From: Spa Secrets,
As the summer nights draw in, Piers Morgan Ede discovers it is the ideal time to visit spas in England, Ireland and Wales.
Named after the town of the same name, Country Cork can be found in the south of Ireland and is famed for its spectacular scenery, rugged coastline and numerous cultural and historic attractions. It’s home to one of the best-known rituals in all of Ireland, kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, as well as the coastal town of Kinsale, famous for its annual food festival in October. Don’t miss the Gougane Barra Forest Park, filled with Lodgepole Pine, Sitka Spruce and Japanese Larch trees.
Twenty-five minutes east of Cork city, Castlemartyr is a tranquil village said to date back to the Bronze Age. With its striking Carmelite monastery, dense woodlands, lakes and gardens, it makes a perfect base from which to explore rural Ireland. In its current form, Castlemartyr village was established in the 17th century by Sir Richard Boyle, the ‘Great’ Earl of Cork. Castlemartyr replaces two medieval villages which Boyle demolished and remains a charming place, with a mere five hundred inhabitants.
The hotel: Castlemartyr Resort This five-star country manor house includes a Ron Kirby designed golf course, food by chef Roger Olsson, a 24-hour fitness centre and its original features and character intact. Guests may take carriage tours of its 220-acre estate, home to the tomb of a fourth Earl of Shannon and Mitchell’s Woods.
Traditionally known as the ‘kingdom’, County Kerry is situated in the far south-west of the country and is as close as you’ll get to the mythical Ireland of many a Hollywood movie. With its wild scenery, well-preserved monuments, lakes, ruins and beaches, County Kerry's a magnet for tourists from all corners of the globe. Many come for the Ring of Kerry, an iconic 180-mile circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula, thought of as one of the world’s greatest road trips. Visiting off-season can be just as breathtaking.
Located in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland, the Lakes of Killarney are one of the country’s most prominent scenic attractions. Part of the Killarney National Park, the three lakes are surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. Killarney National Park was the first national park to be established in Ireland and, in 1981, was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a Biosphere Reserve, part of a world network of natural areas.
The hotel: Aghadoe Heights Tucked into 75 acres of countryside, Aghadoe Heights Hotel combines old Irish charm with five-star facilities. In the Lake Room restaurant, executive chef Robin Suter uses local produce to create flavoursome Eurocentric dishes. If you’re feeling flush, the Penthouse suite has won Aghadoe acclaim: measuring 3,000sq ft, it has a terraced garden and hot tub.
Home to the most southerly point of Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan is ideal for lovers of the outdoors, with clean, family-safe beaches. The 14 miles of uninterrupted coastline known as the Glamorgan Heritage Coast is where visitors will find sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and secluded coves in relatively deserted comfort, while villages full of pretty cottages and quaint shops fill the county’s interior.
Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a modern, varied and bustling city. Its relatively small size makes it all the easier to see and do more in a short space of time. St. Mary Street, with is concentration of bars and clubs, comes alive at weekends, while the live music venues regularly host new and well-known bands. In the last decade, the old docks have been converted into Cardiff Bay, complete with fresh water lake for sailing and other watersports, and Mermaid Quay with its warehouse-style accommodation, bars and restaurants.
The hotel: St David’s Hotel & Spa Overlooking Mermaid Quay, the five-star St David’s Hotel & Spa is a modern hotel based in a glass building, with ample natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Its 43 spacious and contemporary rooms are decorated in stark white, with Italian furnishings and fluffy, earthy rugs and bed covers, and large balconies. Guests staying in any of the hotel’s 11 suites will be able to enjoy a separate bedroom and lounge with adjoining balcony, a free bottle of wine and state-of-the-art music system. The hotel’s Tempus Bar & Restaurant serves Welsh delicacies, local seafood and cream teas, while the Tides Grill serves succulent steaks and Champagne in an alfresco setting. www.thestdavidshotel.com
Dating from around the year 840, Berkshire is one of the oldest counties in England, and is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle. Much of West Berkshire lies within the North Wessex Downs Area of 'Outstanding Natural Beauty', a unique landscape including tranquil open downland, ancient woodland and chalk streams. The Royal Landscape, located within Windsor Great Park, contains more than a thousand acres of woodland and lakes as well as one of the finest ornamental gardens in Europe.
The small market town of Wokingham is located in the south-east of the county, just 33 miles from London. It sits between Reading and Bracknell in the Lodden River Valley. According to a survey taken in 2007, based upon life expectancy, weather, earnings, house prices, health, crime and education, Wokingham was found to be the most desirable place to live in the whole of the UK.
The day spa: Nirvana Spa This ambitious day spa reminds customers that 'spa' means water treatment, typically with thermal or mineral water for drinking and bathing. With this in mind, Nirvana is constructed around a natural water source, so that its six pools are spring-fed, and they sell their own branded mineral water.
The landlocked county of Wiltshire is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys, as well as the famous Salisbury Plain. Here, the iconic monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, some of Europe's most impressive prehistoric earthworks, attract thousands of visitors annually. Salisbury is noted for its medieval cathedral, boasting the tallest spire in the UK, while the nearby stately home of Longleat caused a zoological revolution in the 1960s by becoming the first place outside Africa to open a drive-through safari park.
Just minutes from Bath, Lucknam Park is a grand Palladianstyle country house set in 500 acres of its own land. Approached by a magnificent mile-long avenue of lime and beech trees planted in 1827, the house dates from 1720 and was until recently a private residence. In World War II, it was used as a headquarters for the airforce due to the excellent camouflage offered by the trees. Visitors shouldn't miss Bath itself, a charming spa town with plenty of history.
The hotel: Lucknam Park Hotel With immaculately kept gardens, a world-class equestrian centre and Michelin-starred Hywel Jones as executive chef, this is one of the most luxurious and sophisticated country house hotels in the UK. Serious foodies flock here to dine at the Park Restaurant, set in a former ballroom, which is said to serve the best hotel food in Britain.
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