Enduring more than a year of lockdown restrictions has been anything but relaxing.
Trapped indoors with nowhere to go, wracked with concerns about the ongoing health crisis, the past 12 months have been a strange mix of despair and hope, and now that rules are gradually beginning to ease, thankfully the latter feeling is winning out.
While foreign holidays are still off the cards at the moment, the recent relaxation of rules has opened up some opportunities to venture out and about - including a chance to enjoy spa days again.
When The Coniston Hotel, Country Estate and Spa in Skipton, North Yorkshire, reopened its spa facilities to visitors on 12 April, I jumped at the chance to enjoy some much needed relaxation.
The Nadarra Spa, meaning ‘natural’ in Scottish Gaelic, is nestled in a beautifully picturesque spot in the Yorkshire Dales, and sits surrounded by rolling hills, woodland and a lake, making it an idyllic spot for a bit of peace and tranquility.
The facilities include a 15m indoor swimming pool, a thermal experience including an infrared sauna, Finnish and Himalayan saunas, an aromatherapy steam room, indoor bubble pool and ice fountain, as well as a luxurious couples suite, including a double spa bath and mud rasul.
It also boasts a spectacular private spa garden which houses a relaxation pod, loungers and two outdoor baths, which command spectacular views over the lake. Guests can also unwind on the lake view terrace, with its warming fire pits and covered outdoor bar.
On my visit, my guest and I opted for the Wellness Spa Experience, which includes a welcome drink, a spa thermal experience, a Blossom Kitchen bento box afternoon tea or lunch, a 60 minute bespoke facial or massage, and a 45 minute outdoor bath experience, with herbal tea or a glass of fizz.
Before being allowed entry to the spa, we were asked to do a quick temperature check and fill out a short Covid questionnaire, just to check we had not experienced any coronavirus symptoms over the past few days, so as to ensure the safety of other guests.
Once the small bit of paperwork was out of the way, we were escorted to the private spa garden for the outdoor bath experience.
I was expecting to be greeted by a small jacuzzi bath in the grounds, but what awaited was two freestanding, copper roll top bath tubs on the cutest little outdoor terrace, complete with a hanging egg chair and two sun loungers.
The setting was idyllic to say the least, and when you throw in a pot of tea for two and a pot of strawberries drizzled in a zesty lemon sauce, it was hard not to feel my cares slowly ebb away.
Guests are given a choice of herbal teas to infuse the hot bath with, including Japanese Matcha, Rooibos Creme Brulee and Earl Grey Blue Flower, or you can choose to have seaweed or healing salts.
We both opted for the seaweed bath after being informed it helps with relieving stress and aches and pains, and we were left to soak with a cup of tea in hand for 45 glorious minutes.
Before making use of the rest of the spa facilities, we enjoyed a bite to eat in the Blossom Kitchen. As restrictions are on dining indoors are still in place, we were taken to the outdoor terrace for our lunch, which was sheltered by an overhead canopy and outdoor heaters and blankets were on hand to ensure we weren’t too chilly.
The Japanese-inspired menu offers plenty to choose from, including wraps, salads, mains, desserts and afternoon tea. I opted for the pulled pork wrap served with vegetable crisps, and a ginger and date pudding topped with toffee sauce and ice cream for dessert, both of which were absolutely delicious.
My guest decided to try the bento box afternoon tea, which included a pulled pork bao bun, vegetable spring rolls, fruit scone with pear jam and matcha clotted cream, and a selection of miniature cakes, complete with a choice of Suki teas.
While it was a stray from the traditional afternoon tea we’re so fond of in the UK, this unique take will definitely appeal to those keen to experiment with new flavours and try something just a little bit different.
Once we were full to burst, we headed off to enjoy the indoor section of the spa. Here you do a few lengths in the inviting indoor pool, ease your muscles in the bubble pool, or unwind in the sauna or steam rooms. Sadly, these were not in use on our visit due to Covid restrictions, but are due to reopen later this month on 17 May.
However, the outdoor infinity pools were in use and with the weather thankfully staying dry, we were able to take a dip in the soothing warm waters. And with the pools overlooking the woodland and lakes, it was hard to imagine a more perfect setting to truly unwind.
A bamboo full body massage with CBD-infused oil rounded off the day, which is supposed to be excellent for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. The therapist informed me that the massage would be more of a ritual than a massage, as she made use of bamboo for deeper pressure on the muscles, and guided me through several stretches during the 60 minute treatment.
Needless to say I left feeling significantly less stressed than when I went in, which is when you know a spa day has done exactly the job it was meant to.
Admittedly I was a bit unsure before I arrived as to whether it was possible to enjoy a day at the spa in the same way as before the pandemic, but my visit to Coniston proved that lockdown restrictions don’t have to get in the way of a good time.
All of the staff were so friendly and accommodating to ensure guests felt both safe and relaxed, and while masks did have to be worn while walking around indoors - including while lying face up during the massage - the rest of the experience was the closest thing I’ve felt to normality in a long time.
And what more can you ask for than that?
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