If you're in need of a big helping of 'Me Time' (hello, who isn't?), visit Whatley Manor, enter the beauty bubble.
Need a cheeky spa break? Me too! Oh how I love to waft about in a fluffy robe, float in a bubbly pool and enjoy the power of a good facial to catch a few zzzz. But that pleasure went to Sarah, aka Miss Muddy Gloucestershire, who checked in to Whatley Manor hotel and spa and hasn’t been seen since… Hmm I wonder why?
The Muddy visage loves a facial. God knows it needs it, having been mainlining UV rays, pollution and free radicals since 1969. Yeah, I’m old enough to be part of the generation that thought slathering yourself in baby oil to get a really deep tan was a good idea. And I put it on my face too! Ouch. So when I heard that Whatley Manor’s Aquarias Spa had a new Natura Bissé Treatment Bubble where you could get a facial in an atmosphere of 99.995% pure filtered air, I was hot-footing it to the gorgeous Cotswold country house hotel and spa before you could say sun damage.
The entrance area to the spa with fresh lavender setting the serene tone
I arrived from London via a pedal-to-floor journey on the M4 still buzzing with stress, but as soon as I entered the serene stable block where the Aquarias Spa dwells (along with a 40-seat cinema with huge, red-leather seats), I quickly moved into relax mode. Already the air seemed purer.
The spa staff couldn’t have been more welcoming, showing me to the changing rooms where fluffy towels, robes and slippers awaited. Duly attired, I shuffled off poolside as I had a bit of time to kill before my Aquarias Diamond Ritual, which I was already loving the sound of, so I thought I’d take a dip in the Hydrotherapy Pool. This, let me explain, is more massive Jacuzzi than swimming pool. You’re not going to be doing any lengths here; rather its purpose is to sit back, relax and let the bubbly jets of water massage every last bit of tension out of your body.
Despite it being early April, the weather was glorious, so I floated outside, sat back on an underwater bench and basked in the sun overlooking a perfect vision of English countryside. I’d have been happy with this to be honest, but there was so much more to enjoy!
Bubbly outdoor pool
In the Calidarium there was a fabulous sauna, steam grotto, laconium and experience showers, as well as the Bubble Suite, where I would have my treatment. In the Tepidarium (mosaic décor matched the Roman theme), there were heated stone recliners, salt scrub showers and a wave dream sensory room where you could sit back on squashy bean bags in semi-darkness around a glowing orb listening to the soft sound of waves lapping on the sand.
The Tepidarium where you can slough off with a salt scrub shower
I also took a peek inside the VIP suite where couples can be massaged side-by-side, lounge on a Moroccan-style daybed and luxuriate in a private, candlelit hydrotherapy bath. And there’s a bijou gym, too, though running on a treadmill and pumping weights was just about the last thing on my mind in this pampering haven.
The VIP suite with its double treatment beds and daybed to cuddle up in
Before I knew it, it was time for my treatment and I was collected from the Tepidarium by Violaine, a twentysomething French beautician, who took me to the Bubble Suite. And there it was, the Natura Bissé Pure Air Bubble, a white, zipped-up, tent-like structure pumped full of the purest air this side of Antarctica.
The magic Bubble!
Violaine talked me through the treatment which uses Natura Bissé products from the Spanish skincare company’s Diamond Collection, among a few other of its anti-ageing, hydrating and revitalising face and body products. The 90-minute treatment, exclusive to Aquarias Spa, starts, Violaine told me, with a 15-minute, lavender back massage to get you nice and relaxed for the turbo-charged, anti-ageing Diamond Energy facial that follows.
I was quite distracted by Violaine’s incredible skin as she explained the different steps in the facial, from peel to mask, via a lot of nurturing products and gentle massage that promise to energise skin and restore elasticity, skin tone and texture. It was as clear and as smooth as a baby’s. She obviously spends a lot of time in the Bubble I was thinking, so this was a very good sign that the pure air does indeed work magic.
Inside the Bubble
And, as I settled down to the treatment inside the tent, I felt that magic. Violaine had a bewitching touch and I actually fell asleep I was so relaxed. And the air! It was so clear and lovely to breathe. I’d had a touch of hay fever, but this dissipated within seconds.
The 90 minutes felt like a restorative afternoon and when I unzipped the Bubble and stepped out, I felt like a different person. Violaine then gave me a bit of a skincare consultation, which brought me back to earth, but luckily it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I
didn’t have any deep wrinkles (how have I dodged that bullet?!), just fine lines, one sun spot and some open pores. She advised swapping out the facial oil I use for a lighter moisturiser to deal with the open pores and recommended I try two of the products she’d used in the facial – the Natura Bissé Glyco Extreme Peel for super-duper rejuvenating exfoliation and the Diamond White Glowing Mask to deal with fine lines and sun spots.
I was ready to reach for my purse when I asked the price of the peel – £199! A bit steep for the Muddy bank balance, but I’m still considering the mask which for £66 and the promise of smoothing away fine lines and sun spots seems good value, especially as you only need to use it once a week.
Violaine and me after the treatment feeling confident enough for a bare-faced selfie!
I’m definitely pleased with the results. It’s not your cheapest facial at £160, but it’s definitely the most effective one I’ve ever had. It’s really made a difference to my skin, which days later still looks plumped and hydrated, with all my pores practically invisible, and I’ve got that elusive luminosity which I haven’t experienced since I pushed out my first sprog 15 years ago and embarked on years of sleep deprivation. I’m not even feeling the need for foundation which I always wear.
The spa garden
I floated off still in my bubble of extreme relaxation and whiled away the rest of the afternoon sunbathing on a lounger in the spa garden (slathered in SPF50 natch), contemplating how soon I could come back.
Aquarias Spa at Whatley Manor, Easton Grey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0RB. Tel:01666 827070. whatleymanor.com
On Wed 10 May, a Natura Bissé specialist will be visiting Aquarias Spa to hold a skincare masterclass where you will receive personalised skincare advice and learn how to prepare your skin for summer. Call 01666 827070 to book your place.