It isn’t often I embrace a hotel gym so wholeheartedly but there was something about the brand spanking new gym at Mallory Court which made it irresistible. England were playing rugby, so I could be inspired by their fitness feats from the treadmill, there was a lovely spa to sooth my tired limbs in afterwards and as we’d just come from feasting at sister hotel Brockencote Hall and were about to enjoy another hefty dinner here, it seemed sensible to try and work off a few calories in advance. And, excitingly, I had the gym all to myself, so I could pretend I was a millionaire working out in my own home.
All most unlike me, I have to say, and within a couple of hours normal service was resumed as I lounged in the outdoor hot tub and wondered whether to visit the pool, the steam room or the sauna next?
It was a bright February afternoon and the sun was shining on Mallory Court and its 10 acres, its gardens in hibernation now but promising to be stunning in summer. Mallory Court, part of the Eden Hotels Collection, is just a few miles from Warwick and its spectacular castle and was built around 100 years old, being converted from a family home into a hotel in 1976.
I hadn’t meant to embark on an impromptu Champagne cocktail-tasting session just after breakfast, but in keeping with the overall spirit of relaxation and pampering at The Greenway hotel and spa Cheltenham it seemed the right thing to do.
It was my first time at the luxury Cotswolds hotel and indeed my first time at any hotel owned by The Eden Hotel Collection (there are eight in total) and I hadn’t a clue what to expect. It was only once I was there that I actually told anyone I was going, and instantly a friend posted on Facebook: ‘Lucky you! I think it’s the best spa in Cheltenham’, which was a promising indication I was in the right place.
The signs had been good from the very start. There was an imposing gate and lengthy driveway – the hallmarks of a country house hotel – and the instant we parked two people came out to greet us and help with our bags. The concierge, Chris, checked us in and showed us to our room with the minimum of time and fuss, which meant that, much to my surprise, I was bang on time for my spa appointment. Handily the Elan Spa at Greenway is located inside the hotel, so it’s incredibly convenient, unlike others where a spa visit is a trek to another building (in fact our bedroom was just above the spa).
You would have to start pretty early and finish late to be able to squeeze in the maximum amount of relaxation possible at Nirvana Spa near Reading.
I spent who day there and yet when it was time to leave I realised I still hadn’t fallen asleep on a poolside lounger as I’d planned, nor read the Sunday papers that I’d been lugging around with me all day, or even tried out the futuristic-looking endless swimming pool lanes which let you swim against a current rather than having to turn at every end. So what on earth had I been doing all day?
My friend Lisa and I arrived at the spa as planned at 11am (in spite of the best attempts of my phone’s satnav) having driven from London, but the spa is open from 8am at the weekends and 6.45am during the week.
It is always a good sign when you can start to feel your shoulders unwind just on walking into reception and there was indeed a very relaxing air to the place, from the smells and the music to the sight of the large hydrotherapy pool through the glass wall.
It was when I was hiking along the North Devon coast on my own, in the rain, in voluminous waterproof trousers, that I started to question whether this weight loss boot camp was worth paying £2,500 for.
I was halfway through a week at NuBeginnings, the self-styled ‘boutique boot camp’ which promises to help you shed pounds. Apparently no-one has ever failed to lose weight during their stay. This was a powerful incentive to keep on marching through the mist after my personal trainer who had disappeared in the mist over the next hill, but it did come at a price.
There are worse things to do on a Monday morning than to be out in the glorious sunshine being taught how to play golf by a rather charming golf pro at the Centurion golf club.
Thankfully, said pro – Nick Ansell – did not seem to mind that almost all of my previous golfing experience had been on the crazy golf courses at Bognor Regis, Bournemouth, Boscombe and several campsites in Northern France.
In fact he could not have been more welcoming and friendly, which was just as well as the brand new Centurion Club, just a few miles from St Alban’s, prides itself on being extremely welcoming and friendly, particularly to women.