Travel: Secluded spa retreats offer a haven away from daily grind

AS THE winter winds, rain and snow continue to bite and the warmth of summer seems an eternity away, the temptation of a spa break gets stronger. You can forget about the weather, and everything else for that matter, when you are cosseted within a spa, wrapped in algae or being gently massaged with hot stones.

These types of breaks have never been more popular in Scotland, with a multitude of pampering options dotted around the country.

Many people tend to think of spas as a recent phenomenon when, of course, they have been around for centuries. Even the Romans enjoyed a good pampering. In Scotland the spa, then in the form of the “hydro”, came to prominence in Victorian times when the newly moneyed classes were able to travel like never before.

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Crieff Hydro is the grand old dame of the Scottish spa scene, purpose built back in 1868. This four-star hotel goes back to its roots with an adults-only Victorian Spa with a heated pool, sauna spa bath and fitness suite that bring out the grandeur of the 19th-century building. Crieff Hydro also moves with the times, though, and now you can even try a fish pedicure, it’s one of the few places in Scotland offering the treatment of the moment.

Crieff Hydro offers a range of packages, which can be tailored to include spa options. One tempting winter warmer is the midweek Beauty Break. For £198, two people can enjoy a room upgrade and dinner in a choice of restaurants, as well as a full Scottish breakfast the next day. The spa element includes a 50-minute facial and a massage, as well as a complimentary cleansing product and 10 per cent off clothing purchases in the boutique. Handily, there are no single room supplements, so groups of friends can have their own room at £99 a night.

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa, meanwhile, is a superb five-star luxury abode that reclines in 11 acres of wooded grounds on the fringes of Aberdeen. There are only 35 rooms and seven suites, so you really get to enjoy that personal touch, and dinner feels like being a guest at an exclusive country house gathering rather than being in a hotel. On the menu is Grampian produce such as Aberdeen Angus beef, game, fish and shellfish, with more than 400 wines in the cellar and over 100 malt whiskies stocked. The bedrooms boast plenty of characterful features as well as lush modern fabrics.

The Marcliffe’s spa offers one of the most comprehensive ranges of treatments of any hotel spa in Scotland. You can choose from facials, waxing, fake bakes and luxury manicures and pedicures, right through to more unusual treatments, such as reflexology, and hot stone therapy massages.

If you just want to visit for the day, the four-hour Ultimate Tranquillity Package features a blended exfoliation tailored to you, a light massage and a one-hour facial, as well as a luxury manicure and luxury pedicure. Also included in the £180-per-person price is a champagne spa light lunch.

Location can be everything with spa treatments. You can sometimes enjoy a relaxing massage only to find yourself dumped back into busy city centre street afterwards. They don’t have that problem at the Glen Clova Hotel, which lies deep in the Angus glens.

This characterful old dame offers a trio of places to stay – a cheap and cheerful bunkhouse, cosy and comfy hotel rooms and more luxurious lodges complete with their own outdoor hot tubs. Their restaurant showcases local produce, such as pheasant and lamb. Fine Scottish real ales and, of course, warming whiskies await at the bar.

As if Glen Clova and all that glorious fresh air was not relaxing enough, the hotel has recently introduced spa treatments for which the therapist visits your luxury lodge. A range of massages, as well as manicures, pedicures and facials are on the spa menu.

Whatever you choose, you can enjoy the feeling of being pampered in a cosy warm room away from both the stresses and strains of modern life and the rigours of the Scottish winter.

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