Review: Gaia Spa
Feeling like you're on the countdown to summer? Kickstart your body and beauty rituals with a sesh at Devon's Super Spa.
Feeling a bit ‘meh’ after eating your body weight in chocolate? Full of the fear that summer is just around the corner and we’ll soon be shedding the layers and baring our butts? It’s definitely time to put the spotlight on our bodies, but I for one, definitely prefer to do it while in a fluffy white robe and flip-flops. You with me?
Yay! Devon’s got a spa to get seriously excited about. Hold up, it’s in Plymouth? Yep, yippity-yep. If you thought a luxe spa break in these parts had to come with a sea view and sandy toes included, then Gaia Spa, my friend will turn your thinking on its head. Opened in 2016, this huge complex, consisting of spa, gym and salon, situated within the enchanting 16th century Boringdon Hall Hotel, has spared no expense in its mission to deliver on the tagline: ‘your wellness, naturally’. Closer to Dartmoor than it is the sea, the designers and conceivers of the ethos behind this haven of tranquility have worked that moorland connection brilliantly. You actually do feel a world away from anywhere else and yet in reality, you’re only five minutes from the Plymouth suburbs.
It’s proximity to the moors has definitely influenced the vibe here. If you’re staying as a guest at the hotel, then you’ll literally step from the flagstone floors, mahoosive ancient fireplaces and wood panelled lounges of a manor house, into a world of modern calm. Lots of wood, natural materials and earthy tones are encased in a sleek glass shell (poolside), that allows you to soak up the greenery outside.
The Gaia ethos is one of promoting your natural wellbeing by taking you out of the humdrum of everyday life and into a space that’s naturally relaxing. While you’re there, the aim is to give mind, body and spirit a bit of TLC (lovely Spa Director Shelley Hepburn says it so much more eloquently). But sounds nice anyway, doesn’t it? And it is! There’s plenty of space to just ‘be’, even if you can’t be faffed to drag yourself from your lounger once there.
Worth mentioning that they take your experience very seriously, here. And by that I mean, you’re never going to be hearing loud voices and chatter outside your door when you’re trying to zone out on the massage bed (don’t you hate it when that happens?), nor will you find dive-bombing kids in the pool; nope, it’s as calm and zen as you like, once you’re in the arms of Gaia (the ancient goddess of nature, dontch know).
No danger of getting bored and fidgety after fifteen minutes here (there’s a swanky gym for that, if you really can’t sit still). There’s enough to see you happily through a whole day of pampering and the facilities are really impressive.
Start with an experience shower (no, not the type with built-in TV and radio); try playing around with varying temperatures and intensity to give a different sensory effect. Then you’ll actually want to slip into ‘that’ pool, rather than simply admire it from your ‘tepidarium lounger’ (like an electric blanket built into a curved ceramic lounger, minus bed socks and a waiter spoon-feeding you Ben & Jerry’s, sadly). And when you get restless, try the hydrotherapy pool with an outdoor swim-through with views. If you make it outside, you’ll also spy hot tubs which I can imagine will be amazing come the warmer months.
Me and Muddy’s Commercial Director Emma visited when we were both suffering various ailments, so made the most of the heat experiences to soothe and decongest. I loved the laconium herbal sauna, while Emma disappeared into the crystal salt steam room for a very long time. I gave up waiting after a while and retreated to the deep relaxation room, a space exclusively for those who’ve plumped for a treatment or two. Which we did.
And let’s not forget the Spatisserie; a dedicated restaurant where spa visitors can pad around in their robes and nibble on tasty nutritious and inventively created dishes. I loved the design and layout, with booths that can be curtained off to give you and your group some privacy, plus views across to the countryside.
Back to the relaxation room, overlooking a wild flower meadow, a silent space with cosy beds where you can really make the most of your treatments. I’m not one for switching off – can’t seem to achieve it – but I did appreciate the opportunity to lounge.
There are 12 treatment rooms, along a sleek and discreet corridor including a couple of doubles if you want to co-habit with someone. I really liked the rooms, which felt like private little cocoons, decorated with gorgeous wooden stencilled art.
As you’d expect the list of treatments is impressive, with a series of rituals to choose from, along with more targeted body and facial treatments, and a separate pre and post-natal menu. This is where Gaia really comes into its own, I think, because the therapists really know their stuff. They receive oodles of training, know the treatments inside out and, ultimately deliver the goods. Gaia have their own range of products, too, which I’d rate. I told you, nothing’s done by halves here!
My back ritual was heavenly right from foot bath, through to hot stones. I’m not sure I actually remember that much about it…
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Super luxe seekers. This is as ‘top’ as top spa’s get in the South West and there’s still that lovely feeling of spanky new freshness across the whole range of facilities.
Not for: If you’re time-poor and you’re looking for somewhere just to go, get a massage and be on your bike again, then perhaps bike it to somewhere else. You’re paying for the whole experience here, so it would be a shame to miss it.
££: On the expensive side comparatively speaking, particularly the treatments, but not prohibitively so. And anyway, consider that this one’s getting recognition as one of the best destination spa’s in the world and that’s never going to come cheap.
If you’re a local, then lucky you. Keep your eyes peeled for a raft of special events happening at Gaia Spa throughout the year. I recently attended a ‘Gut Health’ supper, which was fab and I love the sound of the pilates brunches, too. They’ll make a healthy human of me, if I’m not careful!
Gaia Spa, Boringdon Hall, Boringdon, Plymouth, Devon, PL7 4DP. Tel: 01752 344455. gaiaboringdon.co.uk