Aqua Sana's newly-refurbished Forest Spa combined 24 different spa experiences into one seamless, relaxing tapestry. Alexandra Fraser was fortunate enough to pay a visit; here's why she struggled to leave.
A day in the spa can seem like a long time, when one considers that there’s usually a sauna, a steam room, a pool, maybe a hot tub outside and not much else to do except sleep uncomfortably on a sun lounger, breathing in chlorine fumes. There are only a finite number of ways you can combine and repeat these amenities before, pruney and a little dehydrated, you pull your wet hair up into a bun and drive home.
If you’ve started to become a little disillusioned with the ceremony, there’s one place in the UK sure to restore your faith and send you running back into the fold. That place is Aqua Sana, Wiltshire.
Buried in Longleat Forest, Aqua Sana couldn’t make more of its beautiful environment if it tried. Full of open ceilings and large glass windows (you’ll see deers munching leaves from the sauna windows if you’re lucky), you’ll win no prizes for guessing why its called the Forest Spa.
The colonnaded entrance to the spa-proper belays the world beyond with its comparative simplicity, and the promise of over 24 experiences seems cluttered and, might we add, impossible. If you’ve booked one of their many treatments (which should not be overlooked), it’s possible to have your morning taken up with a good massage and a long lounge in the Vitalé Café Bar, nibbling at the excellent food, in no hurry to move.
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Although this is my usual move, for Aqua Sana, I must advise against it. The Forest Spa isn’t like any other spa – this is said confidently by one who has been lucky enough to try a fair few across the globe – and it should be entered immediately upon arrival, once you’ve dropped your bag, changed into a robe and prepared yourself for a forest bathing session like no other.
On the right of the entrance is ‘Sole Therapy’, a foot spa to begin your journey (a word I, for once, use devoid of all irony). Moving through to the centre of the spa, you’ll see the first of many beauties – the outdoor heated pool, with the treetops of the forest above reflected in the water. Take a quick dip and then move on – you have work to do.
The spa is divided into five main sections, each with its own dedicated features and unique design; Volcanic Forest, Nordic Forest, Treetop Nesting, Hot Springs and Forest Immersion. I’m normally quite cynical of the promises spa experiences make, but this time I was floored with the success of the far-fetched venture.
Volcanic Forest is, unsurprisingly, the hottest section, with sauna temperatures of 75 degrees and a 45-degree steam room. Glowing red and cosy, it’s a fantastic place to start. The heat and shower experiences are paired with a fireside nook relaxation room, complete with cosy chairs and startlingly-realistic flames – the whole concept was designed by the team who had hands in the special affects for Game of Thrones, and the skill can be felt everywhere.
Move onto the Alpine section. The shower experiences are cold and vary in pressure, as good as any massage if you’re brave enough to give them a go. The Alpine steam room, inspired by the Northern Lights, is accented by blue and green glowing lights punctuating the soft vapours. If you’re braver than brave, head to the Ice Cave with its ice rub – exactly what it says on the tin – after a stint in the Alpine sauna. Relax in the Scandinavian snug with its fluffy blankets and feel as if you’ve been transported to the middle of the mountains.
The concept works on the healing power of forest bathing, and it does it well. Three further sections await visitors – it takes hours upon hours to experience each element to their fullest. My first thought was that this was finally a spa to bring a partner to – even my personified short-attention-span would get lost in Longleat.
The rest of the spa passes much the same in terms of relaxation, and yet so individual in terms of experience. The ‘Deep Relax’ waterbeds of the Rain Forest section are dream-inducing. The ‘Forest Nesting’ cavern, with its inviting beds and moving, celestial ceiling is downright hypnotic – I could’ve spent an entire afternoon there alone. Visit the ‘Hot Spring’ hot tubs outside to experience Longleat Forest itself in all its serene wisdom – try a few different steam rooms in a row and appreciate the different decors and scents. The spa is your oyster – and, for a day, your world too.
The crown jewel of the Forest Spa is, appropriately, upstairs in the newest section of the spa. The Forest Cavern tricks its visitors into believing that they’ve stepped into an underground cave, so realistic does it look. With slab beds and rain showers every few minutes, it’s a place to sit back and chill and watch life move through the treetops above – preferably not with a book.
If you want to continue your healing experience, book Nature’s Ultimate Remedy. The luxurious two-hour treatment includes a body exfoliation, a rasual grey mud body mask, a scalp massage with coconut oil, a hot stone massage, a facial massage and Aegean charcoal face mask, amplified with a rose quartz derma roller. There’s no question about the success of this treatment – it’s, in one word, heaven.
I’m already planning my next visit – maybe pairing it with a forest bike ride or a good hike to make it a whole weekend away.
Aqua Sana Longleat Forest offers a range of spa days and packages (from £59 per person) and spa breaks (from £169 per person). Guests on a Center Parcs short break can also enjoy spa sessions (from £45 per person for three hours). Nature’s Ultimate Remedy starts from £199. Visit www.aquasana.co.uk to book.
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