells. The intimate bucket seats which circle the slightly pagan central grill of smokey spices is somewhat resonant of a kinky scene from Game of Thrones so I decide not to linger too long…
“This is the classic Turkish Bath, inspired by the Ottomans and treasured across the Islamic world.”
Welly overview: Again, amazing decor, totes relaxing, lots of dreamy steam, nuff said…
Japanese Salt Steam Bath
“The Japanese have always known that ocean air works wonders for the respiratory system. Steam, essential oils and salt combine to create the sea atmosphere of this unique inhalation room.”
Welly thoughts: Not entirely sure what the whole salt block thingy was in the central pot but certainly atmospheric and added to the fantasty world of relaxation I was well esconced in by now.
“This very gentle heat produces a dry, relaxing environment that was a favourite with Roman Patricians.”
Welly thoughts: Other than ‘I wish I looked like that in a bikini’ this was possibly the least inspiring of the rooms but hey I’d already done enough herbs and spices in hot places so probably not a bad thing to tone down the exotic as I neared the end of my visit.
Once showered and dressed I floated back to reception where I took some pics and got the lowdown on prices and products. As far as Cumbrian spas go, I feel that this one is pretty good. The variety and quality of the experience is what makes it unique. The fact that it’s the polar opposite to the rest of Center Parcs also makes it a delightful retreat, if only for a couple of hours without the kids.
Prices: Classic spa days £158 for two from 9am to 6pm including lunch. 1/2 day packages featuring afternoon tea from 2 until 6pm at £110 per couple. For the choice and scale of relaxation within the spa, these prices are fairly reasonable.
Good for: Couples and girly breaks (and even lonely journalists). The spa openly welcomes non-Parc residents for spa days and beauty treaments.
Not for: Kids. In fact they’re just not allowed. Equally not the place for groups of blokes as there’s neither beer nor room for male bravado.
Aqua Sana Whinfell Forest, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2DW
To book your day or view special offers call 03448 266 200 www.aquasana.co.uk