Spa of the Month: SPA Shell at Fishmore Hall, Ludlow


A spa of one’s own? Sounds good to me. At Fishmore Hall near Ludlow, they’ve just opened the small but perfectly formed SPA Shell that would be ideal for a self-indulgent weekend girlie getaway or a romantic weekend for two. Could it even be the perfect setting for a proposal (candles and champagne can be provided)?

Of course, you can simply go and book a session as one of the guests at this lovely foodie hotel set in the rolling Shropshire countryside. You may then have to share but this is a spa that is never going to get busy and feels surprisingly spacious as there’s as much of it outside as there is in.

So, inside first. There’s a chilled relaxation room with a state of the art sauna and a steam room that has a range of modes with changing lighting and an infused shower. Outside there’s a two tier deck with a hot tub, loungers and a massive hammock made for two – all with great views. It’s all wrapped up with a contemporary, laid-back feel and would be a great place for a summer’s evening.

It’s an Elemis spa and so has a wide range of treatments that combine state-of-the-art products with traditional therapies. So, a massage can be combined with mineral-charged products to improve metabolic balance and energy (this one’s the Hot Mineral Energising Body Boost). There’s also one called the Lava Shell massage and, given it’s also the name of the spa, it looked like one to try.

So, first things first, this does not involve either lava or shells. Lava Shells have been invented by Elemis as the first ever self-heating massage tool. They are a bit like the stones used in a hot stone massage but, instead of starting off hot and cooling down, they start off warm and get gradually hotter. This actually works particularly well in terms of making the muscles relax more and more as the treatment goes on and soak up the heat. I found it very good on my back and, curiously, on the soles of my feet. Who’d have realised there was tension stored there?

After that, it was time for the facial and I decided to go for one of the Elemis Biotec range. So this involves a machine, probes and rollers, as well as gel masks and a series of ever-changing products. It’s high-tech and you can choose by result. Radiance Renew has an ultrasonic peel, Sensitive Skin Soother calms redness and sensitivity, Blemish Control decongests, exfoliates and clears the complexion. I went for Firm-a-Lift that promised to strengthen and lift the skin.

Before the technology came the prep. So I had the most thorough cleanse I think I’ve ever experienced – several different cleansers, plus a toner and an exfoliator, then a different cleanse by which time I was ready for the main course. First a balm was applied all over my face and then a gel mask for the lower face (hooked over the ears like a comedy beard). Then came the electronic bit. Rose, my therapist, used a pair of probes to pull the skill tight or push and pinch it together. This sounds a mite painful but it wasn’t in the least uncomfortable and there was no sensation of a current either. After all this was removed, I’m cleansed again, more balm is applied then another mask over the entire face. Rose then uses little rollers to iron everything out before I’m cleansed, moisturised and ready to go.

So did it work? Well, I was a bit shiny after all this but, once everything had calmed down, I think I could definitely see a plumping of the skin and a real glow.

The spa at Fishmore is very new and what this place is best known for is its remarkable restaurant, Forelles, run by its extremely creative chef, Andrew Birch, who also runs chef days where you can learn not just to cook but to shop as a chef. Being just outside Ludlow, regional foodie capital, you’re spoilt for choice. Ludlow has a great market, artisan bakeries, specialist game butchers, a fishmonger with an oyster bar, handmade chocolate shop and its own drop-in brewery. I can’t think of a better place for a foodie weekend away.

Forelles itself offers three menus – à la carte and two tasting menus (one six and one nine courses) – this is not to mention the canapés, the amuses bouches and the pre-dessert. The food keeps on coming and the flavours are sensational. The seared Orkney scallops are slightly spicy with a truly delicate texture. The local lamb is cooked with chickpeas, ewes’ curd and aubergines. The salted caramel fondant came with crème fraiche and a cider sorbet.

So, not a spa where you can expect to lose weight, then. But if you’re looking for an indulgent winter getaway, look no further.

B&B rooms at Fishmore Hall start at £150 per room per night. Tasting menu from £65pp. Cook and Shop with Chef £199 pp including room, breakfast, day with Andrew Birch, lunch, dinner, champagne and canapés. Dogs allowed, too, £30. For more information, visit