There is nothing more exciting than when a company you love (and spend a lot of money with) gets in touch to say they’d like to help you tick off something from your bucket list. I admit I squealed just a little bit more than I should have when the guys over at Buyagift got in touch. I was invited to choose something I really wanted to try, so I took a quick glance at my recent 38 Things For 38 Years list, which is kind of my “now” list, and Buyagift kindly donated a Spa Day with massage to my cause.
They didn’t mess about. My Spa Day voucher arrived in the post a couple of days later – a really nice physical gift if you’re worried about giving “virtual” presents – and within 24 hours I’d booked a day off work and called The Malvern to get it booked in. I had the All About Me Spa Day, which included use of the facilities all day plus two hour-long treatments and lunch. The lady on the phone was very helpful; she talked me through the available treatments and what I’d need to bring with me, and was very good at getting me excited for my day.
I’ve had Spa Days before. I’ve been to Eden Hall a couple of times, and Aqua Sana at Center Parcs a couple as well, and I was interested to see how The Malvern compared to these. But even with those experiences I am certainly no seasoned Spa-goer. Far from it; the idea of sitting inside doing nothing all day makes me itch with boredom before I’ve even started. Even with my reservations I chose this experience because I genuinely felt it would help me reset and recharge, give me some breathing space without distraction, and allow me to switch off for a whole day. Something I knew I needed.
Based on an industrial estate just outside Malvern in Worcestershire, The Malvern is a modern looking, purpose built spa hotel. That’s right, on an industrial estate, next to the Premier Inn and Morrisons supermarket. It’s a really bizarre location for a Spa hotel, I’ve always assumed that such places are in rolling countryside with grounds and gardens and nature and peace. Not here. Sure, inside the building it’s a Spa like any other, but outside it’s a modern style square looking building with all the noises of traffic and people and the rest. But we all know it’s what’s on the inside that matters, so I headed through the front door…
Once inside it looks – and smells – like a lovely spa hotel. The Spa reception is separate to the hotel reception, and I was guided there before being greeted with a warm and friendly welcome. I was offered a drink and a seat until my Spa Host for the day came to meet me, take my lunch order, explain how it all worked, showed me around all the facilities, and took me to the changing rooms. She was on hand all day to help me should I need it, she also seemed responsible for keeping the spa areas clean and tidy all day.
The changing rooms were not as luxurious as I was perhaps imagining, and I noticed that throughout the Spa things were looking a little tired. Decent, but tired. For example the toilet paper wasn’t in the dispenser, but sat on top of it, there were a couple of doors hanging off, there were no hooks for your robes outside the showers or toilets, there were broken hooks around the pool area and marks on the walls. Nothing major, but it did feel like The Malvern could do with a bit of TLC to bring it back up to full health. One of the saunas was out of action all morning due to maintenance work taking place, with workmen coming and going with trolley loads of stuff to help them do whatever they were doing – they were clearly trying to be quiet but that is pretty well impossible when you are doing maintenance and it was a bit odd to be sat around in my bathrobe with workmen coming and going.
The Spas I’ve been to before had a wall of fresh towels and a robe exchange, with laundry baskets in the changing rooms to get rid of your wet ones – which happens very easily when you’re getting in and out of the pool and treatment rooms. On arrival I had to sign to say I would put my robe and towel back in my locker at the end of the day or I would be charged, and there was no information about switching towels until I spotted a sign next to one of the loungers in the pool area to say I could ask for a fresh one at reception if I needed to. The footwear provided was a pair of cheap plastic flip flops, rather than the soft towelling slippers you might expect – I’m pleased I’d put my own pool slides in my bag, along with my own towel so that I could have one for my hair and one for my body later in the day.
The most disappointing thing I noticed right at the start of the day, was that drinks of water were to be had in little disposable plastic cups. I guess The Malvern hasn’t quite got on board with the need to curb our use of single use plastic yet, which surprised me as I assumed Spas were bothered about health, wellbeing and the environment. A lot of people must think the same; I saw a few with their own water bottles they were refilling – I’d left mine in the car assuming I wouldn’t need it, and didn’t fancy going out to get it once I was in my swimmers, so I took one plastic cup and reused all day instead.
It sounds like I thought The Malvern was a bit rubbish and I’m being very negative at this point in my post, but I’m just getting all the niggles out of the way here. I guess when you are expecting luxury (and especially when you have paid £155 for a day of luxury, which is the cost of the voucher should I have treated myself), you do notice the little things, and all these issues are the “around the edges” bits and bobs that could be fixed reasonably easily.
Let me talk about the things that they did have… There is a nice large lounge which was bright and airy, with an open fire (not lit) and plenty of seating for sitting and reading. This was also where you wait for your treatments. To the one side there is a bar and restaurant, selling coffees, snacks and lunches; my food was included so I didn’t pay much attention to the prices if I’m honest. Down the corridor there is a large relaxation room which was warm and cosy with beds with cushions and blankets; I liked it in there, it was a very nice place to be. The pool area is in two parts; inside and outside, both with a number of hydrotherapy features, the water was lovely and warm, and at no point was it too crowded. It’s not a swimming pool, of course, it’s for relaxation, you’re not coming here to do lengths. If you do want to exercise, though, there is a large gym, although this seemed busy with gym goers rather than those attending the spa, especially at the beginning and end of the day when I guess people were using it before or after work.
My Spa Day
Once I’d had my little tour and gotten changed, I went straight to the waiting area for my massage. I’d chosen an early slot at the recommendation of the lady I spoke to when booking, which seemed very sensible to me.
My massage was utterly fabulous. And that’s no exaggeration. I had Jessica for a Pure Massage, which is a set programme of actions and moves rather than just a standard back massage. It was primarily my back, but also some work on the feet and scalp. It lasted an hour which to be honest I thought would feel like forever, but it was just right and was so blissful. At the start Jessica asked how firm I wanted her to be, and I gave her free reign to be as firm as she liked, which was a good decision; she certainly obliged and it felt like she was doing amazing things to my back. Apparently I carry a bit of tension in my upper back and shoulders – I sure do! I also enjoyed the foot massage, I was worried it might tickle but it didn’t, and the scalp massage was especially nice. The oils she used on my body and hair were very nice indeed, and my hair felt amazing once I washed the mask out. The whole thing was an incredibly nice experience and I would definitely consider paying for this type of massage again in the future.
After drinking a huge amount of water and spending 20 minutes or so in the relaxation room at the request of Jessica, next on my Spa Day agenda was brunch. I mean, if you can’t eat good food at a spa… the It’s All About Me Spa Day includes a “deli board” and a hot drink during the morning, which in reality was a warm croissant and a jar of yogurt and fruit served with a pot of tea. It was a very nice-to-have, I won’t ever turn down elevenses, although I probably wouldn’t have chosen it from a menu. I was a bit perplexed by the soundtrack in the Spa bar area; I’m not sure how relaxing Top Loader is?! Thankfully the music was more Spa-typical in the other areas.
It was now time to enjoy the pool for a while, which I guess is the bit I most associate with a Spa Day. The pool is an indoor and outdoor affair with warm water and various hydrotherapy features. It doesn’t look that big to look at, but it’s not for swimming, and once in and enjoying the different jets and bubbles and beds I discovered there is plenty of space for it not to feel crowded. My favourite element in the pool was a strong jet you could swim against if you wanted to have a bit of exercise, a little like an endless pool but not quite as athletic. It was a clear and cold winters day which meant being in the outdoor pool was especially nice; the steam coming off the water was an indication of just how warm and relaxing it was.
I also enjoyed dipping in and out of the sauna and steam rooms, along with the obligatory ice for my face and cool tropical rain shower afterwards. This part of The Malvern was a bit lacking in my opinion, just the four rooms to choose from and a couple of showers, but inside each one was spacious and hot and great for relaxing in. I guess I have been spoiled in this area at Spas I’ve been to before now.
The area around the pool was crammed full of loungers, pretty much all reserved by those in the pool or sauna. I found a spot in the corner and sat and read my book – Kate Humble’s Thinking on my Feet. I’d have gone for a walk myself except there was nowhere to go, not unless I wanted to wander to Morrisons in my robe and slides. There was also some outdoor seating, although not a lot, I imagine they provide more in summer when it’s actually warm enough to sit outside.
I nearly got changed for lunch as sitting eating in my robe seemed odd, but I walked passed to have a peek and everyone else was in their robes, so I didn’t bother. I did put a tshirt on though and glad I did because it wasn’t warm in there. I had to order right at the start of the day which is always a bit of a gamble as I never actually know what I’ll want before I sit down to eat, but thankfully the chicken starter and crayfish sandwich were both decent choices. There was actually quite a big menu, and it all looked good to me. I mean, it wasn’t Michelin starred food or anything like that, but it was cooked and presented nicely, tasted good, and there was plenty of it.
After lunch spent another hour or so in and by the pool before getting out of my swimmers, showered and dried off before my pedicure – I decided I wanted to be dry before sitting in a chair for an hour-long treatment. I have what I affectionally call “hiker’s feet”, and to be honest they really aren’t very well looked after. I was a bit worried my therapist, Amy, would be a teeny bit disgusted with them, but if she was she didn’t show it! She cleaned, scrubbed, buffed, massaged and pampered my feet for an hour, including lathering them in lotion, wrapping them in clingfilm, and putting them in heated booties for ten minutes – strangely nice! I now have bright green toes – which are still going strong now. I’ve only every had one short and simple pedicure before this, and it put me off somewhat, but this was completely different and something I could absolutely get used to.
After this and to end my time at The Malvern I spent yet more time relaxing and reading my book. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time sitting for a very long time, certainly not sitting without reaching for my phone or iPad. I was actually surprised at the number of people who were playing on their phones around the pool, there was one lady actually on her laptop; I guess people relax in different ways!
It Was All About Me
Spending a whole day at a Spa is not on my regular schedule by any stretch of the imagination. But I am very glad that I put it on my 38 Things For 38 Years list, and even more glad that Buyagift spotted my massive bucket list and decided to help me tick something off. The Malvern was a great choice being an easy drive from my home and having some lovely facilities to help me relax.
While the location of The Malvern is a bit odd in that it feels dumped in the middle of an industrial estate, and the décor inside needs a bit of TLC to make it perfect, it genuinely was a fantastic place to spend the day. The hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and relaxation room were very nice places to be. The best bit about the Spa Day for me was, by far, the treatments. Jessica and Amy are both superb at what they do; the massage was just wonderful, the pedicure satisfying (and the green polish might even make it to Gran Canaria next month…), and I would one hundred percent pay money to do both of those again.
I’ve been asked a few times about what it’s like doing a Spa Day on my own. And I can honestly say it was pretty wonderful – an opportunity to do my own thing and spend an entire day doing as I pleased. No-one gets that opportunity very often. But being alone I also felt a bit self-conscious; everyone else seemed to have a mate, no one else was as red faced as me from the heat of the water, and everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where they were going at all times. Having said that, the overriding feeling I get when thinking back to my day at The Malvern, is one of wonderful and pure relaxation. I hope to do it again sometime.
Are you a regular spa goer? Do you love to get a massage or a pedicure as a treat to yourself every now and again? Which is your favourite day Spa? Where should I try next?!
With thanks to Buyagift who kindly gifted me the It’s All About Me package at The Malvern. This is not a sponsored post, but I will happily recommend you check out Buyagift when looking for gift ideas for yourself or those you love – so many things to try!