A sneaky peek into The Club at Cottonmill and spa at Sopwell House in St Albans
PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 August 2020
I am ridiculously excited. To be honest, even a trip to a Spar would have been a welcome excursion during the long months of lockdown, let alone a stay at Sopwell House. But now overnight luxury awaits and I secretly hope that there won’t be a cloud of COVID over my celebrityesque hang out.
I wonder if they can cope with my Hackney-boy husband and give him a little pep talk similar to the one the head of year gave out on the coach about wearing the school’s badge, therefore representing the school and protecting its reputation while at the zoo/Thorpe Park/museum.
Re-reading the advanced emails they sent me it seems that the only thing I can’t visit is the steam rooms and sauna. That isn’t a problem because the hot tub and swimming pool are usually the highlights for me anyway. Not that you asked.
We arrive at the stunning Georgian manor house and are welcomed by a friendly masked smile and a glance at the sanitiser just by the entrance. Both our temperatures are taken and having resigned myself to a day of ‘work’ in an oversized dressing gown, I am quite relieved about that.
There are two areas within the spa - the exclusive club at Cottonmill is the posher one of the two and sometimes requires an extra supplement, dependant on the package purchased.
The Cottonmill spa is the regular hotel guest swimming pool and hot tub area. The Club spa experience features an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool leading out to a beautiful green space created.
I enjoyed a drink in the hot-tub by one of the fire-pits. There are day beds to lounge on which overlook the pool and garden.
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A thermal suite with four choices of steam and sauna rooms – an organic sauna, panoramic sauna, salt steam room and botanical steam room - also looks inviting but this has not re-opened yet due to the pandemic.
Staff in the spa reception area are wearing visors and I am asked to keep my mask on. I was asked to arrive in my gown which meant a slight walk-of-smugness in said dressing gown past the afternoon tea people.
Now for my massage - I had an Elemis freestyle deep tissue massage with Carolina. Truly, it was the best massage I have ever had. I have never been a fan of the lavender-smelling tickle and prefer a firm hand, which is exactly what she delivered, and it certainly eased the tensions that have built up over months of home-working with my computer balanced precariously on my lap.
The spa is proud to include the amber and quartz crystal bed, the first of its kind in the UK spa and a Vichy shower treatment room. Cottonmill has also embraced the growing role of techology in the wellness world, with a Dornbracht luxury shower which recreates the sensation of showering in the open air, and the Elemis Biotec machine, which increases the skins natural cellular energy.
We are staying in Hawthorn, one of the mews suites. It is in the grounds of the large hotel building and has its own gated area with a private garden and a hot tub. There is a seating area, a gorgeous bathroom with a heated towel rail and a roll top bath in front of a fire in the bedroom. The bed is tastefully decorated with orange and yellow and blue velvet cushions and big enough for social distancing if you are on a first date. Or you just don’t like the person you are with very much.
We have dinner in the Brasserie. There is a good mix to choose from and the food was perfect. I had a poached salmon thing that looked like it had been rolled in birdseed because I am super healthy and my body is obviously a temple...Hubby had his standard steak and chips. I had a beautiful mozzarella and tomato starter and he had a prawn cocktail that bore not much resemblance to the sort of thing you had at your grandma’s in the eighties. Massive prawns with their tails still on and no ketchup mixed with mayo in sight. Not even a lettuce leaf.
Due to social distancing, the would-be-self-service breakfast situation has been adapted. Bless the waiting staff who are spectacularly running around putting various types of toast on a conveyer belt escalator, checking everybody has what they need in the way of juice and milk and continental.
The verdict: I had a lovely time and felt very safe in these post-lockdown times. I loved the totally new spa area and the mews suite which felt peaceful and luxurious at the same time. I would definitely go back if someone wants to invite me!
Opened last August following a £14m investment, Cottonmill at Sopwell House is the UK’s first private members spa, with limited memberships. Day access to Cottonmill is available to hotel residents for a supplementary fee and spa day packages are also available for both Cottonmill and The Club.
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