After the gruelling year we’ve both had, I thought it might be nice to treat my husband and I to some serious rest and relaxation. We’ve both had a lot to deal with recently and I felt like the time had come to try and get away from it all for a while. I booked us a two-day stay at Hoar Cross Hall. We stayed there about 6 years ago, just after Moogle was born, so it felt appropriate that we would go back there when in need of a little spiritual healing.
Hoar Cross Hall is a Grade II listed hotel and spa, set in stunning Staffordshire countryside, complete with formal gardens and acres of woodland. There are a range of spa packages you can choose from, but I selected the standard Simply Spa Escape which starts at £169 per night, per person. On top of that, I added the early arrival option (£40 extra per person) and then also upgraded from a Classic room to the Lady Annabella suite. The room upgrade was by far the most important part for me, as not only was this the same room that we had stayed in previously, but it also included a private hot tub. Which is JUST COOL!
We arrived at 11am on Bank Holiday Monday morning, checked in at Reception and then headed to the changing facilities to get into our complimentary robes and slippers. There was just time to reacquaint ourselves with the resort, before we were booked to go and have lunch.
Included in the package, we got lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch again. The food was all of a really high standard and there was a good variety of choice. Breakfast and lunch were served in buffet style (I do love a good buffet!). There were plenty of options, especially for breakfast where you could choose from cereal, fruits, yoghurt, pastries and of course, a full english breakfast. I ate far too much, but then I was treating myself – so who cares? At lunchtime there were a variety of hot and cold dishes, but my absolute favourite was the mushroom soup. I could have eaten that by the bucket load.
Dinner was a full-on, three course affair with all the trimmings. The menu was worthy of any fancy restaurant and the ballroom where you eat dinner (and all other meals) is absolutely stunning. I had compressed chicken with a coronation sauce to start (tasted much nicer that in sounds), pea risotto with crispy halloumi (seriously delicious – halloumi is my new food obsession) and then creme brûlée to finish.
Throughout the day there were free teas and coffees available in the sun lounge and then there other cafes throughout the resort where you could buy additional food throughout your stay if required. In the interest of saving pennies (and my waistline) I did manage to resist further purchases, apart from a cheeky cocktail after dinner. (Cue much hilarity trying to carry cocktail to room without any spillages! Mr Mess coped admirably, but it was like something out of The Crystal Maze!)
The facilities at Hoar Cross Hall are impressive, with a little something for every individual. There are two swimming pools (one even has a cave which led to endless singing of “Under the Sea” with terrible accents) and plenty of jacuzzi style pools and other water therapies. (Attempt the plunge pool at your peril – I dipped a toe in and it’s bloody freezing!)
There are numerous detox rooms to explore, including the new Nordic fire and ice suite featuring saunas, steam rooms and other forms of heat/ice therapies for people who want the full relaxation experience. The rooms are varied in heat and steamy-ness(!), which is great for wimps like me who can’t stand the heat for too long. Still, I could begin to feel the detoxing qualities after a few minutes, so it’s all good!
If you’re looking for a more “health and fitness” based retreat, there is a fully equipped gym, tennis court, plenty of aerobic/exercise classes, cycling and even archery! For a more leisurely approach to exercise, you can opt to amble through the surrounding woodland, or maybe even have a game of croquet! Obviously, I opted for none these options! I come to spas for pampering – not perspiring!
We could check into our room from 2pm and BOY! Was it worth the wait! It really was the jewel in the crown of the whole experience for me! It’s the only hotel room that I’ve stayed in that had TWO floors!
You enter on the first floor, which consists of a lounge area with sofas and TV as well as a downstairs cloakroom (toilet – for the unsophisticated amongst us!) Up the staircase you enter the bedroom area, bathroom and a cute little enclave that holds a dressing table and drinks area. (I was particularly impressed with the coffee maker with pods included – it’s the little extras that make it so special!)
From the bedroom, you could step out of the double doors onto the balcony with stunning views of the formal gardens and surrounding area. On the balcony was an outdoor dining set, loungers – oh yeah! – and our own personal hot tub, bubbling away, ready for use! I think it took me about two minutes to hop in, and there I stayed with my book and my coffee for the rest of the afternoon!
Personally, I find no spa day is complete without some overindulgent (and overpriced) treatment and this time was no different. I had previously booked the Clarins Melting Honey Heat Treat (it costs £65 and lasts 55 minutes). The treatment consisted (unsurprisingly) of hot, honey based oils followed by a hot stone massage. Oh. My. God! I cannot begin to explain how blissful and relaxing this treatment was. (even if it was a bit tickly on my feet!) Oh, and they weren’t kidding when they said “heat” – the oils and stones were almost too hot for comfort. Still, I walked out of that room almost as fluid as the honey itself. Utterly relaxed. And it smelt amazing!
If I had to give any criticism of our stay at Hoar Cross Hall, it would be that I kinda got the feeling they were only working on half steam. There were a number of small issues that were possibly due to low staffing or due to poor organisation – I’m not sure which.
The dining room was 15 minutes late opening on the first day, which wouldn’t have been a problem except we arrived on time and had to wait around. We were told our luggage would be bought to our room, but it was mistakenly labelled “departures” and we had to ask them to find it. The tea and coffee facilities were lovely, but at one point all of the cups and saucers (and teaspoons) were dirty and we were given paper cups as a replacement. Finally, at lunch on the last day there were paper napkins ( a la Macdonalds) instead of the usual linen. Yes, I know how that sounds as I write it, but when you’re spending over £500 for one night, you expect something a bit fancy!
Back in the room, the instructions for the hot tub and the whirlpool bath were not quite as “easy as 1-2-3” as they claimed to be. In the evening the hot tub went into Sleep mode and I had to look on Google to find out how to switch it back on again! Still, it did lead to lots of merriment and giggles as we huddled under the hot tub cover (with hot chocolate!) trying to keep warm while it heated up again. And we more than made up for the lukewarm evening, by having a glorious soak at 6.30am the next morning in the May sunshine!
None of these things were enough to ruin or stay, or even compel me to complain. They’re just tiny things that could have lifted this trip from a 4* to 5*. I think if you want to run a resort that feels elite and expensive then it’s the little things that count and that’s where Hoar Cross sometimes fell down.
Still, I had an amazing time. It was exactly the break that we needed to forget our worries for a while. And I will definitely be going back. In 5 or 6 years, once I’ve saved up a bit…
Do you have a particular spa venue that you love? I’m always on the lookout for somewhere new to try and I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below.