Spa retreat at Ashford International Hotel
- Credit: Archant
Sometimes a mini spa break or pampering afternoon can be just what’s needed to recharge the batteries. Words by: Sarah Sturt. Pictures by: Manu Palomeque
So your summer holiday is a distant memory, the kids are back at school and the September pace of work is already taking its toll? If that’s a familiar feeling and you need a quick boost, I might just have the solution in central Kent.
The modern, conference-oriented Ashford International Hotel might not look like an oasis, but make your way to the far end of the lobby (or park at the rear for even easier access) and you’ll find the in-house Spa & Leisure Centre.
Michelle Hutchinson, director of sales, tells me that when Q Hotels bought the hotel in 2006, a key part of the refurbishment was creating new treatment and relaxation rooms. “Pre-spa days it was a very small leisure club with a tiny kidney pool, which we extended to 20 metres and then created the rest,” she says.
“Now for us each year it’s a critical part of the business, especially at weekends, when it generates a lot of footfall, and our day spa offers during the week are incredibly popular too.
“The spa is used for relaxation by business groups staying at the hotel for conferences and is also a destination choice for groups (hen, birthday and anniversary parties are hugely popular), couples and individuals.”
It was time to explore the spa – which seems tiny from the outside, but go downstairs and there’s a 20m pool, six treatment rooms and a team of 19 therapists, led by the dynamic Georgia Langmead, who went up the ranks from beauty therapist to spa manager within seven years. She tells me: “When I first started there were just six of us and now we’ve expanded as much as we possibly can. We are getting a new Eden Spa Lounge, which will be ready this year and offer a relaxation area away from the spa.”
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While Friday to Monday is the busiest period, every day is busy, especially school holidays. It’s not just the spa treatments either; 1,000 leisure members enjoy a range of options, including swim-only or swim and gym, plus classes such as spin, yoga and aerobics. Members also get discount on treatments.
Georgia, who lives in Ashford, can be found on site most mornings before work, as she takes part in Boot Camp in the hotel grounds. I wasn’t there for anything nearly as energetic, rather I enjoyed two hours of absolute bliss that restored me to such a state of floaty wellbeing that I missed all my own planned gym classes that evening.
But no contest between body pump and the two back-to-back 55-minute treatments I enjoyed at the hands of therapist Shelley Turner, who started me off with a much-needed massage. I was given a selection of essential oils to sniff and chose a restorative lavender essence with a hint of rose for relaxation and de-stressing.
I then had a wonderful eight-stage facial using the hydrating Espa Skin Radiance range, perfect for my dry skin. This starts with a nourishing cleansing balm, then creamy cleansing milk followed by a hydrating toner to refresh the skin.
A dry skin oil was applied as preparation for a brightening mask, then an intensive serum to strengthen the skin’s barrier function. The final layer was an application of Skin Radiance Moisturiser, to help nourish dehydrated areas.
Even my hair got its own treatment, with red clay worked through to the roots. I emerged pink-cheeked, glowing, eyes bright from the soothing eye lotion that starts and finishes the treatment, hair admittedly looking greasy for the first time in its bone-dry life (but wonderfully soft once washed out) – and very, very relaxed.
Go on, spoil yourself, you’ll feel recharged yet calm, and you’ll sleep like a baby.
Get in touch
Ashford International Hotel, Simone Weil Avenue, Ashford TN24 8UX. 01233 219988