GREAT Malvern. No I'd never heard of it either. And to be completely honest, aside from this one, incredible, little gem, there is absolutely no reason that anyone would have.
There are several descriptives I could roll off about The Malvern, words that run synonymously with a review of any decent spa hotel. Words like 'oasis', 'indulgence' and 'relaxation'. The Malvern Spa is indeed all of these things, but it is its little extras that make it really stand out.
The health club is where everyday stresses come to die. Not only is it extensive, featuring a spacious 50 station gym with integrated TV screens and iPod docking systems, but it also holds more than 30 classes per week with a full holistic programme including Spin, Pilates and Yoga. And although according to our taxi driver, many of the locals have a membership, the gym didn't ever get too crowded, despite my visiting during a detox double whammy – the January weekend boom.
Then there's the 20m hydrotherapy pool. I could write poems about this pool. I'd probably sell my kidney for this pool. It's both indoor and outdoor, if that makes sense, so you can swim underneath the archway and be out in the open air. This is particularly lovely of an evening, when the stars are just coming out and the air is a little cooler, but the pool remains a cosy 40 degrees. The vigorous bubble massage stations, powerful water jets, gentle hydrotherapy beds and spacious, relaxing booths are reason enough to visit.
There are also four different heat experiences: the salt grotto – a steam of rich, natural salt microns and negative ions reputed to have a restorative effect on the respiratory system, skin and ionic balance of the body; the crystal steam room – a large chamber with a fibre-optic ceiling display, infused with essential oils; the herb sauna – seasonal herbs and essential oils in a higher humidity sauna and the kelo sauna – a rustic sauna constructed from naturally fragrant wood found only in the Arctic Circle.
The treatments on offer span through the usual manicures, pedicures, massages and facials to the more unique 'life saving' back treatments, butt lifts and newest to the bill, CACI. I opted for a CACI non-surgical facelift, mainly out of curiosity, but also because I'd read that it works as a preventative.
Relaxing? No. Pain-free? No. Effective? Definitely.
I'm beginning to think I may (subconsciously) be a little on the masochistic side, going off my treatment track record. Yet if you are an advocate of that age-old beauty rule – no pain, no gain – then this could be your bag.
Seriously, the transformation was of Demi Moore proportions. My skin felt like a 2cm elastic band that had been stretched across the Grand Canyon. I didn't want to smile for fear that I might never be able to stop.
Later that evening, after several amazed looks into the mirror and some incontrollable face prodding, my guest and I had dinner at The Malvern restaurant. I'd heard extremely good things about the fine dining and traditional brasserie style cuisine produced within The Malvern's (rather tiny) kitchen, and for the most part I wasn't let down.
The food was presented with an impressive, artistic flair, a nod to head chef, Steve Rimmer's award-winning capabilities. The seasonal menu was filled with fresh, locally sourced and organic produce, my favourite of which was a delicious, roast hazlenut-topped pumpkin soup, drizzled with truffle oil.
There was, however, a slight glitch – my guest found a hair inside her chicken. We were both two prudish to send it back, so she 'ate around it', as it were. I don't want to be too harsh on this point, as these things happen and the rest of the meal and visit were of a very high quality.
Greta Malvern is 120 miles from Manchester. It is best reached via the M6 and M5, leaving at Junction 7, Worcester.
For deatils of the Malvern Spa, visit www.themalvernspa.com/.
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