It is a peculiar joy to visit a spa in the North of England – in October no less – and spend much of one’s day outside.
At The Manor House Hotel in Alsager, east Cheshire, thanks to a smart new ‘country spa garden’ complex including a heated outdoor pool, hot tub and only slightly masochistic cold bath, it is possible, with just passable weather, to enjoy high-end spa facilities and fresh air at the same time.
Combine this with a tour of the sauna, steam room and ‘panoramic laconium’ facilities that are dotted around the edge of the complex in rustically-styled wooden sheds, and a visitor can feel far removed from the hermetically-sealed minimalism of a standard spa.
This was exactly the situation on the day that my sister and I paid the Manor House a visit. With the autumn sun benevolently shining, we spent hours simultaneously enjoying vitamin D and mocktails (for other guests it was large glasses of white wine) in the pool and lazing on plush padded loungers, heavy blankets draped over our robes for added snug.
It was an indulgent, warm fuzz-inducing day, though I couldn’t help but feel that, had the weather been less benign, we might have felt somewhat short-changed. But indoor facilities do exist. As well as the ‘Sheds’, there’s a pool, smaller sauna and steam room all within the main hotel building, as well as treatment rooms where I partook of ‘Hypnotic Back and Sole’, an excellent reflexology and back massage combo, delivered by a capable and entirely unpretentious therapist.
The Pool House Bar, meanwhile, is a comfortable place to enjoy the afternoon tea or mezze platter which are included with afternoon and full day packages. We had the mezze, which tasted (not unpleasantly) like someone had collated a number of Marks and Spencer’s deli items on a big dish. The Salt Shed, a final, bookable room featuring a wall made entirely of Himalayan salt blocks in which guests can take part in a pre-recorded guided meditation, was a zen conclusion to our day.
But it’s the garden set-up that really gives the Manor House its edge, and I wouldn’t have fancied squelching between facilities with an umbrella. This is a great spa in a handy spot – Alsager is usefully located within an hour of many towns in the north west and, as such, would be a great central meeting point for a day with friends. But with a full spa day costing from £120pp, or £180pp including a treatment, I’d want to be sure that the weather was included.
All photos courtesy of The Manor House Hotel