Short break - Appleby Manor Country House Hotel

Appleby Manor

Appleby Manor - Credit: Ben Barden Photography Ltd.

Appleby Manor, a gem of a country house hotel, now has a sparkling new spa. Emma Mayoh went to stay

Appleby Manor

Appleby Manor - Credit: WittWooPhoto

When floods hit Cumbria at the end of last year, communities across this beautiful part of Britain were devastated. Homes were left waterlogged and damaged, historic monuments and buildings were destroyed, areas were cut off and business suffered. As the waters began to subside, the rallying cry came that Cumbria and the Lake District were still open for business. One of those communities was Appleby, arguably one of the worst hit when the River Eden burst its banks, filling the streets with fast-flowing water.

But like all the best places, the people who make up this community were not beaten. I discovered this when I visited Appleby Manor Country House Hotel, an exquisite Victorian property perched above the main village. Originally named Garbridge House, it was built for wealthy solicitor John Alcock Heelis and the construction was overseen by noted architect Octavius Hansard.

Today, you can still enjoy those stunning vistas over Appleby Castle and the Eden Valley that John Heelis loved so much. You can enjoy them from the public rooms or from the hotel’s award-winning gardens – something to be more properly explored in the warmer months.

Today, Appleby Manor is under the stewardship of the Dunbobbin family who bought the hotel in 2000. It has been their vision and the refurbishment of the property that has given the hotel its AA 4star rating.

Appleby Manor

Appleby Manor - Credit: WittWooPhoto

Their latest investment is the new £1 million Garden Spa. It has been built in the grounds of the hotel and gives residents as well as day customers the perfect chance to pamper and preen.

I was treated to a massage but there are plenty more to choose from including an intriguing kind of variety that uses hot lava shells. While I would love to say my treatment was a relaxing experience, it wasn’t. But neither was it supposed to be, it was designed to remove all of those pesky stresses and strains – and knots - from your body. I floated out of the treatment room afterwards, free of the back ache that has plagued me for as long as I can remember. Bliss.

I headed straight for the aqua thermal journey, a thoroughly more Zen experience that had a salt inhalation room, sauna and steam room at different heats designed to cleanse the skin. There is also a hydrotherapy pool.

Particularly novel were the two outdoor spa baths – one in a small but perfectly formed garden area with fire pits to keep warm in the winter. Sitting outside looking up at the stars felt wonderfully indulgent.

Seafood tian

Seafood tian - Credit: Ben Barden Photography Ltd.

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There is, of course, more to Appleby Manor than the spa. Chef Chris Thompson creates top notch food for the AA Rosette Oak Room Restaurant – there is also the informal 1871 Bistro.

The starter of seared breast of wood pigeon and my main of sirloin of Lakeland beef was something I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Our room, which had some of the lovely views, was chic yet comfortable and had many luxury additions including a Jacuzzi bath with its own television.

After such extensive flooding in the area you might expect we would have been rattling around in this great country pile during a stay on a bleak winter weekend. Not a bit of it. It was encouraging to see a place so well used, despite the market town’s recent misfortunes. I implore you to keep it that way.

A one night Blissful Spa Break, which includes bed and breakfast, a three course bistro dinner, unlimited access to the thermal suite and a one hour treatment, is priced from £139pp in a classic double from Sunday to Thursday or £149 on Friday and Saturday. Upgrades from £30 per room for garden view or deluxe.