Wrapped up in the Feversham Arms - Review
There is something deliciously decadent about cocooning yourself for 24 hours in pure warmth, comfort and luxury.
But for the last decade a spa in a classy country hotel has been dedicating itself to delivering on that promise, with more than a little success.
The Feversham Arms is right in the heart of Helmsley in North Yorkshire. Close enough to countryside and seaside, it's a perfect place from which to explore what lies around. But for a short break there is plenty to keep you tethered firmly to its core dozen or so streets and lanes. It's a postcard-pretty market town which, whilst it has more than its fair share of cafes and gift shops, has not succumbed totally to tourism and maintains a practical side with a regular market, fabulous food shops, quality pubs and restaurants - a place where tractors trundle through quite happily alongside the Range Rovers, the day trippers and the walkers..
The church next to the Feversham Arms is beautiful - its bells marking time throughout our all-too-short stay - the castle sits on the edge of town and there are enough rolling hills, lanes, fields and woodland in this part of the North York Moors National Park to keep the walker, stroller and any four-legged friends happy for hours on end.
The town, and the hotel, is no rural backwater affair though. It was originally a coaching inn, completely refurbished in the 1970s when the then owners bought nearby cottages, extended the hotel and added the (outdoor) swimming pool and gardens. This was the start of the place you see today - part honeycomb colour stone building and part modern purpose-built hotel - a classy, comfy and contemporary place to stay.
Pull in front of the hotel reception and a sign informs you there is valet parking. We had barely had time to kill the engine than a cheery voice bade us welcome and ushered us into the warmth of the high-ceilinged lobby to check in, divest us of bags and keys and show us around.
Luggage would be taken to our room when it was ready, we were told, but we could hit the spa as soon as we wished. We'd booked treatments for later in the day and whilst the soothing aromas were drawing us towards the candle-lit warmth and calm of spa-land it seemed churlish not to take a turn around the town before we immersed ourselves. And we were glad that we'd made the effort. Armed with a handful of purchases, and a shopping wishlist for the next day (including fresh cakes and curd tarts from Hunters bakers which we knew we'd better buy later or they'd be gone before we got home) we left the blustery outdoors behind and checked in at the spa.
The current owners have run the Feversham Arms and Verbena Spa for the past decade. Every member of staff was welcoming, polite and helpful and the atmosphere was professional without being stuffy. (Only one member of staff didn't seem to have embraced the code, and openly discussed her personal work-gripes to a guest, who was clearly a regular, but in the quiet relaxation area of the spa this was somewhat distracting). Any minor mix ups were smoothed over with calm efficiency. I was there with my sister and when we both went for our different treatments they had us the wrong way round - an easy mistake and, as they checked our treatment programme before they started, it was easily spotted and rectified too.
Spa decor is as soft and soothing as you'd expect. Towels were plentiful, flip-flops, lockers, showers and hairdryers all provided. Temple Spa products are used here and they were giving off that wonderful spa aroma, which envelops you as much as the fluffy towelling robes.
You can have light lunches or afternoon teas or drinks from the spa's dining room/bar area or can take refreshments in the lounge area.
But we headed straight for the spa rooms. They are not big, there are not many of them and they could do with more pegs for hanging robes. That said, what there was worked wonders for soaking away some stresses and strains and the atmosphere was fun and friendly. There is an aromatherapy room, salt room, sauna and footspas arranged in a circle. (There is a Rasul mud treatment room too, which we didn't try on this visit). Next to the heat and steam rooms the spa has a series of comfy relaxation rooms, sofas, chairs books and magazines for whiling away the afternoon. The spa facilities overlook the garden and outdoor pool - and the hot-tub. Alas the main hot-tub was not working, maintenance said they were waiting for a part, but there was a temporary hot-tub, not as big but still extremely popular among the guests there. We found the temperature in the hot tub more tepid than hot and whilst two was company, three definitely felt like a crowd and four was somewhat awkward if you were not there as a group. It didn't stop us, and plenty of others, from trying it out though. The main tub is bigger and the pool itself is just beautiful. It is heated, but I'm a bit of a coward so other than admiring it and dipping my toe in the water I can tell you no more - but a top tip from the staff is to go in it first thing as it is hottest when they first take the covers off.
If a coolish outdoor dip is not your thing then the full body massage may well be - mine was absolutely spot on and tailored exactly to what I'd asked for. My sister said her facial and neck and shoulder massage were also worth every penny and she was so relaxed afterwards I feared she'd not have the energy to have dinner later (luckily we rallied round to make it to the dining room later and boy were we pleased we did).
Our room was the surprise of the trip. The deluxe suites are set above the spa and overlooking the gardens and pool. It had a huge bathroom, sofa and comfy chairs, desk, table and chairs, huge bed and plenty of space. There is art hung on the walls throughout the hotel, courtesy of Helmsley Galleries, and this continued into the bedrooms. The style is comfortable and clean (muted colours in our room, toned-down tartans and warm woods), solid but elegant furnishing and the balcony and outdoor seating would be a wonderful addition on a warm day - sadly the wind and rain meant we just stepped out there for the view in the morning.
The bar area is comfy mis-matched leather sofas and a place to unwind and chill, whilst the dining room is an elegant open room with a high ceiling and skylights. If there was music playing I don't know what - so it definitely wasn't intrusive (one of my bugbears) and the staff were super attentive. We sat on upholstered chairs and the table was set with starched white linen. The food choices are contemporary and not unsubstantial - same goes for the extensive wine list - and both were surprising and delicious. It's an AA Rosette restaurant and deserves to be. The Yorkshire breakfast was wonderful (if you like black pudding you'll LOVE theirs). Service in the restaurant for dinner and breakfast was flawless.
We could have soaked up more relaxation in the spa the next day but felt we needed to walk off breakfast and do that shopping before heading home. We'd been there less than 24 hours but it felt like we'd had at least a weekend away. We were refreshed, revived and relaxed - just what we wanted.
A You and Me Time package (a standard double with breakfast and three-course dinner and a 75 minute treatment) costs around £340 for a standard double. Just Bed and Breakfast in a standard double with a one hour treatment would be around £290.