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The UK’s best spa towns: Where to stay for restoration and relaxation in 2024

Simon Calder’s Travel

Not that long ago, the highlight of a trip to a UK spa town would have involved an iced bun in some olde worlde tea shoppe. Now, happy days, thanks to a revival in British bathing culture, your highlight is more likely to be a proper pummelling by hydro jets in a geothermal pool followed by a hammam steam.

Take The Gainsborough Bath Spa in the heart of Britain’s best-known and arguably most beautiful Georgian spa town. Upstairs you have all the bells and whistles of a five-star boutique hotel, but in the cavernous basement, the Spa Village taps directly into Bath’s natural geothermal springs, which are infused with a cocktail of minerals, including calcium and magnesium.

Ever since the early Celts and Romans cottoned onto the health benefits of this mineral water, Bath has been at the centre of British social bathing.

The Spa Village at the Gainsborough allows guests to access the natural thermal water of Bath

(The Gainsborough Bath Spa)

“Taking in the waters” has fallen in and out of fashion over the centuries, but even the bathing-mad Victorians couldn’t have foreseen this latest incarnation in The Gainsborough Bath Spa. It features a suite of “bathing experiences”, from warm balneo pools, a lavender-scented ice alcove, infrared and dry saunas, and a hammam steam room to a flotation pool where hydro jets are powerful enough to unknot the most clenched tech neck.

On arrival guests are handed a pouch filled with Himalayan salts infused with the aromatherapy “mood” oil of their choice, from Rebalanced to Revived and Joy (How could you not choose Joy?). The idea is to inhale the pipe-clearing salts as you work your way through the hot and cold bathing circuit, letting the mineral-rich waters work their magic.

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Overnight guests can use the bath house until 9pm in the evening, when you can float in the mineral pool and gaze up at the stars through the atrium glass ceiling. In keeping with European bath house culture, new spa treatments include a Mud Detox from luxe Hungarian skincare brand Omorovicza, which involves a vigorous scrub with a gloopy balm comprising almond oil and Dead Sea salt, as well as a full body mud pack and a massage with a rich, firming body oil, which leaves you pie-eyed and ready for the best sleep of your life.

Of course, ordering a bespoke gin and tonic (with a cinnamon stick…

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