There are some names that inspire hushed tones and looks of reverence. Coworth Park in Berkshire, which reopened in 2010, after untold millions in renovations and three years in the making, is one such name. Previously, the 18th century country house was a place where royalty, historic figures and American colonists would rest their heads. Set in 240 acres of undulating parkland, a gentle canter from Ascot and within sight of the house where John Lennon wrote Imagine, it is the only hotel in Britain with its own polo fields, where you can ride in Windsor Great Park on Grand Prix dressage horses (or your own).
Consisting of 30 rooms in the elegant Mansion House and 40 in the Stables and Gardener’s Cottages — not to mention the fabulous three-bedroom Grade II listed Dower House, with its own lake (plus obligatory swans), butler and Aga — the hotel meets all its energy needs using carbon-neutral fuel from sustainable willow grown on the estate. Nestled neatly into the landscape and overlooking a sublime wildflower meadow, the crescent-shaped, glass-fronted Spa at Coworth Park is a short stroll or chauffeur-driven electric buggy ride from the Georgian manor house. Constructed from timber and lime hemp, it’s heated and cooled by miles of underground pipes or ‘slinkys’; while the sedum ‘living roof’ is planted with aromatic herbs for use in treatments.
Inside, the spa is crisp, clean-lined and creamy white, without being remotely clinical. Swathes of natural materials like smoked oak and stone, and works of art by up-and-coming British artists give it a warm, therapeutic feel. Waiting for the therapist, I notice the bulrushes on a delicate pin-and-thread landscape across the reception wall, echoing the stylized metal bulrush sculptures which guide guests from the entrance into the eight treatment rooms and stylish Relaxation Room.
Located on the upper floor of the spa are the treatment rooms, the Spatisserie restaurant and the Relaxation Room which is stocked with lashings of lemon-lime and cucumber-mint iced water, homemade biscuits, and glamorous coffee table books. Downstairs there’s a small gym and 59-foot pool (unusually, without child restrictions). Presided over by calm-inducing amethyst geodes, the pool glows lilac by day, complete with soothing underwater music. To the south, facing front, glass walls are flooded with natural light and open up to the elements in summer, affording sublime views across the wildflower meadow. Seeded each spring with 30 different varieties of French and English wildflowers, it forms a riot of color around April.
Each treatment room is named after an herb like “Basil,” a spacious room with two skylights that more than compensates for its lack of windows. The Coworth is the first spa in the world to offer Dr. Alkaitis facials alongside Aromatherapy Associates Carol Joy London and Kerstin Florian. Eagerly, I try the 80-minute two-mask Organic Skin Food Facial (approx. USD $194) and billed as holistically improving the skin while relaxing the mind.
During the process, the aesthetician gently cleanses your eyes and lips before moving onto your whole face with warm towels and applying a delicious exfoliating enzyme mask with smoothie. Packed with anti-oxidant strawberries, blueberries and oats mixed from powder with fresh honey, it smells divine and is literally good enough to eat. Dr. Alkaitis products are renowned for their reassuringly 100 percent organic and food-grade ingredients. While it’s left to do its work, guests are given a relaxing hand and arm massage, and once the mask is removed, a nourishing face oil is applied in preparation for the unglamorous but necessary ‘housekeeping’ session (aka steam and extraction). The steaming time reduces to suit sensitive skin and the process is carefully monitored by the specialist to avoid further reddening.
The Lifting Massage is where you’ll really begin to feel the benefits. Not only is it deliciously soporific (I actually nod off — unheard of for me), acupressure is used to help tone the muscles and plump up the skin through a wonderfully relaxing ritual of delicate fingertip taps. The second Universal Mask targets redness, followed by a rhythmical, flowing décolleté massage. To finish, eye cream is worked around the entire eye area, followed by a generous amount of day cream for your face to complete the hydration. It’s easily the most effective and relaxing facial I’ve had, due also to my aesthetician’s skill and attention to detail — my rosacea-prone skin is no walkover. From my experience, my skin was more hydrated, clear, previous redness all but gone and I undeniably appear more rested (and dare I say it, younger). Best of all, the effects last for days.
Along with the spa, every inch of this sprawling white Georgian manor and estate is in impossibly good taste and anything but traditional. The leather banisters, smashed Spode tile fireplaces, and life-size bronze oak tree merely touch the surface of its country-house reinvention. Contemporary, sophisticated, and quirky in a uniquely-British way, the Dorchester’s rural outpost is also one of the UK’s most ground-breaking environmentally-friendly hotels, with an impressive array of eco-credentials. Stay for the night or drop in for a spa treatment, there’s no doubt you’ll leave enjoying your time at Coworth Park.