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You SHALL go to the Hall!

Wondering where to book now spa lockdown has ended? Your Muddy Godmother is here to virtually transport you to the wonderful world of Boringdon Hall & Spa.

Yup, it seems like a fairytale now, but a few short months ago, Muddy left the house, hopped in a car and drove to Plymouth to spend the night at Boringdon Hall and Spa. Eating, quaffing, spa-ing and mingling at a distance of less than 2m all took place. But even without lockdown, Boringdon has such a lot going for it, it would still seem like a dream.

The marvellous news is the hotel is now back open, with their Àclèaf restaurant serving from 17 July, and the spa and gym following suit on 25 July with lots of special covid-compliance in place to keep you safe.

THE LOCATION

Located on a hill just outside Plymouth on the outskirts of Dartmoor – the name Boringdon (as of course you know) translates in Saxon to ‘enchanted place on the the hill’ and the view of the historic house as it suddenly emerges into view as you go up the long drive does feel pretty-blimming enchanting. Hotel love-at-first-sight.

THE LOWDOWN

It’s an intriguing mix of old and new: a Grade 1 listed manor house with a slightly monastic vibe on a site which dates back to the Domesday Book. There’s lots of info around the place telling you its history – apparently Henry VIII nabbed it during the dissolution of the monasteries and gave it to a favourite.

But in the midst of all the leaded windows and wood panelling, there is a door which opens on a flight of stairs which transports you to a modern world of hydrotherapy and sauna, their state-of-the-art Gaia Spa. It opened in 2016 and has won a raft of awards since, including Condé Nast Johansens 2020, due to its natural wellness vibe and gorgeous range of own-brand products and ritual treatments, designed with the aim of putting your mind, body and soul back together.

As if that wasn’t enough reason to drop everything and book this very second, they’ve recently re-invented the old Gallery restaurant into Àclèaf, with their 3 AA rosette winning head chef, Scott Paton, at the helm. Don’t be put off by all those accents (its pronounced A -kleef and means acorn) – the food is stunning, delicious and despite the slightly poncy name, it doesn’t take itself at all seriously.

THE VIBE

The first thing that hits you as you push open the ancient wooden door into reception is the scent of geranium, Gaia’s signature fragrance, wafting down from the spa.

You’re offered a complementary elderflower drink and are invited to take a quick guided tour of the impressive Great Hall where Boringdon’s legendary afternoon tea is served, the Spa built into the hill behind the hotel, the Mayflower Brasserie, and not forgetting the quirky bit, a Secret Bar, hidden behind a door pretending to be a bookshelf.

It’s options paralysis. Do you sprint to your room, gown up and dive into the sauna right now? Relax with a gin and loll into unconsciousness by the fire? Or order one of their amazing afternoon teas?

Seriously, you could book in for a few days or even a week and you wouldn’t feel the need to even pop outside, except maybe to relax in the outdoor area by the Spa.

SCOFF AND QUAFF

You have three tempting eating options at Boringdon. If you’re pushing the boat out for a big birthday or anniversary then book a table at Àclèaf. It’s not cheap at £80 for four courses (or £95 for six) but the menu, the service and the location – in a minstrel’s gallery floating above the Great Hall with its ceiling-high coat of arms – are not to be missed.

Here’s a sneak preview of the deliciousness you can expect or check out my full review.

Alternatively, you can scoff downstairs in the Mayflower Brasserie (where we had a very good breakfast of eggs, avocado with the option of Langage Farm yogurts) and, although it’s perhaps a little lacking in atmos for a special occasion, it offers all-day dining and is a hit with locals for Sunday lunch.

Don’t want to morning-swim on a full tum? Skip brekkie in the Brasserie and wait for the Spatisserie above the spa to open at 10am for breakfast or brunch. It’s spacious and airy – with drapes around some of the tables for privacy – and being at the top of the hotel, has awesome views out to Dartmoor.

PILLOW TALK

There are 42 room to choose from, including large zhuzhy suites (one has its own outdoor jacuzzi), dog-friendly courtyard rooms, cosy stable rooms in Boringdon’s newest wing, and four poster-bed rooms on the first floor.

For the full historic manor experience, go for one of the four-poster bedrooms like we did. Catherine Room was large with a wooden four-poster perfect for a long lie-in, with a slipper bath and lead windows. (Apparently that fireplace caused a terrible fire here in the 1700’s so maybe it’s just as well it’s now bricked up)

Although olde-worlde, with fleur-de-lys on the drapes, the room is large with decent height ceilings, a wooden armoire for your spa gear and a mini-bar stocked with Salcombe Gin and other Devon goodies.

The modern bathroom with shower has the handmade Gaia products in generous-sized bottles.

There were loads of personal touches, including a box of chocs on the bed when we arrived, a turndown service, which left us a sheet with information about tomorrow’s weather and hotel trivia, along with some fudge waiting for us after dinner.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Yes, if you’re coming for Sunday lunch or afternoon tea, as the Great Hall has a lovely family-friendly feel with toddlers, teens and oldies all relaxing together for afternoon on the Sunday we arrived. And there’s plenty of outdoors, with a large flat lawn and seating to the front. But call the babysitter if you’re coming for fine-dining and Gaia, as children under 16 can’t use the spa.

GAIA SPA

Muddy gave Gaia a huuuuge thumbs-up when we reviewed it back in 2018 and nothing’s changed on that front. Everything about it is a feast for the eyes and the soul, and its easy proximity to the A38 make for the perfect weekender. You will love the gorgeous Relaxation Room (above) – it really is that beautiful – where you can relax with a herbal tea while devising how soon you can back here between treatments.

Uber-luxe facilities include a pool and a hydrotherapy pool which opens up to the outdoors, as well as a Finnish sauna, Crystal Salt steam room, a shower experience, a Laconium herbal sauna with curved heated seats and a traditional steam room.

Named for the goddess of healing and nature, it’s no surprise that some of the treatments have a spiritual bent, including the Crystal Healing (unblocked chakras, anyone?) and reflexology, along with top-of-the-range facials, including LED light therapy and Fire & Ice facials.

I was booked in for Gaia Total Holistic Ritual, a two-hour body massage and facial, which starts with a relaxing foot rub, and uses the signature handmade Gaia products, all natural and eco-friendly. My therapist was knowledgeable and sincere, taking the time to treat me as an individual, asking about my health and making sure everything is tailored to what you need on the day.

The back massage was extraordinary, using acu-pressure to relieve tightness in just the right places, and I would quite happily have that foot and hand massage every single day forever. I came out a total rag doll, but a revived one that looked pretty damn glowy for a good few days afterwards. (You can buy the products too, I can recommend the the Face Serum made with echinacea, roseship and lemon.)

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Food, place, spa – so many thumbs up, I need more thumbs! I love that this spa hotel manages to separate the hotel from the spa, so you’re not surrounded by people in dressing-gowns unless you want to be.

Good for: a mind and body fix; a foodie adventure; a romantic stay-cay; bachelorette parties; downtime with your girls; mother and daughter quality-time; day trips to Dartmoor; a rural feel with a city on your doorstep; modernists and history buffs alike; hedonists.

Not for: err…now. It’s currently closed until 24 April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The damage: Exceptionally good value. There is 20% off any stay booked in July or a Calming Spa Break including one night’s accommodation, breakfast in the Mayflower Brasserie or brunch in the Spatisserie, a four-course evening meal in the 3 AA Rosette Àclèaf, one 60-minute treatment each and full use of Gaia Spa facilities costs from £360 per couple.

Boringdon Hall, Plymouth, Devon. PL7 4DP Tel: 01752 546196 info@boringdonhall.co.uk

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