THE last time I was coated in mud for a spa treatment was in a hut on the banks of a Kerala backwater in India. A loop tape of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ was the soundtrack to an ancient, loinclothed tyrant daubing me with Ayurvedic gunge before swilling buckets of water over me. It ended with the irate masseur jabbering at me because I’d soiled a second towel wiping myself dry.
'You lie in all your mud-caked nudiness (couples have complete private use for the Rasul) on heated individual loungers and steam infused with natural aromas is introduced to the chamber'
I didn’t expect anything similar with my Rasul Mud Treatment at Grasmere’s Daffodil Hotel. After all, it had just scooped Best UK Spa 2014 in the Laterooms.com Best Kept Secret Awards and the ‘Rasul Ritual’ is their most popular treatment. So what does it consist of?
Follow me and my wife in our dressing gowns into the spa facilities that are the pride and joy of the recently renovated hotel on the shores of Grasmere (our room looked out onto reed beds, moorhens and the kind of landscape that inspired Wordsworth, who lived across the road in Dove Cottage).
Of Middle Eastern origin, Rasul involves a different kind of mud than that which clung to the Romantic poets’ boots in their epic mountain walks. You apply to yourself a natural, mineral mud product that comes in various flavours. We chose stimulating peppermint. There are three textures of mud for different parts of the body. The application follows a swift exfoliation session and then you lie in all your mud-caked nudiness (couples have complete private use for the Rasul) on heated individual loungers and steam infused with natural aromas is introduced to the chamber. Lights dim.
The brochure says: “The warmth of the steam opens the pores and allows the enriched product to enter the body, where it stimulates the blood flow, helps revive the tissue and stimulates the lymphatic system.”
I was totally relaxed and, with my naturally lax posture, slipped down the contour-shaped lounger so that when, after 30 minutes’ snooze, the power mist hit me from above it was in the face, not the targeted chest. Splutter! Still, better than a bucket. A full body massage after was among the best either of us has ever had.
Later, on our way back from our favourite Grasmere pub, Tweedies, 10 minutes away in the village, our canine companion, Captain Smidge, attempted his own mud treatment along the stream bank. Fortunately we’d brought his towels with us, so he didn’t sully a hotel which is kind enough to be dog-friendly. It is also so spanking new and modern it seems a bit of a cuckoo in Lakeland’s cosy nest (I almost felt a poem coming on there).
Yet The Daffodil, in an earlier guise, dates back to the very start of Lakeland tourism, when the Victorian public, inspired by Wordsworth, Coleridge and Co, got the taste for sublime landscapes. The original hotel, part of which remains after a major rebuild and refurb in 2012, was erected in 1855 alongside the road to Keswick that did much to open up the area to visitors. Later it became The Waterside before falling derelict.
Its rescuers are folk with a strong family history as hoteliers in the Lake District, but their modern creation is fascinatingly different from the chintz and oak panel stereotype. Each of the 78 rooms (do go for one with a Lake view) has its own special piece of individual art on the walls, while quirky caricatures and photo portraits of showbiz and arts legends line the hotel corridors. The swirly carpet patterns are a work of art in themselves. Outside, close to, it is slatily austere as it conforms to Lakes planning strictures.
It would be a great place just to chill, use the spa facilities and eat well (venison and scallop dishes are particularly recommended), but it would be a shame to neglect Grasmere, may favourite small hamlet in The Lakes. Here are a few brief tips on how to occupy yourself...
The best pub is the already-mentioned Tweedies, a buzzing craft beer mecca inside the Dale Lodge Hotel (separate entrance). Real cider, too, pub games and a woodburning stove for winter in a nigh-perfect package. Each September they host a beer festival (Hawkshead beers are the stand-outs) and a hog roast appropriately called Guzzler. As an alternative, back towards Ambleside on the main road try the dark-paneled Badger’s Bar in Rydal’s Glen Rothay Hotel, which also keeps its beer well.
Both pubs are dog-friendly, unlike Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, invitingly across the road from The Daffodil. You’ll be amazed how tiny Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s fascinating home, is.. How Sir Walter Scott, a famous and ample guest, miffed by the poet’s parsimony, squeezed through the back window to find a proper breakfast in the nearest inn, I ken not. Adult tickets cost £7.75.
For free you can visit Wordsworth’s grave in St Oswald’s churchyard, having picked up some Grasmere gingerbread at Sarah Nelson’s little shop next door to the church, which dates back to the 14th century.
I’d then visit Sam Read’s Bookshop – a civilised oasis where the only sops to Lakeland are tomes on Wordsworth and Wainwright and maps to aid your crag hopping. In 2006 it won the Times/Independent Alliance Competition for Best UK Independent Bookshop, but it has been around since 1887, when one Sam Read set it up opposite Grasmere village green, and has had only five owners since. Open seven days a week, except in January.
Across the road is the Miller Howe Cafe, which shares its name with the legendary hotel/restaurant of that name overlooking Windermere. The Cafe – owned by Ian Dutton, once Miller Howe head chef during its Seventies heyday under John Tovey – has just relaunched with a simpler, more rustic menu, featuring jacket potatoes and toasties. Just the thing after a few hours’ walk in the hills. Try Helm Crag. A moderate circular 7.5 mile walk will get you there and back in a little over four hours.
Just time to give your boots the full mud treatment!
The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, By The Lake, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9PR. Rooms are from £120 per night. We’d recommend spending a bit more to get a Lake View Room. Tel: 015394 63550, www.daffodilhotel.co.uk.
The award-winning spa boasts a relaxing thermal hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and tepidarium. There are three treatment rooms offering a wide range of expert therapies and products from the European skincare specialists, Germaine De Capuccini, which are found in the most luxurious of salons in London and throughout the world.
As well as the Mud Rasul therapy, which is a treatment unique to the Daffodil in the Lake District, three signature therapies have been developed exclusively for the hotel. These are the aptly named Lakeside Surrender, Cumbria Sparkle and Waterside Escape – the latter including the anti-ageing Kobido massage, which originates from Japan and was once reserved solely for royalty.
From January 2015, the hotel will be offering exclusive evening use of the spa for couples and/or groups where the spa is open for private use of all the facilities. Exclusive spa evenings can cater for two people up to a maximum of 25 and rates start at £175. (Throughout January, there will be a 20 per cent introductory discount on rates as well as on all treatments booked).
The restaurant overlooks the lake and the seasonal a la carte menu offers starters such as seared scallops with chorizo, black pudding, cauliflower puree and herb oil; mains including roasted cannon of Cumbrian lamb with roast shallot and potato puree, herb jus and buttered kale; and to finish, sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.
Grasmere is 90-mile drive via the M6 from Manchester, 95 from Liverpool. Or you could get the train to Windermere and hire a car or check out bus times (www.traveline.org.uk)
Useful websites for planning a Lakes holiday: www.golakes.co.uk and www.visitcumbria.co.uk.
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