AS we tootled along the country roads from Lanark in the general direction of Peebles on our way to Stobo Castle for a day trip, the chat was already high octane.
It might have been a little after 8am in the morning but my mum, sister and I don’t get together as often as we should, and there was a lot to catch up on. We were discussing the friend of a friend who comes to Stobo for a week to reboot herself a couple of times a year. To be honest we were slightly incredulous at the thought of spending seven days alone in a health spa, but after eight hours of solid pampering we would all have signed up in a heartbeat.
So what makes Stobo so special? There are countless day spas in our towns and cities, as well as plenty of luxurious facilities in high-end hotels, but you have to go on a bit of a magical mystery tour to get to Stobo, which feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. This is definitely part of the attraction, as there is a real sense of getting away from it all.
We are keen to explore the beautiful grounds, particularly the Japanese Water Gardens but our spa day has dawned on one of those gale force wind-torn April mornings, so while it’s perfect for floating around in a white robe, we’ll have to visit the gardens another time.
For the first time spa-goer in our party we have to explain the protocol of the visit: make sure to use all the fab facilities including the pool, steam rooms and especially the outdoor hot tub before your treatments and ahead of all the delicious unguents being applied to your body. There are also optional aqua and fitness classes to take part in, with the daily programme posted on the notice board in the spa reception area.
If you have been thinking about a trip to Stobo now is a good time to book as there is a great summer offer on, designed to spruce up both you and your girlfriends in time for Ladies’ Day at Musselburgh Racecourse, which the spa is sponsoring.
The fillies in my family were champing at the bit for some pampering so the Top to Toe Sugar Glow Face & Body treatment (40 mins) – exclusive to Stobo Castle – was a first-past-the- post winner. A thoroughbred of a therapy, this involved skin being sloughed off the back, arms and legs, which is much more pleasant than it sounds, especially when a rich moisturising lotion is applied afterwards.
After reconvening and comparing shiny new epidermises, we set off for a bit of an explore. The pool and gym area was completed ten years ago, but it still feels brand new. Many spas fall short when it comes to swimming facilities, with tiny pools, hardly worth dipping your toe into, but Stobo has a magnificent 25m ozone pool, with floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing you to gaze out at the rolling Borders countryside. You don’t even need to get your feet wet to enjoy the view – there are plenty of recliners to occupy when you fancy a sit down.
Soon it was time for lunch – three courses and coffee is included in the Ladies’ Day package with a complimentary bottle of champagne for parties of four or more.
Lunch felt perfectly decadent. The dining rooms are in the older part of the castle, adding a little bit of Downton-style elegance to the day. Tables are set with white linen and silverware, but rather than smart-casual, the dress code is spa-wear as most of us dine in our white robes. The menu includes lighter options for those taking the health spa thing seriously, but I didn’t see many skipping the desserts, which on our day included banoffee pie and bread and butter pudding.
The second treatment included in the Ladies’ Day package is either a Jessica Prescriptive Manicure or ZenSpa Pedicure (40 mins). As two of the three of us had holidays approaching, we all decided to have our hooves seen to. This was fun as it was something we could do together, perched at neighbouring stations in the nail suite. We went for a rainbow of shades from a shiny disco purple to a demure shimmery coral.
Our toes were much admired by passers-by as we took up residence on a sofa to let them dry. Groomed to perfection, it was finally time for us to return to our paddock.
Stobo Castle Health Spa, Peeblesshire, EH45 8NY, tel: 01721 7253000, www.stobocastle.co.uk; the Ladies’ Day Celebration Package is £99pp and available Mon-Fri only until 30 August. Stobo Castle Ladies’ Day at Musselburgh Racecourse is Friday 14 June, see www.musselburgh-racecourse.co.uk