The perfect family spa

Busy mum OLIVIA BENJAMIN checks her children into the Center Parcs kids’ club as she takes time out to enjoy the Aqua Sana Spa - nestling in a wood near you…

Images: Courtesy Center Parcs


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 hot tubs.



But, this is not the case when you’re a forest dweller staying in the family-friendly resort of Center Parcs. This haven has nestled next to the lions of Longleat for nearly 20 years and is renowned for its no car policy which allows guests to enjoy the 400 acres of woodlands how nature intended. This is the ultimate activity parc which likes to be discovered and is exactly why generations of families return year after year as a holiday to Center Parcs (which has four holiday sites in the UK) for a journey of self-discovery - whether you’re eight or 80.




If you have never abseiled before - here is where you do it - along with hurtling down a zip wire, taking part in a paintball battle, honing your archery skills or heading off to explore the forest trails on a quad bike or take a more leisurely journey in a horse and carriage.




And if that’s not enough there is a whole host of activities designed to get you close to nature. From an outing with owls to bushcraft survival skills plus the ubiquitous clubs on offer in the subtropical swimming paradise from snorkeling lessons to scuba diving. And if you just want to let off steam take a ride down the wild water rapids which cascades through trees.




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 wind through the forest trails and then freewheel down the valley 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 Time Out Clubhouse, I finally started to let go as I sipped a cup of herbal tea in the light and airy Zilli Café which offers classic Italian cuisine to both Center Parc residents and the large number of day guests. Whenever you read 'First Time Tips' for spas they always advise to arrive at least 30 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…




The World of Spa offers 15 multi-sensory spa experiences from around the world in the hydrotherapy-based rooms arranged around the open-air pool. You can mix and match from the Indian Blossom Steam Room and 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 (see below for full list).



Elemis advanced anti-ageing pro-collagen quartz facial


As well as the World of Spa there is an extensive treatment menu using Elemis and Decleor products and The Studio salon is also on site to provide those finishing touches for hair and nails. I had chosen the 80-minute Elemis advanced anti-ageing pro-collagen quartz facial which was hyped as the “exceptional anti-wrinkle facial leaving a firmer, uplifted, more youthful looking appearance” – sounds good to me.



For a full treatment review - click here.


Make-up guru Bobbi Brown swears by collagen products rather than botox, in fighting age naturally and I was interested to see the results.




Feeling completely chilled out after my treatment I pulled on my bathrobe and padded back to the World of Spa where I couldn’t resist stepping out into the Japanese Zen Garden, kicked off my slippers and walked barefoot across the warm cobbles to the pergola where I enjoyed a foot massage.



As dusk swept in over the treetops my final treat was a dip in the outdoor spa pool where I initially floated in the gentle bubbles before enjoying a blast of the hydrotherapy jets.


My four 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. And even better I was able to ditch the bike and jump aboard one of two land trains that circle the vast park.


Feeling chilled and ready for a sundowner the ride ‘home’ couldn’t have been better as we past grazing deer, squirrels and rabbits as they rummaged for their supper among the grass. I was staying in a new-style executive lodge, located a five-minute walk from the bus stop near the Plaza and subtropical swimming paradise.


As darkness descended I walked in to find a roaring fire and the children had their noses pressed to the windows squealing with delights as two cheeky mallard ducks strutted around our patio area.


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 piste de resistance for this family was the bubbling, spa which marked the perfect end to a perfect day...



• Aqua Sana Spas are found at all the Center Parcs Villages: Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire Elveden Forest in Suffolk Longleat Forest in Wiltshire Whinfell Forest in Cumbria.

• Centre Parcs has just launched a new online treatment booking system for day spa visitors. The real-time system allows external spa guests to view availability and book instantly online. Highly recommended.

• 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.

• A bike is an essential so either take your own or hire one on site as once you have unloaded your luggage cars are not allowed on site.

Contact The SPA Traveller


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