I am Jessica - not Georgie - do you have the right person? I am a luxury travel writer and spa reviewer (my new blog is www.jessicabaldwinjournalist.com)
I am Jessica - not Georgie - do you have the right person? I am a luxury travel writer and spa reviewer (my new blog is www.jessicabaldwinjournalist.com)
Wentworth Club Spa feature for Oryx magazine
My Quantum Spa,Hyatt feature for Oryx magazine
My latest feature for Oryx (Qatar Airline’s in-flight magazine)
How better to toast the royal baby than with the perfect glass of wine. Deep within the heart of Berkshire hides a Californian gem; The Vineyard at Stockcross. The five star hotel boasts a decadent spa, a delicious French restaurant, and over 30,000 bottles to wash it all down with. Unsurprisingly this classy retreat hides one of Britain’s best cellars and is a must for any serious wine-lover. Just a stone’s throw from Highclere Castle, The Vineyard is also the perfect base for history buffs and Downton Abbey fans.
High Street, Windsor
With undisturbed views of Windsor Castle, The Harte& Garter Hotel is just fifteen minutes’ drive from Ascot. Dating back to the 14th century the building boasts a rich royal history and was once home to two royal inns. Today the grand Jacobean style residence comprises of 79 individually designed guest rooms. Think high ceilings, beautiful cornices, marble fireplaces and roll top baths.
Ferry Road, Bray, Maidenhead
On the banks of the River Thames, under an hour’s journey from London, sits Bray - a town made famous for its rich culinary offering. It was the Roux family that first put this town on every foodie’s trip list, with their three-Michelin starred restaurant, The Waterside Inn. With a prime riverside location this world-class restaurant also offers beautiful guest rooms.
High Street, Bray, Maidenhead
Arguably Britain’s most famous restaurant, The Fat Duck is the ultimate dining experience, but its price tag and waiting list make this a restaurant for special occasions. With dishes such as snail porridge, sardine ice cream and the infamous meat fruit, this is more than just dinner – it’s a culinary adventure. Having worked so hard to get a table, why not go all out and order the 14 course tasting menu – but don’t make any plans after it – it takes over three hours to get through!
Rich in history this Relais & Chateau property has witnessed over 300 years of passion, politics and parties. Set within 376 acres of stunning National Trust gardens the house was originally created for the Duke of Buckingham and the grand property dates back to 1666. Over the years the grand country house has seen the likes of President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin and George-Bernard Shaw pass through its doors. Today it also offers a range of interconnecting and dog friendly rooms.
Milton Road, Wokingham
Set within acres of sweeping parkland and pristine lawns, this grand Victorian mansion was once home to the Marquis of Ormonde. Today the stylish hotel boasts 36 bedrooms and a fantastic restaurant. Within a short drive of Windsor, Henley and Ascot, Cantely House is a great base from which to explore everything the Thames has to offer. Its proximity to Lego Land, Thorpe Park and countless walks along the river also makes this a great hotel for families.
26 The Forbury, Reading
What could be more British than celebrating our new royal with a decadent afternoon tea? It was the Duchess of Bedford that originally introduced this tasty tradition to our shores, back in 1840. Today, Cerise restaurant, in Reading’s Forbury Hotel, serves up a glorious selection of cakes, scones, tea and sandwiches. If the sun is out request a table in the ‘secret garden’ and toast the royal arrival with a glass of champagne by the picturesque pomegranate tree.
Sitting proudly on the leafy banks of the River Thames, Spring Cottage was originally the Duchess of Sutherland’s summer house. Today this exquisite property, located within the Cliveden Estate, is available to hire as a holiday house and befitting of its past it comes with its own private butler! The beautiful three bedroom property really feels like a home- it has a cosy snug featuring an open log fire, a private garden and courtyard, a country kitchen complete with its own Aga and even a boat mooring for a Thames escape.
Now, a royal round-up of Berkshire wouldn’t be complete without Windsor Castle. As the largest inhabited castle in the world it offers a fantastic family day out. Arrive at 11am and you can watch the iconic changing of the guards before embarking on the castle’s free family audio tour. Home to a large proportion of the royal collection it is also a haven for art fans.
With over 70 acres of parkland to explore, Bucklebury Farm is literally a breath of fresh air. Jump on board the tractor and trailer and observe countless of deer in their natural habitat. Children will love getting up close with the animals; from feeding ponies and pigs to petting guinea pigs and rabbits. Then tire them out before tea with an adventure along the woodland walk or nature trail.
With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to explore beautiful Britain… on horseback. Yes, Britain is home to some of the best hacking around and with stables that cater to all abilities you could be discovering Britain’s best bridleways in no time. From walking through flower-filled meadows to galloping along deserted beaches, my round up of the best horsey holidays is guaranteed to have a hotel and horse to suit you!
In the heart of Scotland resides a magnificent French chateau, with a world-class equestrian school. With 232 lavish suites, the iconic five star Gleneagles Hotel is arguably the most stylish riding retreat around. With 50 acres of beautiful grounds to explore, the school boasts two heated arenas, a lecture room and thirty prized horses and ponies. Catering for every ability their endless activity menu comprises of pony days, trecks, private tuition and even polo lessons! For non-horsey counterparts this country playground also offers everything from fishing and falconry to shooting and gun dog training!
Feel like Lord or Lady of the manor as you canter around 500 acres of glorious grounds at Lucknham Park.The listed Palladian mansion dates back to 1720, is one of Britain’s finest country house spa hotels. Serious riders should book into one of their ‘specialist clinics’, run by pros in the world of show jumping and dressage. Alternatively, hack at a more leisurely pace on their ‘historic village horse ride’, the three and a half hour experience winds its way through the most picturesque villages, ending up at a horse friendly pub for refreshments!
Set within 200 acres of parkland this luxury castle hotel has sweeping views a tranquil lake, deer park and the extensive surrounding estate. With a rich history it offers a unique stately home experience and is a great destination for nature lovers. The hotel offers a range of activities including fishing, falconry, shooting and horse-riding, which takes place at the local Trekking Centre. As well as relaxed hacks, experienced riders can try out the estate’s fantastic cross-country course. After a tiring day’s riding, why not recuperate in the hotel’s spa before indulging in their acclaimed restaurant.
Christchurch Road, New Milton
On the edge of the New Forest National Park, this esteemed Relais & Chateaux property offers a traditional British coastal break amidst luxurious surrounds. For a room with a difference try their relaxing treehouse suites, and relax on your treetop private balcony above it all. This family-friendly hotel offers a range of activities, from beach picnics and kids croquet to mountain biking and kite flying. Alternatively, take in the stunning surroundings on four legs and book in for one of their great pony treks.
Just an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Crieff Hydro offers both stylish hotel rooms and self-catering properties for those looking for an active break. It also offers an unbelievable range of activities, from boat hire and bowling to archery to quad biking! Once you have packed the kids off on one of the 60 activities, book yourself a hack and explore the beautiful 900 acre grounds on horseback! They also offer hand-led treks and private and group lessons.
Ashdown Park, Wych Cross, Forest Row
Located within the heart of Ashdown Forest, this historic hotel boasts ancient stone arches, elegant balconies and roaring log fires. The 19th century mansion is also is a prime location for keen riders, with the nearby forest riding centre offering guests the chance to explore the 6,500 acres of un-spoilt heathland on horseback. After an exciting day’s hacking check out the hotel’s award-winning champagne list!
Lodge Farmhouse, Kings Walden, Hitchin
Set within 20 acres of private grounds, Lodge Farm House is just three miles from the beautiful historic market town of Hitchin. With a successful on-site livery yard you can pack your four legged friends for a Chiltern adventure. As well as stabling and feeding your horse they also offer extras such as grooming and riding lessons. With stunning country trails on the doorstep, ornate gardens and affordable yet stylish bedrooms, this horsey holiday is hard to beat. They also have separate on-site accommodation for dogs.
Peddars Way, Sedgeford, Hunstanton
bridging the gap between a luxury boutique hotel and a friendly country house B&B, Magazine Wood offers a stylish base from which to explore North Norfolk’s quaint villages, buzzy market towns and sweeping coastline. With Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path just a stone’s throw away it is a great choice for keen hikers. For those who prefer to explore on horseback, Mount Pleasant Riding School is just a short drive away and offers riders of all abilities fantastic hacking experiences.
West Compton, Shepton Mallet
This historic 15th century manor house is full of old-world country charm and stands proudly in its own glorious grounds. Warm your cockles with their hearty locally-sourced organic breakfast before heading out to explore the surrounding countryside. In true medieval style this manor boasts its own stables which guests can use for their horses if they wish to explore the local bridleways. For riders that crave a bit more adrenaline there is a great nearby cross-country course at Rosamund Green Farm.
Lake Farm, Sheepwash, Beaworthy
Offering affordable Devonshire breaks with a luxurious twist, Lake Farmhouse boasts cosy inglenook fireplaces, free WIFI and its own outdoor heated swimming pool. This B&B is a delightful insight in to traditional Devonshire life, with its own smallholding of chickens, lambs and pigs to help set the scene. Just a short drive from Dartmoor, guests can book up hacks to experience the heather covered moors and rocky rivers of this beautiful National Park first hand.
Ten of the Best East Anglian Retreats
East Anglia crops up more frequently in jokes than it does vacation plans – trust me, I am a Norfolk girl! However, with dramatic coastlines, quaint villages and beautiful countryside this unique part of Britain has everything you need for the perfect staycation. East Anglia is all about getting outside and exploring the fascinating landscape. My best childhood memories are off picnics and sailing in Suffolk and hiking across North Norfolk, and after an exhausting day a cosy b&b is just what you need to complete the experience. Here are my top ten bases from which to explore this fascinating region.
Suffolk is home to countless picturesque villages and lively coastal market towns and Kesgrave Hall Hotel is the perfect boutique base from which to explore them. The stylish hotel has 23 en-suite bedrooms boasting dreamy beds, fluffy towels and free Wi-Fi. Quote Britain’s Finest when booking a two night stay between Wednesday April 3rd and Friday August 30th 2013 and you will get upgraded to the best available room. You will also enjoy a complimentary full English breakfast and three course dinner on both days, plus one champagne afternoon tea. This exclusive package is just £190 per person.
In medieval times, the Suffolk town of Lavenham was one of the wealthiest towns in Britain, thanks to its lucrative wool trade. Today, the quaint timbre-framed town is home to a wonderful rural bolt hole; The Great House Restaurant and Hotel. The fifteenth century property has just five sought after en-suite bedrooms featuring plasma TVs and WiFi as well as a complimentary decanter of sherry for a warm welcome. Make sure you don’t miss its fantastic restaurant, voted as one of Britain’s top 100 by The Sunday Times.
Conveniently located in the heart of Cambridge, this historic building was once part of Cambridge University. Today you are more likely to find affluent couples on a romantic break than cash-strapped students studying in these walls. Having received a quirky makeover the hotel now features forty one bedrooms and suites decadently kitted out with hand sprung beds, Egyptian cotton bed linen and grand roll-top baths. As the name suggests, this hotel also has a fantastic wine collection to explore in its tasting room. Attracting over three million tourists every year, this historic university town is a great choice for culture vultures.
Located in Burnham Market, one of North Norfolk’s prettiest villages, The Hoste is the perfect pit-stop for weary walkers and wildlife lovers. The 17th century pub boasts 58 boutique bedrooms, each with their own character. Think Molton Brown toiletries, pretty balconies and decadent beds complete with goose down pillows. After a day exploring Burnham Market’s independent cafes, boutiques and galleries, head to the restaurant and work your way through their enormous wine list – 300 bottles no less! If you still have a clear head in the morning head to Brancaster Staithe for sea air and saltmarshes.
The quintessentially English town of Orford is situated on Suffolk’s beautiful heritage coast. Located on the banks of the River Ore, this ornate village dates back to the twelfth century and is a mecca for hikers, bikers and bird lovers. I love The Crown and Castle, the stylish retreat boats nineteen light and airy bedrooms, each with an upmarket country feel and most with generous 6-foot beds and en-suites. They even accept a limited number of canine friends so you can ring in advance and pack your pooch. The restaurant serves up creative dishes using the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Nestled between Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds on the Suffolk border, Tuddenham Mill is a hotel with a difference. Located within a traditional watermill the striking property perfectly marries traditional oak beams with sleek modern interiors. Their spacious rooms feature refreshingly high ceilings, exposed beams and decadently comfortable bedding. There is nothing more relaxing than waking up to the sound of the mill’s trickling water and the local birdlife. Alternatively, those after an adrenaline shot can go quad biking and clay pigeon shooting at the nearby activity park, Wildtracks.
Set in over three acres of landscaped gardens, Hotel Felix offers a stylish stay just a stone’s throw from the shops, galleries and restaurants of Cambridge. The four star hotel combines tradition Victorian architecture with thoughtful modern touches. Their fifty two individually designed bedrooms feature King Size Hypnos beds, walk-in rainforest showers and pay as you view movies. The hotel’s restaurant, Grafiti, serves well-presented Mediterranean fare amidst sumptuous surroundings and with the city centre just a mile away guests are spoilt for choice for dining out.
Hidden at the end of an elaborate driveway this former merchant’s house is the perfect crash pad for those wanting to explore the tranquil Norfolk Broads. The grand Georgian property boasts commanding views across the River Bure and exudes an informal country house atmosphere. Surrounded by eight acres of riverside gardens it is the perfect place to unwind and explore the local area which is abundant with wild flowers and wildlife. The hotel has just undergone an exciting refurbishment which it will reveal to the public on April 10th 2013.
Life in the historic town of Harwich revolves entirely around its busy quayside. Having received its charter back in the thirteenth century the town is steeped in history and boasts a lively nautical scene, with the busy harbour still offering regular ferry trips to Holland. However, if dry land is more your scene, book in to The Pier Hotel. Proudly located on the quay and you can take in the nautical views from the comfort of one of their fourteen contemporary rooms. Flooded with natural light the stylishly decorated rooms offer comfy beds, private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi.
Welsh Spa Challenges - Wellbeing Magazine
As if you didn’t need telling – the world’s top athletes are currently competing in London for the ultimate prizes in sport. And to build on the excitement Visit Wales is challenging people to head for Wales on holiday and try their hands (and feet!) at some medal-themed challenges.
This week there’s all kinds of excitement taking place in the swimming arena – including the 100m backstroke. But whilst the athletes will be ploughing up and down the pool we recommend you try backstroke of a different kind – how about a nice relaxing massage?
Wales boasts a host of enticing palaces of pampering – but don’t take our word for it. We’ve asked Welsh spa expert Jessica Baldwin to come up with her gold, silver and bronze spa challenges. We know it’s a tough job, but fancy having a go?
Over to you Jessica!
So here are my three challenges – if you’re in Wales this summer have a go and tell me how you got on!
BRONZE – Get slathered in seaweed
Perched on a cliff overlooking picture-perfect Carmarthen Bay, the marine spa at St Brides offers the ultimate coastal retreat. The hydrotherapy infinity pool melts seamlessly into the sea beyond with stunning views of Britain’s only coastal national park. You challenge is to try their Marine Radiance Facial! This organic treatment uses freshly harvested local seaweed leaves to nourish and soothe the skin and décolletage. Don’t forget to take a stroll along the dramatic coastal path which features everything from volcanic headlands to flooded glacial valleys.
SILVER - Discover Your ‘dosha’
You wouldn’t expect to find an Indian oasis set within 650 acres of beautiful Welsh countryside would you? Not only does The Vale Spa boast a Chai café and Indian inspired tented slumber lounge, it also offers a range of Ayurvedic treatments, designed to work in sync with your personality type, or your ‘dosha’. Your silver challenge is the Balanati treatment; after your dosha consultation the ancient healing technique of Shirodhara sees warm oil drizzled over your forehead and body, promoting peace and balance.
GOLD – Find a fantastic facial
With an idyllic location on the banks of a tranquil lake, Kingfisher Spa offers what I think is the most luxurious facial in Wales. You gold challenge involves submitting to this most wonderful of treatments. Using silk, diamonds, black truffle and of course gold, it promises to leave you looking younger and feeling like a champion in no time.
What do you think? Reckon you can crack them? Let me know how you get on in the comments below!
Check out the Visit Wales website for more information about holiday ideas and spa breaks in Wales.
More about Jessica
Jessica Baldwin is an award-winning travel writer and spa reviewer. Her travels have taken her from Soho to the Sahara in search of the world’s best spas and seen her try everything from a 24 crt gold facial in Tuscany to having her own blood injected into her face in Spain! But, with all of her family residing in the Vale of Glamorgan she regularly escapes London to explore the beautiful valleys and spa hotels of Wales.
Backed by coconut groves on one of Phuket’s most secluded beaches, the Surin’s idyllic location on the island’s west coast is hard to beat, and a recent revamp by acclaimed American architect Ed Tuttle has left the 103 stylish cottages looking dapper. The resort fuses traditional touches with modern amenities, with most facilities — including the five restaurants and bars — focusing on jaw-dropping views of the Andaman Sea.
Flights are available to Phuket International Airport (HKT) from major U.S. cities on a variety of carriers. Transfers to/from HKT, about 14 miles away, are approximately $38 for up to three people per car, each way, or $57 for up to six people per van, each way, and can be arranged through the property. If you’re renting a car for the transfer, self-parking is complimentary.
A Sinner’s Guide to Spa-ing: The New Year Retox - The Arbuturian
Wake up, it’s 2012. Yes, draw yourself out of your turkey induced comas, for January is the time we all pretend that we are going to change our lives for the better, drink less, eat less, spend less…isn’t it? Not this year. There is something seriously fishy going on when you consider that Gillian McKeith, the bean-eating health-obsessed nutritionist, is the same age as saucy temptress Nigella Lawson; I know who I’d rather look like. So with this in mind, I set out on a mission to discover the country’s naughtiest, most decadent and downright indulgent beauty treatments. Oh yes, welcome to the New Year Retox.
My journey began at the May Fair Hotel’s underground spa, home to London’s sweetest treatment. Upon arrival, the elegant hotel was brimming with spruced-up and somewhat intoxicated ladies celebrating Christmas. I was directed down towards the spa, and I was pleased to find the oriental inspired sanctuary provided an oasis of calm amongst the festive storm. As a friendly and unassuming therapist escorted me to the treatment room, I felt a pang of guilt; through no fault of her own, she was on dangerously thin ice from the second I slipped into my gorgeous paper pants. It had been a spa-filled week of reviews and my agitated skin was still crying out in pain from my last torture treatment, I mean body treatment, where I was excruciatingly exfoliated to within an inch of my life (and bones) at a spa that shall remain nameless.
The May Fair’s milk and honey body wrap promised to restore my skin and leave it velvety soft, but as she walked towards me with a bowl of coarse sea salt scrub, I thought I might cry. After a somewhat uncomfortable exfoliation, she coated me in the deliciously soothing milk and honey body mask which instantly cooled and relieved my skin. Despite many people steering clear of honey, it is actually one of nature’s great healers, with antiseptic qualities and the ability to attract water, it’s fantastically moisturising. And as for the milk, well if it’s good enough for the Queen of the Nile, it’s good enough for me; I haven’t bagged a king yet, have I!? As I lay on the bed, motionless and bound in cling film, looking somewhat like a murder victim, my therapist gave me a blissful head massage while I pondered what treatment could possibly be more calorifically indulgent than this…
With my new found silky soft skin, I jumped in the car and headed to the Hertfordshire countryside. I breathed in the fresh air and admired the rolling hills, feeling a little phoney as I kicked off my shiny new Hunters that had never seen a puddle in their lives, and prepared for the most indulgent treatment ever: Champneys chocolate body wrap. My spa day began with lunch in the restaurant, which was an ironic affair as I was guided through the healthy options and correct ratios of protein, carbohydrate and vegetable; I would be drowning in chocolate soon enough – oh and what a way to go!
Okay, so I can’t pretend that chocolate is a ‘superfood’, but the delicious treat is packed full of antioxidants which protects the body from ageing, so next time you see Nigella nip down to the kitchen in her negligee to lick the spoon, you know why she looks so smug (and young). As I excitedly climbed into my paper pants, I was almost shaking with anticipation as the therapist arrived with a giant bowl of chocolatey goodness and a paint brush. First she scrubbed my skin with sugar (as if the treatment wasn’t naughty enough), then having painted me from head to toe in the warm ooze and wrapped me up in foil, she gave me a sublime coconut oil head massage; I felt like a human Bounty bar. When she woke me up (yes it was that good), she directed me towards the shower where I battled with the thick paste; it’s true, chocolate really does cling to your hips!
“Does anyone ever taste it?” I shouted from the shower. “A few silly people do, but it’s mixed with moisturisers and shea butter,” she explained, “so it would taste horrible.” I laughed and agreed, “Yes, some people are so silly,” I said, desperately trying to rinse out my mouth.
With the taste of manky moisturiser still fresh in my mind’s palate, I headed towards Sofitel St James’s So Spa to wash my mouth out…with gin! Bring on the Martini Manicure. Some things just fit; steak and red wine, coffee and dark chocolate, Torvill and Dean, and now the martini and manicure (I am less sure about the spa’s ‘Pint and Pedicure’ but hey ho). As my friend and I sat at the manicure station eagerly awaiting our cocktails, we couldn’t help but feel just a little bit Sex and the City: “No, I would be Charlotte, you would be Samantha”, I said. “But Samantha is a scary nymphomaniac?” she replied, looking a little hurt. “I know…oh look, our cocktails.” Phew, saved by the gin. I watched my friend sipping her cocktail all too precariously, “Don’t worry sweetie,” I said, “gin is good for you, I found a website that says it is good for arthritis, losing weight, your bones and your heart,” and even as I said this, I knew it was rubbish, but it tasted delicious. As we exited the hotel with our five-star manicures, I spotted the afternoon tea room overflowing with ladies who lunch and enough cakes to feed a small army. I think I have found my next fix.
On the final day of my New Year Retox, with a sore gin-soaked head, I made my way to London’s very own secret Moroccan retreat, The Spa at Dolphin Square. The perfect place to subdue a hangover, the dimly lit spa is stuffed with intricate wooden carvings and luxurious velvet clad relaxation rooms adorned with flickering candles in which to collapse. I was here to experience the ‘Spa and Mmm’, a three-hour ritual encompassing a range of pampering treatments and tasty treats. Ironically, my treatment started off more like spa and hmm than spa and mmm. As I fought my way through the salt-infused steam room and sat down, I took a deep breath, ready to relax, only to be collected two seconds later for my next treatment; hmm, either there was some confusion over my 15 minute steam, or I had just found Pimlico’s very own time capsule.
Hey ho, onto the rhassoul ritual. After being caked in clay from head to toe, the therapist attempted to open the door to the rhassoul heat room, but hmm, we were locked out. I panicked a little as my body began to stiffen like a Covent Garden mime artist, but after five minutes, two therapists and one knife, I was in. Hooray! I sat in the steamy chamber and let the rhassoul mud get to work. Literally translating as ‘the substance which cleanses’, the rich mud found deep within the Atlas Mountains can absorb its own weight in oils and toxins, making it incredibly detoxifying.
So, with a toxin-free blank canvas to play with, I popped into the tepadarium relaxation room for the next treat(ment): a glass of chilled champagne and a plate of delicious goodies; now that beats wheatgrass and carrot sticks any day.
The Milk and Honey Body Wrap is available from the May Fair Spa, at £99 for 1 hour. For more information, visit the website. The Chocolate Wrapper treatment is available from Champney’s Tring, priced at £65 for 55 minutes. For more information, visit the website. The Martini and Manicure treatment is available at the So Spa at the Sofitel St James, priced at £45. For more info and further treatments, visit the website. The Spa & Mmm day treatment package is available from the Spa at Dolphin Square, priced at £125. For more info, please visit the website.