Wave goodbye to winter and embrace spring – treat yourself to a pampering break at one of the region’s superb spas.


Aqua Sana Elveden Forest

Even the approach to Aqua Sana is a delight, with twinkling fairy lights flowing along a tree-lined path into a paradise of relaxation and pampering. Trees are an overarching theme at Aqua Sana Elveden Forest, which reopened last autumn at Center Parcs, after a lavish refit. It created a dream-like blurring of inside and outside, with myriad peaceful sanctuaries, steam rooms and saunas.

The spa is built around a pretty courtyard pool, the centre-piece of 25 blissful experiences ranging from a bubbling Japanese foot therapy bath to heated sinuous wooden loungers, floaty water beds and a succession of themed steam rooms and saunas. Wrapped in cosy white robes, visitors wander through two levels of perfect relaxation from forest floor to canopy, finding volcanic, Alpine and salt steam rooms, a Nordic sauna, rainforest walks, fireside relaxation pods and an ice cave.

Soundscapes of forest and sea, and glorious aromas waft throughout as guests glide from the heat of steam rooms and saunas into the deliciously warm water of the pool and out into the crisp, fresh air. Out in the hot spring gardens, hot tubs steam and bubble irresistibly.

Spa treatments include facials and massages. Unique to Elveden is the Tree of Life, a blissful full-body, deep tissue massage and facial, themed around trees and the local Anglo Saxon heritage. Using enriching Aqua Sana Natural Glow products it puts the treat into treatment; there are even jade green crystals to hold and take home.

Elveden Forest Aqua Sana spa is open for external guests for day spas, treatments and spa breaks. aquasana.co.uk/spa-locations/elveden-forest


Great British Life: Pure relaxation at The Pigs. Pure relaxation at The Pigs. (Image: The Pigs)

The Pigs, Norfolk

The Pigs at Edgefield near Holt has transformed in recent years from countryside gastropub into relaxation destination. The PigSpa has 18 rooms; for the ultimate indulgence, you can stay in the dreamy sounding Sty in the Sky, which has a roll-top bath, steam room, sauna and hot tub. Two friends and I booked in for a half-day session at the Garden Spa. Complete with its own hot tub, it’s like having your own private luxury mini spa for the morning or afternoon.

The Pigs pub is known for its quirky decor and that's continued in the Garden Spa. Reflecting its rural location, there are lots of rustic touches. The room was stocked with mini bottles of fizz, a selection of teas and coffees and filtered water. Fluffy robes and slippers were provided, and once we were changed it really felt like we were on holiday, not just a few miles down the road from home.

My poor, tense back and shoulders were very grateful for the session spent with brilliant therapist Mimi. There’s also a cabinet filled with divine PigSpa and Templespa products, such as face masks and exfoliators, which you’re invited to use during your visit. The Garden Spa provided a cosy cocoon on the chilly winter afternoon we visited, and would be equally gorgeous on a summer’s day when you can sit out on the private outdoor terrace.

Half-day spa: £90 per person (up to four people), includes exclusive use of the Spa Garden, with hot tub, for two hours, 30-minute treatment from the PigSpa menu, and two-course meal at The Pigs pub. thepigs.org.uk/pigspa/half-day-spa


Great British Life: Bedford Lodge hydro pool. Bedford Lodge hydro pool. (Image: Bedford Lodge)

Bedford Lodge hotel & Spa

Elegant Bedford Lodge hotel & Spa is set in beautiful grounds in the heart of the home of thoroughbred racing. Cosy, warm and welcoming, the aroma of essential oils wafts over you as you walk in. I was booked in for ESPA Time, a 60-minute massage treatment that would ease my tense back and neck, and a soothing facial. Everything is here; fluffy robe, towel and flip flops for you wander around enjoying all the facilities in comfort. I enjoyed the steam room with its large marble 'bed' in the centre of the room, large enough for three or four people to relax on. Then the sauna and hydro pool, a highlight with its invigorating jets (five water experiences), great for massaging tired legs and lower back.

There are 10 treatment rooms and a couple's treatment suite, where you can indulge in a range of ESPA treatents. The Tension Release Massage is a firm massage designed to help release tension and soothe aches and pains, using hot stones were the muscles are in need of extra heat to relax them and go deeper. All the facials are specifically tailored and include ESPA cleansing, exfoliation and a treatment specific massage, mask and intensive serum.

Afterwards you can relax in the spacious indoor chill out area upstairs, with comfy loungers overlooking the garden. For warmer days there's a small area for sitting outside, with a hot tub. bedfordlodgehotelspa.co.uk


Great British Life: Pure relaxation at The Spa Kesgrave Hall. Pure relaxation at The Spa Kesgrave Hall. (Image: Milsoms)The Spa at Kesgrave Hall

There's a distinctive Swedish look to The Spa at Kesgrave Hall as it nestles in the woods between Ipswich and Woodbridge. What better surroundings for a full body massage using Elemis relaxing oils? I felt myself begin to unwind as I was led to one of The Spa's five treatment rooms.Inside it was warm, with subdued lighting, and calming music playing. The massage bed was heated, the towels warm. Face down on the bed, I follow therapist Sylwia's instruction to inhale the vapour from a delicious mix of aromatherapy oils. I was ready for her to go to work. She began by applying pressure to the soles of my feet, which seemed to take pressure off my entire body. She then cleansed my feet with a warm towel, before beginning a firm but gentle massage of legs, back and shoulders, easing tension, unravelling knotty muscles, soothing aches and pains.

I took note that each of treatment rooms has two beds, which is great if you want to enjoy a treatment at the same time as a friend or partner. There's also a sauna at The Spa, and outside a hot tub, a wonderfully warm, relaxing experience even when there's a chill in the air. In mid winter, a real fire blazes in the seating area near the hot tub. Surrounded by beautiful tall trees it's a wonderful place to completely switch off for a while.

The Spa has some attractive packages for spa days and longer breaks, including a tempting After Hours Spa, just the thing after hard day at work. milsomhotels.com/spa-kesgrave-hall


Great British Life: Seckford Hall SpaSeckford Hall Spa (Image: Bushfire Photography)Seckford Hall Hotel & Spa, Woodbridge

Seckford Hall's Spa sits slightly apart from main hotel, and as you step through the door it's like entering a private world of calm and relaxation – cosy, tranquil, with soft lighting and a warm welcome. Seckford Hall is a beautiful Tudor mansion and the spa is housed in what would once have been stables or other outbuildings. Mellow brickwork and beams create an atmospheric setting for an indulgent spa experience.

My Golden Hour body treatment with Natural Spa Factory products was just the winter pick-me-up my skin needed; a dry scrub followed by an exfoliating polish, then a treatment combining grape leaf, pearl and caviar extract, and collagen. With its sparkles of gold this made my skin positively glow – perfect before a night out. A soothing scalp massage with pink and white clay left my hair soft and shiny the next day.

The Spa has a generously sized swimming pool, treatment rooms, steam room, sauna and a new Spa Garden, beautifully landscaped and very private with two hot tubs, a barrel sauna, ice bath and fire pit. Also new is a Rasual mud therapy room (under construction when I visited) for two to four people. It's a great group spa activity in which you apply minerals muds and scrubs to the whole body. A gentle steam then draws out impurities and removes dead skin cells.

The Spa has a lovely garden-themed Snug, with comfy loungers where you can relax during and after your spa experience, and enjoy free tea and coffee. Very cosy...very relaxing.



Great British Life: Relaxing by the vitality pool at Weavers House Spa. Relaxing by the vitality pool at Weavers House Spa. (Image: Weavers House)

Weavers' House Spa, Lavenham

The medieval Swan Hotel is something of a Lavenham icon and a magnificent setting for gem of a spa, Weavers' House. The perfect escape from our noisy, hectic modern world, the spa has been expertly planned into the footprint of the hotel, with its own private entrance at the rear. The facilities include tranquil treatment rooms, steam, sauna, outdoor heated vitality pool, relaxation suites and spa garden terrace.

The emphasis at Weavers' House is very much about wellness; treatments include body massage, facials, manicures, pedicures, packages designed to support pregnancy and menopause. Spa director Alex Hurt is also offering auricular acupuncture, a complementary therapy that can support the treatment of chronic pain, stress and anxiety, breathing and lung issues, and digestive issues.

It's a truly pampering experience. The treatment rooms have hydrotherm heated water mattresses and comforting duvets, and there are little treats along the way; a dairy-free smoothie shot in the spa lounge at the start, a refreshing post-treatment sorbet, and finally, herbal tea as you reflect and recharge.

My treatment was newly created for Weavers' House, Your Best You, a 90-minute aromatherapy massage which is designed to be particularly helpful for women at all stages of menopause. It uses Himalayan salt stones with TempleSpa skincare to support stress relief, increase energy, and positively boost mood. It begins with gentle stretches and joint rotation to ease aching limbs and tension, then a medium pressure massage, ending with a gentle lymph drainage facial.

Weavers' House is a boutique spa; hotel guests get two hours' complimentary use of the facilities and spa memberships are available. There are also some excellent packages for couples who like to build a short break around a spa day.



Great British Life: Massage at Retreat East.Massage at Retreat East. (Image: Retreat East.)

Retreat East, Hemingstone

Retreat East is a 'sustainable retreat', created from a former dairy farm. It has 26 barns and rooms, some converted from original farm buildings, others in purpose-built lodges. It caters for couples and families, as well as private occasions such as weddings, celebrations and corporate events. There's an excellent restaurant, and you can do activities like cycling, axe throwing, archery, gym, Nordic walking and yoga. And because Retreat East is all about getting away from it all, there's also a rather nice spa, with sauna, steam room, private showers, outdoor jacuzzi, cold plunge and rainforest showers.

The Elemental Herbology spa treatments focus on the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine; water, earth, metal, fire and wood. I opted for a Five Element Aroma Massage, which uses a customised blend of aromatherapy oils. Before the treatment, there's a short consultation about your preferences in terms of aromas and flavours (for example, woody versus citrus, sour or bitter versus sweet), your energy levels and health concerns, in order to ascertain your dominant element. For me it was almost a tie between earth and water.

The treatment begins with a steam inhalation of the essential oils selected for you, then some gentle stretching of limbs and 90 minutes of pretty firm massage – you're consulted about this too. The treatment room was warm and quiet, the aromatherapy oils did their work. The aim was to restore balance to the body and mind, and it did leave me feeling very calm, while muscles tightened by too many hours in front of a computer were considerably looser. Try it for yourself.