Rockliffe Hall – Spa Review
Rockliffe Hall – Spa Review
Hurworth, County Durham
by Julia Paddon
It’s a hard life being a beauty editor. No really, it is. Well actually it isn’t. It’s lovely (writing for a living); REALLY lovely (beauty products landing on my doorstep most days) and sometimes just plain INDULGENT (reviewing luxury hotels and spa treatments up and down the country).
Which, by way of neat introduction, leads me to last week. It was a cold but sunny ‘spring-is-here’ Thursday morning, birds tweeting merrily and sunglasses required for the short drive with my colleague up the A1 from Leeds (tunes turned up *cue loud and unabashed bad singing). We arrive, ears still ringing, and pootle down the sweeping drive of the very handsome-looking Rockliffe Hall. We laughingly wonder if we have the audacity to drive once or twice around the grand turning circle by the front door in our little Toyota Aygo – we decide we don’t and go and park in the car park.
Can I pause here to say what a fan I am of friendly and unpretentious service. I have stayed in a lot of hotels and spas that label themselves as luxury or boutique that are very beautiful spaces to look at, but lack soul, character and warmth. The service becomes stuffy, overly formal or hushed, quiet and reverent. Treating people in a luxurious way means, to me, generating warmth and rapport – being kind and polite, but also definitely fun, friendly, conversational and welcoming. I’m not sure who wants to pay to go to a hotel and whisper as they walk down the corridors during the day, slightly afraid of getting the etiquette wrong. Normal voices please, no shouting, no impoliteness just normal and friendly. Laughing welcome – you’re there to relax and have fun after all.
“Menu is reassuringly brief”
We enjoy the stunning entrance and the really beautiful service at Rockliffe Hall. We sit down with the friendly receptionists, (nice touch with the low informal desks) and concierge, with whom we have a bit of a chuckle. They make us feel very ‘at home’. We are told about all the important things: Where the food and drink is being served; where the Spa is; that robes and slippers are in our room and we are free to pad around the hotel and spa in both at our leisure.
We have lunch in the Brasserie. The food is delicious and served with a disproportionately large-skied view across the impressive and meandering golf course. The menu is reassuringly brief, making our choices simple. Options are thoughtfully lighter for those ‘pre-spa’ and heavier for those who are ‘post-golf’ ravenous. Following a female tradition as old as Joan Collins we order a salad each and chips to share because we don’t want to feel full but we also don’t want to miss out.
Then we talk lots about people, life as we know it, having babies, not having babies, being old, being fat, being thin, being lucky, moving house, being busy, being unlucky, why our families are crazy, what cosmetic surgery we’d consider and what on earth inspires our own, and sometimes our friends’ bad choices.
We go to the Spa and the talking slows down. We swim, we bubble, we sauna, we foot spa (on thrones with admittedly slightly baffled expressions). After a cold shower we are taken to the Spa Garden to lie down on heated loungers where we stop talking altogether and fall asleep. I should add that you reach the Spa Garden via the poolside juice bar that also serves Aperol Spritz – our shiny make-up free faces radiate sheer delight.
Leaving my colleague snoring quietly on her heated lounger I retire for my facial. I love Caudalie and I don’t see it used often enough, so the beauty geek in me is very excited. My therapist sits me down and, whilst my feet relax in a bowl of warm scented water, she runs through my treatment. Knowing what is coming up helps me to completely relax, let go and follow the flow of the treatment. Cleanse, tone, spritz, exfoliate, spritz, massage, refresh, mask, arm and hand massage, spritz, moisturise, spritz, moisturise.
The scent of Caudalie is magical, especially their Beauty Elixir which is used liberally ‘spritz spritz’ throughout my facial to freshen the face, tighten and refine. The treatment is perfectly balanced and confidently delivered. I love it. I emerge refreshed with skin singing and zinging. In fact, I love it so much I return for a hot oil massage the next morning. Well done Rockliffe Hall.
Every time I go to a spa I think about how significant an impact it has on my overall well-being. Circulation, skin condition, mood, appetite, tension and stress. I’m convinced that mine and most people’s overall health would be greatly improved by a weekly spa session.
Rockliffe Hall: “Your body and mind will thank you”
Add to that a facial and massage and we’d be being very kind to ourselves. I wonder how realistic it is to make that happen for those in the UK on a modest budget? Until then we have the indulgent luxury of the impromptu spa trip. I urge you all to book. Do it. Your body and mind will thank you and you’ll be hooked. Rockcliffe Hall is a great place to start that journey.
Do you mind if I just take a quick moment to celebrate the hot cloth. Treatment rooms have little heated cupboards with a seemingly endless supply of hot scented flannels. They should be really hot. They are used between products to punctuate the treatment. I do well not to let out a little relaxed sigh every time one is placed on my face. Rockcliffe Hall – your hot cloths were HOT. Thank you, until next time.
Rockliffe Hall Hotel, Hurworth on Tees, Darlington, County Durham, DL2 2DU
Rockliffe Hall is a the only five red star hotel on the North, set within 375 acres on the banks of the River Tees, near the village of Hurworth. The 18th-century red-brick mansion has 61 elegant guest bedrooms, three restaurants and an award-winning spa which offers a range of treatments. An additional landscaped Spa Garden features a hydrotherapy pool, Jacuzzi, decked lounging area, fire pit, water feature and sweeping views across the estate. An overnight stay costs from £220 per room (two sharing), including full English breakfast and use of the indoor spa.