St. David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff
Winter - when brisk mountain hikes or strolls by the seashore are great fun, and when the capital city of Cardiff buzzes with activity - is a spectacular time to visit Wales. It is also the perfect season to check into one of our spa hotels for a holiday that includes a lot of pampering. We know how to do that well. After all, Wales has been offering year-round spa holidays for more than 200 years.
In the 18th century, visiting a spa meant socializing, "taking the waters" or drinking from springs believed to have healing properties, and as readers of Jane Austen know, looking for a spouse. The spa tradition continued, and many new, lavish spa hotels opened during the Victorian era. Over time, the focus shifted away from matchmaking and mineral water toward rest and rejuvenation. In the 21st century, the spa boom continues, with luxurious spa hotels now pampering guests in every corner of Wales.
The choices are abundant. You may opt for the St. David's Hotel, a contemporary hotel in Cardiff where evenings can be spent at the theater or in lively clubs. Another possibility is the St. Brides Hotel overlooking the sea and offering special marine treatments. Our newest five-star hotel, the Quay Hotel, comes complete with such exotic extras as a traditional Turkish hamam and a Thai massage suite. Romantic country house hotel spas also offer luxurious dining and are perfect picks for your anniversary or Valentine's Day. Day spa guests are always welcome as well, giving you the option to rent a cottage nearby and drive over for a spa treatment or a gourmet dinner.
It all began in Llanwrtyd Wells, our first famous spa town, where healing waters were found in 1732. Builth Wells, today a charming market town on the River Wye, was a favorite spa destination during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and its architecture retains some of that influence today. Just seven miles away, at Llandrindod Wells, also known for its Victorian architecture, it is still possible to visit the 19th-century Rock Park Spa and enjoy a soothing massage at the Lifestyles® Complementary Health Centre. Then you can step next door to the classic Pump Room, now home to the Heritage Restaurant, where you can grab a quick bite and sample the healing waters.
The Rock Park Spa forms a good bridge between the days when spas simply meant mineral water and socializing, to today's luxurious spas with their focus on pampering and rejuvenation. The newest landmark on our map, the just-opened Quay Hotel in Deganwy, North Wales, offers you a choice of 74 rooms, an international-standard restaurant overlooking the sea, and direct views of the 13th-century Conwy Castle, our best-preserved medieval castle. The hotel's Quay Spa rings an aerobic pool and eight treatment rooms offer classic massage, Turkish baths, and an abundance of other delights. Special fitness, lunch and treatment programs are available.
Southwest Wales' St. Brides Marine Spa is located in the intimate, 35-room St. Brides Spa Hotel in Pembrokeshire, a region that is home to Britain's only coastal national park. St. Brides' restaurant offers cliff-top views of the sea, and its Marine Spa is committed to using the healing properties of the ocean in its treatments - salt body massages, seaweed scrubs, and other saltwater treatments.
If you like relaxing close to city attractions, the cutting-edge St. David's Hotel & Spa, a creation of developer Rocco Forte, would be a perfect pick. The St. David's Marine Spa places a strong focus on hydrotherapy: underwater loungers with high-pressure jets . . . special showers designed to stimulate circulation . . . an eight-person Jacuzzi. The spa's treatment menu is long and luxurious (the Chantecaille Flower Facial is a favorite choice). St. David's location on the Cardiff waterfront puts you just steps away from Mermaid Quay, with more than 20 restaurants, bars, and cafes. Also nearby: our new Millennium Centre, with a full calendar of theater and concerts.
Do you prefer large, full-service resorts? The Celtic Manor Resort, in the scenic Usk Valley just 90 minutes from London, rests in the midst of 1,400 acres of park land. It offers not one, but two, spas. At the award-winning Forum, in the main hotel, you can bask in Europe's largest free-form spa bath and pick from a vast menu of treatments. Don't miss the skin-restoring Rasul Mud Ceremony. This year, a second facility, Clarins Health Spa, opened in the Lodge (the former golf club house). Together, they make The Celtic Manor one of the largest spa hotels in Europe.
On a cold winter day, a country house hotel, complete with crackling fireplace, generous wine cellars, and superb cuisine, can soothe the soul. If you want a quiet spa getaway, Bodysgallen Hall, just outside the seaside town of Llandudno in North Wales, is a good choice. Its spa, complete with over-sized swimming pool, well-equipped gym, and five treatment rooms, is intimate, and the treatments are top drawer. Tre-Ysgawen Hall, a stately mansion on the Isle of Anglesey, lets you feel like landed gentry from the moment that you check in. A quick walk to the adjacent well-equipped spa lets you enjoy a full menu of luxurious treatments. Special Spa Break packages, complete with champagne, are available.
The many new, cutting-edge spas of Wales draw sell-out crowds because they are both tied to the traditions of the great Welsh spa hotels of past centuries and offer some of the most inventive, up-to-the-minute treatments of today. Guests can expect warm hospitality; a staff that continually strives to exceed expectations; superb food; and the chance to rest, relax, and rejuvenate in a luxurious setting. It has worked for more than 200 years . . . and it continues to bring visitors from all over the world to the new, 21st-century spas of Wales.
All images for this article, photo © Crown Copyright 2006