Travel review: An escape from reality at a snowy Staffordshire spa
There's something really rather decadent about relaxing in an outdoor pool, warmed to a toasty 30 degrees, sipping a cocktail - and feeling droplets of snow fall on your face.
January is without a doubt the worst month of the year. Cold and dreary, down to your last pennies, and feeling the excesses of the party season on both your waistline and your wellbeing.
Which made me all the more glad I’d booked an overnight trip to Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat in Staffordshire months earlier.
And what a weekend we chose. Heavy snow and ice made some of the winding country lanes on our way to the spa quite perilous - and the need for relaxation all the stronger by the time we finally arrived.
Moddershall Oaks has grown from a small day spa when it opened in 2000 to an award-winning retreat, and pulling onto the site it’s clear there are plans afoot for it to grow even further.
The bad weather meant the diggers were quiet when we arrived, but I’m told the disruption caused by the building of a new wellness centre is quite minimal.
Due to open in the spring, it will also include a new restaurant, gym and space for yoga and fitness classes.
But luckily for me, building up a sweat in a Zumba class was the furthest thing from my mind - I was there for one thing only, total relaxation. And that’s what I got. Starting with a strawberry bellini, our welcome drink in the spa’s deli cafe bar area.
Any guilt felt about breaking my Dry January pledge was quickly forgotten as we were shown around the Retreat’s facilities and to our suite.
The deluxe suite has underfloor heating, a huge and very comfortable bed, and freestanding bath. The sofa area looks onto a private patio, and beyond that, a hot tub especially for overnight guests.
The five-star suites have been designed to be an extension of the spa experience, modern and luxurious, and to make the most of the views of the surrounding woodlands. The Retreat is set within 72 acres of countryside - and had the weather not been better enjoyed from the inside, I’d have made the most of a woodland walk that leads to a little oasis complete with hammocks. Bicycles are also available to hire.
But even without making the most of the outdoors, it was no difficulty to fill the time before our planned treatments, and hours were whiled away as we made the most of the steam room, which is infused with eucalyptus milk, experience shower, hydrotherapy pool, Kelo sauna, and of course, the heated outdoor Vitality spa pool, complete with bar service.
One of my favourite areas was the relaxation lounge, complete with roaring fire, huge sofas and plenty of magazines. For those with a bit more energy, there is also a small gym.
Before I knew it, it was time to make my way to the treatment area for my Deeper than Deep Hot Stone Massage. The stresses of everyday life disappeared as the Balinese stones bathed in Frangipani Monoi body oil were worked deep into my muscles. The treatment was the ultimate indulgence and it was difficult to resist dropping off as my therapist worked her magic.
But it had to come to an end, and off I went in a haze to get ready for our evening appointment at the Retreat’s award-winning Lakeside Restaurant.
The intimate restaurant and bar is open to outside diners, serving lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. Traditionally decorated, the restaurant features a open hatch to the kitchen, which added to the intimacy and meant appetites were sufficiently wheted by the time our choices arrived. The ambiance was made all the prettier as we looked out onto a frozen lake in the grounds.
The evening menu, which was included in our Spa Break, offered a variety of options tailored to the season, with plenty of vegetarian options. A new menu is due any day now, but from our choices I would highly recommend the Thai Crab Cakes to start. Served with sweet chilli, lime and coriander mayonnaise, the light starter sizzled the taste buds. After a palate cleanser of blueberry and cherry sorbet, the main course was served.
My choice of lamb rump, served pink with honey glazed root vegetables, carrot puree and tarragon jus, was divine. The meat melted in my mouth and was seasoned to perfection.
Any ideas of staying up late and enjoying the bar were over ambitious. Super relaxed and full of wonderful food, the king size bed was calling.
I don’t know if it was the aforementioned full stomach or the culmination of a day of unwinding, but I soon fell into a blissful, deep sleep, waking refreshed and ready for more pampering the next day.
After a tasty breakfast, we were free to use the spa’s facilities as long as we wished, and guilt forced me into a few laps of the pool before making the most of the reflexology foot paths.
Sadly, before I knew it, it was time to hand back my fluffy robe and slippers and get back to reality.
Take me back!
Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat is based just outside of Stone in Staffordshire.
A variety of day spa packages and overnight stays are available. Current special offers include a Healthy Hedonism Spa Day, which includes lunch and a treatment, starting at £115; and spa breaks starting at £279.
For full details, visit www.moddershalloaks.com