The perfect family-friendly spa retreat
MAIA OLIVER checks her children into the Fairy and Wizards Academy at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest, and discovers her own piece of magic in their Aqua Sana Spa…
Images: Courtesy Center Parcs
A family of red squirrels gently guide me to my final destination deep in the heart of a forest in one of Britain’s best beauty spots – the idyllic Lake District.
Now, it’s not often I arrive at a spa on a bike – after all most places worth visiting are usually in hot, far-flung countries and require the help of planes, trains and automobiles to deliver you to their bubbling hot tubs.
But, this is not the case when you’re a forest dweller staying in the family-friendly resort of Center Parcs at Whinfell Forest, Penrith. This haven has nestled on the edge of Lake District for more than 10 years and is renowned for its no car policy which allows guests to enjoy the 400-acre woodlands how nature intended.
This is the ultimate activity parc which likes to be discovered and this is exactly why generations of families return year after year as a holiday to Center Parcs (which has four holiday sites in the UK) is a journey of self-discovery - whether you’re eight or 80.
There is a whole host of activities designed to get you close to nature from the early-morning red squirrel walk to horse riding plus the ubiquitous clubs on offer in the subtropical swimming paradise from snorkeling lessons to scuba diving.
But for weary parents looking to combine an active holiday of this type with a bit of “me time” then all you have to do is hop on your mountain bike (which you can hire on site) and follow the red squirrels along the forest trail to an oasis of calm and tranquility which is the Aqua Sana Spa.
With cheeks still pink from my ride, and my two children safely checked into the Fairy and Wizards Academy, I finally started to let go as I sipped a cup of herbal tea in the Vitalie Café Bar prior to my treatment.
Whenever you read First Time Tips for spas they always advise to arrive at least 15 minutes early – but with this spa I would urge you to get here a couple of hours before your treatment as there is so much relaxing to do from lounging on a water bed to relaxing in an Indian Blossom Steam Room.
The World of Spa offers 15 multi-sensory spa experiences from around the world. You can mix and match from the Laconium to the Greek Herbal Bath or Japanese Salt Steam Bath where the misty air is infused with mineral salts, jasmine and mint for a head-clearing treat. Sound confusing? Fear not you are initially shown round by a spa waitress which is a lovely touch and then taken to fill in your consultation form.
I had chosen the delightfully-named Decleor Madagascan Red Island Exfoliating Ritual. My therapist led me to the warm, comforting treatment room and started the treatment which uses fruit seeds from oranges and apricots plus essential oils and spices to polish and perfect the skin. Afterwards, my skin felt deeply hydrated and soft.
Senior Therapist, Beth Sutton, said part of the beauty of Aqua Sana is its unique location; nestled among the trees it creates a calm retreat for guests. “Aqua Sana is about pure relaxation from start to finish,” she said.
My three hours of fun at Aqua Sana had come to an end and it was time to return to the real world, well not quite, thankfully my half-way house back to reality was my lodge tucked in the heart of the forest.
I was staying in a new-style executive lodge, located a five-minute walk from the subtropical swimming paradise. The lodge incorporated the very latest in modern interior design with new furnishings including the added luxuries of a daily maid service, en-suite bathrooms/shower rooms, LCD TV in lounge and in all the bedrooms. But the piece de resistance for this family was the bubbling, spa bath which marked the perfect end to a perfect day.
For spa bookings: www.aquasana.co.uk/spabookings/
Make the most of your stay
• Don’t miss out on the Tuesday-night Carvery specials at The Lakeside Inn – fabulous food and views throughout the week.
• Treat your children and yourself – save money when booking a two-hour spa session at Aqua Sana and three-hour session at the Time Out Clubhouse.
• Pop in for Express Beauty which focuses on hands, feet and finishing touches – checkout Shellac Nails which is set with a UV light and offers a longlasting high, gloss finish.
• New handy wristbands allow you to access your lodge and lockers in Subtropical Swimming Paradise
• Busy mums can book a grocery bag ahead of arrival so you will have all the basics to make yourself a welcome cup of coffee and slice of hot buttered toast when you check-in.
Aqua Sana Spa Days and Stays
• Choose from a range of including a Spa Day, an evening Twilight Spa or for that extra pampering select a Spa Day with a treatment. You will be spoilt for choice!
• You can select a spa day from £69 during weekdays and £79 at the weekend which includes: Entry into the 'World of Spa' between 9am-6pm, complimentary hire of robes and towels, glass of bubbly on arrival or with lunch, spa lunch in Vitalé Café Bar, complimentary spa seminars, complimentary 10 per cent discount Retail Voucher (redeemable against two or more products and use of the gym facilities