Relaxing in Northants

If you can relax and unwind in a “bustling” atmosphere, then Whittlebury Hall is the spa experience for you, says Ros Dodd.

Whittlebury Hall’s “day spa”

Whittlebury Hall’s “day spa”

It seemed slightly ironic that in order to spend a rare day doing nothing but relaxing and being pampered, I had to get up at 6.30am on a Saturday and hurtle down the motorway so as to check in at Whittlebury Hall’s “day spa” reception desk at the prescribed time of 9am.

Nevertheless, that’s what I did when a friend and I decided it was high time we had a weekend away together – we don’t see each other very often and both of us felt in need of a generous helping of R&R.

Whittlebury Hall, set in acres of parkland near Towcester in rural Northamptonshire, was an obvious choice: it was roughly half-way between our respective homes and it offered the tonic we needed in terms of the ability to unwind and feel thoroughly spoiled – extensive spa facilities, good food and wine and luxurious accommodation. In short, no need to set foot outdoors once we’d arrived.

And so we didn’t. Padding between the hydrotherapy pool and treatment rooms, from the swimming pool to the restaurant clad in dressing gowns and slippers, we glimpsed the chilly, grey day through the windows and felt more than a little smug (as well as snug!)

Whittlebury’s spa facilities are as good as I’ve seen. The “heat and ice experience” provides a range of treatments designed to gradually increase your body temperature (starting with the caldarium and graduating to the crystal steam room or traditional sauna) before plunging you into the below-zero temperature of the “ice cave”. The idea is to “stimulate your circulation and senses, whilst aiding the elimination of toxins and exfoliating your skin”.

Your body “will feel invigorated and your skin will feel soft, smooth and hydrated”. To be honest, my naturally very dry, middle-aged skin felt drier than usual – so much so that every time I passed through the shop selling creams and other products, I slapped on a bit of moisturiser from the tester pots.

Whittlebury Hall-Spa

Whittlebury Hall-Spa

Although we thoroughly enjoyed the heat and (strangely) the ice, it was all jolly noisy a lot of the time. Even the hotel’s website describes the day spa’s atmosphere as “bustling”. The constant roar of the hydrotherapy pool’s water jets necessitates raising your voice to chat to your companions and everywhere you go, there are lots of people.

Upstairs, however, it’s a different matter. The treatment rooms are situated off a spacious seating area, with comfortable conservatory-type furniture, and it’s quiet!

A day spa package allows unlimited use of the spa facilities and leisure club (which includes a 44-station gym and 19-metre swimming pool with bubble jets) as well as a 30-minute ESPA back, neck and shoulder massage, which was just the ticket.

I opted for two extra treatments – an ESPA aroma facial and a reflexology session – which set me back £120. But for sheer relaxation value, they were worth every penny. Even my tired face felt refreshed and rejuvenated after the hour-long facial carried out by a therapist who obviously knew her stuff.

The day or overnight stay package also includes a two-course buffet lunch at the Terrace Cafe overlooking the swimming pool. The weekend we stayed, however, lunch had relocated to Astons restaurant in the main hotel (where we had dinner and breakfast) – presumably because of the sheer number of guests. It’s a traditionally-furbished and quite posh restaurant, and we did feel a bit weird sitting there, slightly damp, wearing only our dressing gowns.

The food was pretty good and because it was a buffet, you could have eaten enough to last you until the next day. We didn’t though, as we were dining there in the evening. When we walked in – this time dressed up rather than down – I feared the worst as the place was packed out. But I needn’t have worried: the service and food were almost faultless.

Afterwards, we took what was left of our wine and sat in front of a roaring fire in the vast lounge – again decked out in traditional style.

Ros Dodd at Whittlebury Hall

Ros Dodd at Whittlebury Hall

Our “deluxe spa stay” package (from £115 per person) entitled us to a club bedroom: the extras include a fluffy dressing gown and slippers, a plate of fruit and two small bottles of wine on arrival. To be honest, the bedroom and bathroom were sufficiently comfortable for an upgrade to be unnecessary should you opt for a cheaper package.

All in all, we had a great time and it was lovely to exist, if only for 24 hours, in a bubble and forget the real world outside.

A word of warning, though: in September 2011, Whittlebury Hall Limited went into administration. The company is continuing to trade while a buyer is sought. Although it’s very much a going concern – there were more than 300 guests staying when we there – I don’t think I’d book too far ahead.

  • For more information about spa breaks and prices, visit the website.

Whittlebury Hall’s current promotions run to the end of January 2012. Call 0845 400 0002 or visit for more details

We have been asked to point out that it is the company that owns Whittlebury Hall that is in administration; this will eventually cease trading. However, Whittlebury Hall Management Training Centre, Hotel and Spa “will carry on trading successfully”.


Editor’s note: We have recently been advised of the following press release:-

For immediate release – 1st December 2011

Whittlebury Hall – out of administration

Whittlebury Hall Management Training Centre, Hotel and Spa is now out of administration with effect from 1st December 2011  supported by Zolfo Cooper LLP a leading international corporate financial specialist a new company has been formed, details below;

Whittlebury Hall and Spa Limited

NN12 8QH

Registered number                         7839199

Vat Registration number              124 0117 72

So what does this mean?

Customers will see no changes in the way the business is run – it is 100% business as usual.

Bernhard Zechner and Michael Stott, appointed Directors of the new company by the investors and previously part of the senior management team at the hotel for almost 3 years enthused “This is fantastic news to build on the successful hotel business established over the past 11 years and we want to thank our staff, suppliers and of course customers for their invaluable support over the last few weeks. We will continue to work hard with the team to offer excellent service and look forward to offering a warm welcome to our guests”

Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive at the Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce said “Delighted with this news.  Whittlebury Hall & Spa is one of the premier hotels in the county, and one which we should be very proud of. It is a venue that we at the Chamber regularly use for our own events, recently hosting our AGM, and looking forward to our Charity Christmas Lunch coming up in December.  The service is always second to none and we wish Michael, Bernhard and the team all the very best for what will continue to be a bright future for the hotel.”