Stuck for last-minute gift ideas? A voucher for the Spa at Sopwell House could be the answer. On the outskirts of St Albans, about 20 minutes from Barnet (with a good wind), this elegant hotel is a luxurious local destination.
My Mum and I were recently in need of a girls’ treat so we booked in for the Simply Sopwell spa day (£59). This included use of all the spa facilities (swimming pool, relaxing areas, sauna and steam rooms) and a three-course buffet lunch in the Brasserie Restaurant. They provide robes, towels and slippers, so all you need is your cossie and to get there in good time to make the most of it. What’s more, you could combine it with a walk or run along the River Ver either northwest through St Albans or south towards Frogmore and Colney Street.
Sopwell House dates back to the 17th century and was expanded and reworked by owners over the years. The original owner was the wonderfully named Sir Harbottle Grimston, Earl of Verulam and more recently it was owned by the Mountbattens. Since WW2 it has been a home for the elderly before becoming a hotel in 1969. The current owner, Abraham Bejerano acquired Sopwell House in 1986.
There are some period details in the main building but the overall style is a combination of old and new with an emphasis on modern luxury. The original building has been extended quite a long way back and there are various bars and two restaurants, along with generously proportioned public areas. With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, it was looking gorgeously festive and feeling deliciously warm everywhere.
The spa is located towards the back of the ground floor with views of the grounds and gardens from the pool. The steam room and sauna are a few steps away and there are two hot-tubs. The pool is fringed with loungers on a couple of levels – best to arrive early as they quickly get reserved. After a couple of hours unwinding, lunch was in the Brasserie with a comprehensive buffet and carvery. It was a busy day and we felt a little odd in bathrobes, but there is a more discrete corner where spa-goers can generally be seated separately. A large glass of wine helped us along before our mid-afternoon massages.
The spa wing is currently being extended so treatments are taking place in specially adapted bedrooms upstairs – however we weren’t remotely aware of the building work. My Mum thoroughly enjoyed her aromatherapy massage and my hot stone massage was total bliss, and the ESPA products add to the luxury. I can’t think of any better for a cold day – the heat radiates through your body and at times it feels like you are being anointed with warm oil. Amazingly sensual. We then sipped some tea in the relaxation area before getting dressed and dragging ourselves away. We felt so relaxed by that point, we didn’t want to go anywhere.
There are currently some great winter offers available (check website) and if you want to treat someone – or yourself – to some indulgent time out, I can’t think of a better local option.