While the Romans introduced us to "taking the waters", it was the Georgians and Victorians that made it a fashionable pastime. Mineral waters might not be the cure-all they were once thought to be, but being pampered in a luxurious spa is definitely good for the body, mind and soul. Here are our favourite towns in the UK that have historic spas as well as other charms to enjoy. Perfect for a spa weekend getaway!
It was Queen Anne's fondness for the hot natural spring waters of the Roman Baths that spurred Bath’s growth as a spa town. Exploring the wonderfully-preserved Roman Baths is a must on a city visit but for total indulgence and superb views from its rooftop pool, spend time at the Thermae Bath Spa. Or, relax in the luxury of the Gainsborough Hotel & Spa, The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa or The Garden Spa by l'Occitane with its Provence-inspired treatments.
The fortunes of Royal Leamington Spa, once a tiny village, changed when saline springs were discovered in 1784. Its Royal Pump Rooms offered cures for stiff joints and muscles. Today the Pump Rooms are home to the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum but you can still enjoy the spa experience at the Spa Leamington. Alternatively, treat yourself to a couple of days at the Lutyens-designed Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa. Its body and face treatments are inspired by nature.
Harrogate is the perfect spot for a wellness weekend. Head to the Turkish Baths for spa treatments in a truly unique and ornate bath house, complete with painted ceilings. Once you are pampered and feeling relaxed, head to Betty’s for some afternoon tea. If the weather is nice, head to RHS Garden Harlow Carr, which has some gorgeous nature trails and a log maze.
Since 1716, Cheltenham has been the go-to town for spa weekends, and to this day it remains a great escape for tranquillity and unwinding. For high-end face and body treatments in historic surroundings, treat yourself to a visit to Ellenborough Park Hotel & Spa or The Greenway Hotel & Spa. If the weather is nice, head to Pittville Park which features a boating lake, aviaries and the largest spa building in Cheltenham – Pittville Pump Room. This Grade One listed building is now used for cultural events throughout the year.
You may be familiar with pure Buxton water but the town also features geothermal springs bubbling up at a constant 28°C. The town's crescent is modelled on Bath's Royal Crescent. Once featuring a hotel, shops, restaurants and Assembly Rooms, today it's home to the five-star Buxton Crescent Spa. Set in acres of landscaped gardens, the Palace Hotel & Spa is another place to unwind, especially if you've spent time wandering the beautiful Peak District.
From the hills near Malvern, pure water filtered by granite rock springs up. This water was highly sought after by both Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. With its outstanding views and gracious architecture, the Malvern Spa offers pampering treatments that are perfect for destressing. At the hotel, you can also bathe in and drink the water as well as enjoy its heated indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool and salt grotto.
The Chalybeate Spring at Royal Tunbridge Wells was discovered by Dudley Lord North in 1606. When travelling through the town, he realised the spring water had cured his hangover. Within a century, it was rivalling Bath as a spa town. During the summer, a costumed ‘dipper’ still serves spring water in The Pantiles, an elegant Georgian colonnade with a unique set of independent shops. Set in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells but with acres of picturesque gardens is The Spa Hotel. Combine your day of spa treatments with a delicious afternoon tea. For some time outdoors, enjoy Dunorlan Park, a historic spot with 78 acres of gardens and meadows as well as a 6 acre lake.