Worn out from all the election fever? Need a restive break after going to the polls and the imminent bun fight following the fracas? Anna Selby has the perfect tonic, by the lakes…
“The loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” So said William Wordsworth of Grasmere in the Lake District where he lived with his sister Dorothy in Dove Cottage. Just across the road from his old home (now a museum) is the Daffodil Hotel, with the waters of Grasmere lapping at its lawns. And it is indeed a lovely spot. There are rolling hills, snow-topped mountains (I’m here in January) and the lake itself, covered with geese and ducks, the reeds at its edges swaying in the wind.
By the time you read this in May, it will be a different world – all gambolling lambs and, of course, daffodils. Wordsworth’s most famous poem made the flower the symbol of the Lake District and gave this hotel its name. The lakes are quite unlike other English regions and, if you’re starting from the south-east, they’re a long way away. So if you want a relaxing break, don’t even think about driving. I took a very comfortable train (what is it about being served a meal on a train that is so pleasant?) and enjoyed the contemplative delights of watching the landscape fly by, changing from a brief spot of northern grit (around Wigan) to rolling hills, heathland, green fields with slate dry stone walls and, everywhere, sheep.
The Daffodil Hotel is built of the same local grey slate and looks as old as Dove Cottage but inside, it’s totally refurbished with a warm, contemporary style (check out Sue Macartney-Snape’s witty artwork) and an excellent restaurant. We had the lamb and it was delicious – pace all those white, fluffy gambolling creatures outside. Our room had a balcony (though admittedly it was covered in snow by the first evening) and wonderful views over lake and hills.
The spa is extensive with a hydro area – warm pool with plenty of massage stations, sauna and steam and a tepidarium, a relaxation room where tepid air induces a deeper level of relaxation. My first stop was the Rasul Room. Rasul is a Middle Eastern mud therapy and you have a room all to yourself to enjoy it (so ideal for couples or friends). You begin with a salt exfoliation under a shower, then apply different kinds of mud to different parts of the face and body before you enter the Rasul Room itself. Here two giant heated beds help you relax as scented steam billows around you.
The lighting is subdued and the heat languorous and the pores open to absorb the beneficial effects of the mud (it stimulates blood flow and the lymphatic system). In fact, it goes far beyond mere relaxing – you feel positively limp. Then when the lighting changes, it’s a sign that the showers above the beds about to switch on and soak you in warm water to wash away the mud as you lie on your hot tiled bed. After all this, I needed a good quarter of an hour in the tepidarium waiting for my temperature to return to normal and to feel able to stagger to the next treatment room.
And then there was still another two and a half hours of utter indulgence to come. It began with the Daffodil’s signature treatment, Cumbria Sparkle. Gosia Tabaka, the spa manager, explained to me it used “extracts of precious and semi-precious stones to energise, firm and balance the skin. Their chromatic tones correspond with the seven different chakra points on the body.” So I should feel like a million dollars then.
The spa uses the Spanish Germaine de Capuccini range – one I hadn’t come across before. Gosia loves these products and believes they’re particularly good at the various “rituals” the spa uses. The grow their source plants in laboratory conditions in the south of Spain (so no chance of pollution or pesticides affecting their purity) and as a result believe they can be used on even the most sensitive skins. They contain a wide range of vitamins and natural active ingredients that counter problems such as hormonal break-outs or stressed skin and fight the ageing process with a vengeance.
The first stage of the Cumbria Sparkle, the massage, begins with an all-over exfoliation (after the Rasul, I must have the softest skin in Britain). Massage is interspersed with the placement of crystals to balance the seven chakra points of the body and it was particularly relaxing for my back and neck. It builds slowly towards the Diamond Noir anti-ageing facial that begins with the usual cleansing and exfoliating and toning but also features ingredients such as zinc (repairing), iron (collagen stimulating) and – you guessed it – diamond powder that gives the skin luminosity. All this is accompanied by hot and cold applications and a facial massage that includes lymphatic drainage and a deeply relaxing scalp massage.
And even this was not the end. There was still the Kobido Refine Massage to come. Another anti-ageing facial technique, this time from Japan, promised to lift and firm even more. Gosia warned me that this was quite an unusual technique and not what you’d call relaxing but it was very effective. So there was rolling and squeezing, stretching of the skin, little pinches and circles – in a technique that was apparently once reserved for royalty. So forget a million dollars, think imperial.
The next day, looking utterly restored, I set out to explore Grasmere. The village itself is tiny and has none of the usual high street names, just small family-run cafes and shops and a beautiful church where Wordsworth is buried. Lots of walkers come here – it’s an empty, wild landscape and exquisitely beautiful with its lakes and mountains. You can see why Wordsworth found it a “paradise” from his very first visit.
Certainly, it’s the absolute antidote to city living and offers plenty of food for the soul. There’s not just the romance of the Lakeland poets, you can engage in poetry readings and fireside talks about literature at the museum next to Dove Cottage or there’s a Buddhist centre nearby that offers retreats and drop-in meditation. Best of all, Grasmere has its own storyteller, Taffy Thomas, whose tales and riddles, told in his storytelling garden, make children of us all again. An anti-ageing treatment for the soul, perhaps?
The Daffodil Hotel & Spa is offering Arbuturian readers a delightful ‘Detox By Day, Devil By Night’ – a popular midweek luxury spa package for two, which includes full use of the spa facilities, a choice of spa therapies, and healthy lunch by day, and a devilish pre-dinner cocktail, 3-course dinner, glass of champagne and overnight stay at night with prices from £295 per room.
Daffodil Hotel & Spa, Keswick Road, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9PR. 015394 63550. For more information, visit www.daffodilhotel.co.uk.
Virgin trains run up to two trains an hour, six and a half days a week, the fastest journey from London and Oxenholme is just two hours. Prices from £34. For more information, visit www.virgintrains.co.uk.