Review: The Fire & Ice Experience, Aztec Spa
Pamper pitstop, ahoy! Muddy road-tested a brand-new multi sensory thermal suite offering a 90-minute, adults only relax and detox. And you can WIN a sesh for 2 worth £80!
Fresh out the wellbeing blocks, Aztec Spa, has just added a 90 minute, multi-sensory thermal Fire & Ice Experience to its pamper-filled bow. Here you can relax in an 8-person hydropool, a herbal sauna, a Finnish sauna, an Eucalyptus-scented aroma steam room, a drench bucket and ice fountain, a fun thermal shower experience, with heated loungers and a Zen relaxation area.
Sounds right up Muddy’s street, but can it possibly be as good as its languorous, fizz-filled promo video suggests? Only one way to find out…we’re going in.
This is the final instalment of a multi-million pound development which started with Aztec Spa, a themed subterranean haven with five treatment rooms offering Elemis pampering. It’s located right in the heart of Torquay, in the basement of The Carlton, a 7-bed family-friendly hotel owned by TLH Leisure.
Muddy’s been here before (well, naturally), to try out their signature Elemis Biotech Facial (read the review) and we were impressed both by the quality of the facial (the husband actually noticed!) and the quirky low-lit vibe. Think panpipes and jungly Aztec decor, not blood sacrifices, at least as far as I know.
The practice of bathing in alternately hot and cold water dates back to at least Roman times. More recently, the likes of Dutch Iceman, Wim Hof, has brought the benefits of cold therapy to the fore, brilliant apparently for your circulation, skin tone, reducing inflammation, while giving your mood and wellbeing a boost.
In contrast to the bamboo walls and green graffiti of Aztec Spa, The Fire & Ice Experience is modern and stream-lined, decorated in warm neutrals with a calm botanical vibe, thanks to green walls and ceilings. Warm and cosseting, it’s like stepping off a plane when you’ve landed in a hot country. There’s no need to wrap yourself in a towel, let alone the waffle robe.
Muddy loves a spa and this was up there with the best – like a mini-holiday and just as refreshing. The hydropool was super-hot, like a bath, the sauna and steam rooms, everything you’d expect, Eucalyptus-scented and dreamily relaxing.
The heated loungers cradle your body beautifully, way more comfy than they look, and with your eyes shut, you get that same drifting-off sensation of lying on the beach on a sunny day, only with the heat from below rather than above. Really relaxing, hard to peel yourself away.
So much for the Fire – brace yourself for the ice part of the experience you can drench yourself with a bucket of cold water, walk through a cold shower or pat yourself with ice, or stick to the safety of saunas and hydropool if that’s too hardcore.
Finally, the shower experience was a hoot – see my little insta video (and marvel at how high I can lift my foot!). Really novel, it’s a series of four showers just a few seconds long, starting at a shudder-inducing cold, to warm, to hot and finally to tepid. The shower-heads are lit in different colours, nestled in faux greenery, all adding to the fun. Admittedly, the way you move through the showers feels rather like being a carwash (with me the clapped old banger) but I must have done it four or five times, because it punctuates the more relaxing aspects and it’s the scaredy-cat’s way to acclimatise yourself to the cold water.
It’s not as brightly lit it looks in the pics, a GOOD THING as what woman – bar the Kardashians – likes a bright light shone on you when you’re in your cozy, for heaven’s sake? It’s also thoughtfully laid out so you never feel on top of each other.
My only niggle – the changing room is fairly basic – just one cubicle and one shower (though it did have Elemis shower gel), and one hairdrier which could cause a jam when it’s busy. That said, we were in a party of 9 and I didn’t wait a minute as everybody naturally drifted off at different times.
For an extra fiver, you can use the 25m pool which is accessed via a short walk across the reception. I only had time to peer down at it while walking through the Aztec Bistro but I’d happily dive right in, wouldn’t you?
OUT & ABOUT
Torquay’s pretty harbour front is a few minutes’ walk away, where you can take a vertigo-inducing ride on the ferris wheel, treat yourself to a Michelin-starred meal at The Elephant, learn to paddle-board (or have a cocktail) at WeSup where Muddy held our Awards in 2021. If you have more time, book a boat ride to nearby fishing town of Brixham or take a tootle on the water. Or it’s good weather, just go for a relax on the beach!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: an express top-up, you could squeeze it into a long lunch; a laugh with girls, a bonding sesh with mum; a date night (the last booking is 7pm); or how about a spa party? You can block-book it to yourselves for parties up to 20 people.
Not for: anyone with specified medical conditions; people who like to dip between their saunas, the pool is a short walk away through reception; the kids, it’s adults only.
The damage: £35pp for 90 minutes, or £30 when booked with a Spa Day. Hotel guests get 15% off, and there’s 50% discount for key workers until 31 March 2022.