20 of the best spa hotels in the UK for a weekend of wellness

The Scarlet - one of the best spa hotels in the UK
The Scarlet - one of the best spa hotels in the UK

You used to have to travel far and wide to find the real-deal spas, the temples dedicated to mind and body sprawling over several floors, the Ayurvedic 'journeys', the outdoor thermal spa villages and hydrotherapy suites you can spend hours in emerging the other side, reborn.

Not anymore. After a quick car or train journey you can find yourself floating on your back in an outdoor pool looking up at the sky before hot footing it inside to the toasty sauna. You can flip flop between impressive indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pools, swim through open-air infinity pools with views onto surrounding English parkland. You can go subterranean to be slathered in rejuvenating, mineral-rich Scottish seaweed or even take a bath in the stuff flown in daily from the Hebrides.

Yes, spa breaks in this country are easier than ever to book. Whether that's for a spa day in London, or a weekend spa break in the Lake District or the Cotswolds, here's our pick of the best spa hotels in the UK.

How we review

Every hotel in this curated list has been visited by one of our expert reviewers, who are usually hosted on a complimentary basis. They stay for a minimum of one night, test at least one meal and trial other experiences (in this case, for instance, the spa) that the hotel might have to offer. We will earn a commission if you book via the links below, but this never affects our rating. 

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Beaverbrook might date back to 1866 but it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously – as evidenced in its spa which was designed by Brian Clarke in a refreshing riot of colour. There are six treatment rooms all designed by Clarke and based on a different flower found on the estate, with experiences ranging from the classic (the Relaxation massage delivers exactly what it promises) to the more ‘out-there’ choices including a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, and intravenous ‘infusions’. If weather permits, the checkerboard-bottomed outdoor pool is the place to be; overlooking this is the indoor pool. The thermal suite has a whirlpool, steam room and sauna.

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Best for winter spa breaks: The Gainsborough Bath Spa

Thermal waters are the draw at The Gainsborough (it’s the only hotel spa in Bath with direct access to them) and its Romanesque Spa Village is quite something. There are three substantial pools in which to wallow – the largest set under a glass-roofed atrium – as well as saunas and a steam room and 11 treatment rooms offering a wide range of massages and Asian‑influenced therapies. All guests can book a complimentary Bath House experience at the Spa Village (with access to the natural thermal pools) between 9am-5pm.

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Best spa hotel for families: Calcot & Spa

The sprawling and spacious spa complements this extensive country house retreat – all dreamy cream furnishings, soft sofas and crackling fires – with its seven relaxing treatment rooms, heated outdoor hot tub, indoor slate-lined pool and large outdoor pool. Children are welcome in the spa here at generous set times, but they also have four hours a day in the childcare provided 'Play Barn' so a perfect chance to have some peaceful spa time. Treatments include an Aromatherapy Associates Immune Support boost massage which uses a blend of essential oils of tea tree, eucalyptus and pine to provide relief and support a healthy immune system; ELEMIS facials and massages; and CACI cosmetic experiences.

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Best romantic spa hotel: The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is firmly in the indulgent break category. Set beside a wooded private lake, its swanky private Spa Suites offer cosseting boutique hotel luxury combined with stress-busting seclusion. Each cedar-clad cabin is 6ft above ground for show-stopping views across the Lake District fells. There are log fires, state-of-the-art music systems and sitting rooms that convert into treatment rooms for massages à deux. Upping the spa game are the five Spa Lodges which feature private walled gardens with a hot tub, steam room, sauna and separate treatment room equipped with infrared lounge beds and a massage chair. Gilpin Lake House, for groups of up to 12, has spa facilities and an indoor pool.

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Created by the Soho House group, this is not your standard rural retreat: a boutique hotel meets Canadian wilderness cabin meets American country club. What was once a derelict farm has been transformed with some 40 reclaimed timber cabins flanking four man-made lakes and the original 18th-century farmhouse buildings. The facilities are without peer – from the Cowshed spa with sauna, hammam, hot tubs and a broad range of treatments, to the luxurious cinema, cookery school and spacious gym and spinning studio. Add to this an indoor and outdoor pool, boating lake, tennis courts, football pitch, horse riding and the outstanding “Teeny Barn” kids' club.

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Best spa hotel with an outdoor pool: Cliveden

There are country house hotels – and then there’s Cliveden. The National Trust property’s spa is set around its listed, heated outdoor pool – the spot where John Profumo notoriously first met Christine Keeler – which is edged by lawn, lined by sun loungers and overlooked by two hot tubs. Yet more loungers look out into the garden from behind glass, with every other day bed separated by a floor-to-ceiling curtain. Past that, a collonaded, marble room is home to the heated indoor pool, whirlpool tub, steam room and infrared sauna.

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Best dog-friendly spa hotel: The Gleneagles Hotel

Set in one of the Highlands’ prettiest locations, Gleneagles’ spa is known for its crack team of practitioners who nudge you back into wellness via tailored diet, fitness and lifestyle programmes. The range of treatments cover every conceivable face and body treatment; go for The Long Exhale, a two-hour massage that involves a foot scrub using a mixture of honey, salt and heather seeds followed by a full body massage. With saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy vitality pool and superb relaxation areas, you may never want to leave. Dogs are very welcome here and will be provided with a dog bed, foam duvet, plastic floor mats with two bowls and a poop scoop set (there's even on site kennels if you would prefer).

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The state-of-the-art spa, cut from polished cream stone, complements the elegant Georgian mansion and its extensive surroundings. You can easily spend a whole day there, luxuriating in an indoor pool embellished by a panel of flickering fire, an array of thermal suites (including a Japanese salt steam room, jasmine-scented amethyst room, a eucalyptus-infused steam room, a tepidarium and a sauna); and eight therapy rooms. The indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool allows dippers to swim through to an open-air infinity pool with views onto the surrounding parkland and arboretum. There's also a private outdoor area with saltwater plunge pool for those having treatments.

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You will find this modern, funky, and oh-so quiet spa deep below the hotel, which is located in a prime, tranquil site overlooking a leafy square in Glasgow city centre. Many of the marvellous treatments are based around mineral-rich Scottish seaweed – you can steam, swim or relax in a bath of the stuff flown in daily from the Hebrides – like ishga (Gaelic for ‘water’) skincare, which makes its products using antioxidant-rich organic seaweed and natural spring water from the Isle of Lewis. Hotel guests get complimentary access to the Thermal Experience; a circuit of wet and dry, warm and cold rooms.

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During Galgorm’s Celtic Sauna Ritual (spa circuit) there’s a choice of things to admire – from the picturesque grounds through the sauna window, to the staff wafting oil-infused steam around the room with a towel – while participants simply sit and inhale. The outdoor thermal Spa Village is a watery wonderland (do pack your swimming gear). It has a large pool (with a polished pebble floor to massage pressure points in your feet), indoor and outdoor thermal spa pools, an ice room where you can slather shards of ice over yourself post-sauna, or soak in one of five log-fired hot tubs dotted along the riverside.

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Best boutique spa hotel: Dormy House

This handsome haven of comfort and wellbeing is above pretty Broadway on the north western edge of the Cotswolds. Sprawling over several floors, the Scandinavian-chic House Spa leads directly off the reception lobby, so you are in no doubt that it’s centre stage at this 'reinvented rustic' country house hotel. Facilities are glorious, with a lavender sauna, salt-infusion steam room, infinity pool, hot tub outside and a gym for workouts, classes and personal training sessions. Treatments are from prestigious brand Tata Harper, Beata and Temple Spa.

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Best five-star spa hotel: Lime Wood

This is the kind of place you go to feel pampered, and you won't be disappointed. The sybaritic spa at this refined country house in the heart of the New Forest is encased in glass and surrounded by greenery. There's an outdoor hot pool, indoor lap pool and hydrotherapy suite. An impressive treatment list includes relaxing Bamford massages and facials alongside complexion-improving Sarah Chapman skincare treatments (think microneedling and LED light therapy). Enjoy the spa, take a core class on the roof terrace, ramble through woodland, and then indulge in unfussy hearty fare at Hartnett Holder & Co.

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Daily life at this luxury country house hotel revolves around its exquisite Michelin-starred dining and an impressive spa featuring no fewer than eight indoor and outdoor pools (one even has soothing underwater music and fibre optic lighting) and a Roman-style suite of heat rooms. There are also several hot tubs, herbal saunas and steam rooms, plus myriad natural and organic treatments designed to detox, cleanse and relax. And the heated ceramic relaxation beds, shaped to the body’s contours, are almost impossible to leave. Champagne served in and around the pools adds a touch of luxury.

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Best coastal spa hotel: The Scarlet

In the airy, multilevel, environmentally friendly Scarlet, the feeling is one of intense relaxation. The womblike spa specialises in Ayurvedic 'journeys', with tented treatment rooms and pods suspended in the dark for 'deep relaxation' and an all-glass sea-facing roof for 'light relaxation'. There’s a reed-fringed, rock-strewn outdoor pool which extends from the indoor one, punctuated by two bright scarlet wood-fired hot tubs perched between boulders overlooking the sea. There are also numerous wide terraces with perfectly positioned loungers to soak up the views.

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Combining old-school, classic elegance and impressive grandeur with a contemporary, holistic approach, Chewton Glen is a place of many parts, all of them wholeheartedly luxurious. Its world-class spa is said to have one of Europe’s largest hydrotherapy pools, near which guests will find an indoor pool lined with blue mosaic tiles and surrounded by Grecian columns, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms, a long menu of treatments with experienced therapists, plus an outdoor hot tub and swimming pool. The spa’s café serves a healthy buffet where guests can eat in robes and slippers.

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The contemporary spa makes a startling contrast to the Elizabethan manor: an uncompromisingly modern building with a spectacular box-like exterior and an airy and natural interior. The pool has swim-through access to the outdoors; there are whirlpool tubs inside and out; plus a steam room, sauna, rainforest showers and a rather hot lounge area. Opt for a good de-stressing treatment combining a Thai herbal poultice massage and facial, rounded off with quality Sussex-made chocolates and sparkling wine. For the full overnight spa experience, book a modern spa suite above the pool.

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For a super-spoiling weekend, head to this restored 19th-century country manor with tranquil gardens, an ivy-clad entrance, wood panelling and Persian rugs. An extensive spa is open to all adult guests and offers a hydrotherapy pool with massaging jets overlooking fields, aromatic thermal suites, a sauna and a range of innovative treatments and facials that take place in an oxygen tent. Massages feature Ila products, using ingredients wild-harvested from remote, untainted regions far and wide (Morocco, the Himalayas) but blended and bottled 50 miles away.

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One of Harrogate’s health-giving natural springs feeds directly into Rudding Park’s award-winning rooftop spa and garden, which impresses with myriad facilities including herb-infused saunas and steam rooms, experience showers, and an outdoor hydrotherapy pool where couples and groups can be seen wallowing on hydro beds as they quaff generous amounts of sparkling wine. The relaxation rooms include a dark sleep room, a mindful room with colouring books, a screen room depicting scenes of dramatic landscapes, and an audio room with meditative soundtracks. Note that only bookings in a Suite or Spa Room get complimentary full access to the rooftop spa garden.

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The view from your balcony at this contemporary waterside spa hotel in Salcombe winds you down even before anyone has laid so much as a finger on your chakras. Treats include a Mediterranean Marinade mask by Temple Spa (to soothe stressed-out skin) and HarSPA hot stone massages to iron out any tension. Elsewhere there is a lap pool with private poolside cabanas and Breton-stripe loungers, hot tub, sauna, Eucalyptus-scented steam room, gym, and chill-out room.

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No more building is allowed on Monkey Island, a fish-shaped eyot (island) on the River Thames, so instead of a new spa building, an inspired addition is the creation of a Floating Spa, housed in a specially built riverboat moored along the bank. Treatment rooms are in cabins, the therapists wear nautical outfits and the whole ‘spa journey’ is a soothing, unusual and unpretentious delight. The former priory’s heritage is also brought into play: pastilles and homemade elixirs made with plants and herbs grown in the estate’s Experimental Teahouse take inspiration from ancient recipes brewed by monks who inhabited the island 800 years ago.

Frequently asked questions

What is a spa hotel?

A spa hotel is usually an upscale property that has a dedicated 'destination' spa within its grounds and not only offers traditional treatments but also facilities including – but not limited to – a swimming pool (or a small plunge pool), sauna, steam room and relaxtion area. However, it is now not unusual for these high-end hotels to offer an enormous range of treatments and wellness experiences including fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates. Some even have extra special additions like cryotherapy chambers, Himalayan crystal salt rooms, private Hammams or Watsu pools. Many hotel spas are branded in conjunction with top beauty companies (such as ELEMIS or ESPA) but some operate under their own locally sourced products.

How do spa hotels work?

These properties operate in exactly the same way as hotels without spas, so a portion of their clientele will simply be booking to stay regardless of its spa status. But many people check in for 'spa weekends' and they will offer special packages for this, usually including a nights stay, access to all spa facilities, a treatment or two and dining either in the spa restaurant or the main restaurant. These hotels also offer 'spa days' where people can book to experience all of the above without the overnight accommodation.

What does a spa weekend include?

Each property will advertise individually curated packages for a spa weekend, but generally speaking a weekend should include an overnight stay, access to all spa facilities and at least one treatment (usually 60 mins) as a minimum. Treatments on offer in the packages are normally a basic full body massage or a facial, however, many of these top spa hotels offer options to add on other treatments such as beauty services (manicures, pedicures, hair salons, waxing, threading) or alternative therapies such as reiki, acupuncture or ayurveda.

Contributions by Gavin Bell, Suzy Bennett, Jade Conroy, Rachel Cranshaw, Fiona Duncan, Geoff Hill, Charlotte Johnstone, Linda Macdonald, Fred Mawer, Natalie Millar-Partridge, Harriet O'Brien, Natalie Paris, Helen Pickles, Charles Starmer-Smith & Antonia Windsor