Muddy Checks Out The Award-Winning Ilsington Spa
Sound the Muddy klaxon! It’s the first spa review for the Devon edition and what a corker. Allow me to introduce you to the Spa at Ilsington, on Dartmoor.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very clever in my scheduling, since I wobbled along this morning after a night of shovelling pancake after pancake into my cake hole. Oh, that hydrotherapy pool must have loved pummelling all that freshly made blubber.
The spa at the Ilsington Country House Hotel made its way onto my radar very recently, after it won a gold award for the South West Tourism Spa and Wellness Experience 2017. Considering it was up against stiff competition from the luxury likes of Lucknam Park and the Carbis Bay Hotel in Cornwall, it seems that a recent investment in a thorough revamp of the pool area at the hotel had paid off. What Muddy editor wouldn’t want to go and have a nose around?
This is the kind of place to gather a group of girlfriends and book a date in the diary for; it feels completely off the beaten track, down twisty country lanes and yet is handily only a few miles from the Newton Abbot junction of the A38, so in theory a great meeting point from wherever you are in Devon. Dartmoor surrounds the hotel from every angle and Haytor dominates the landscape from the window of the restaurant of this traditional, elegant hotel.
The spa itself is rather a surprise and, for hotel guests who aren’t aware there is such a facility, what a treat it must be to wander down a corridor and happen upon it. It’s a calming space, (it would be a weird spa if it wasn’t, wouldn’t it?), channelling a Tibetan vibe and has a lovely, clean, fresh feel. You’re given slippers and a robe and a code to access the pool and then you’re free to float away for an hour or two.
As spa’s go, it’s a small one, but really cleverly thought out. The pool dominates and is surrounded by loungers, but off to the side you’ll find a sauna and steam room, low-lit to maintain the ambience and, if you’re a fan of heat and ice, there is a ‘kubel dusche’ – a bucket of cold water that sloshes over your head when you pull a lever. I once stood near one on a holiday in the Lake District, unaware, until Mr Muddy thought it would be funny to drench me. I’ve still not forgiven him and I gave this one a wide berth today.
I did, however, give the hydrotherapy pool a whirl, literally. Elevated above the pool, this is pretty awesome, tucked away but very roomy, comfortably fitting at least four. Something I haven’t come across before is the part where you can lie back onto a shallow ledge of water and let the bubbles completely envelope you. Or you can switch on the turbo jets of water and let them massage any achy bits. I’m not sure the lady next to me, clearly trying to zone out horizontally amidst the jets appreciated the involuntary whoops escaping from my mouth. Apologies fellow spa user.
Once you’re done with lolling around on a lounger, you can always pad over to the restaurant for lunch, or book in for a treatment or two. All of the usual beauty pampering suspects are there, as well as a list of ‘body rituals’, pressure point and reflexology-based massages. They use Aroma Works products, although I discovered today that they’re in the process of switching across to french brand Caudalie, in a bid to offer something different from the rest. That gets my vote.
It only took an hour for me to emerge feeling blissed out and reinvigorated. But, before I left, I spotted one more unique little quirk about the spa at Ilsington:
Name me one other spa that sells free range Dartmoor eggs? Only in Devon.
The Muddy Verdict:
Good for: couples and small groups of girlfriends and those keen to escape busier city spas, in favour of somewhere more countrified.
Not for: those expecting something on a much larger scale. This is a hotel, with a small, but perfectly formed addition.
££: You can either sign up for full membership to the gym and spa; 3 months costs £250 (off-peak costs £185). Or a day pass to the spa costs from £20, whilst a luxury spa experience costs £95.
Ilsington Hotel, Ilsington Village, Nr Newton Abbot, TQ13 9RR. islington.co.uk