Comfort Zone

A vicious water jet pummels my shoulders with a vigour that leaves me breathless. I’m alone in Ramside Hall’s hydrotherapy pool and thinking to myself that this has to be the stress-buster of all stress-busters.

This ‘swan neck’ (that’s their shape) power jet of water energy should be on prescription for anyone on their way home from a tough day at the office. Knocks you off your feet it does, ridding those weary shoulders of their angsty aches.

Talk about reviving! It can’t fail to make you smile as that tight neck relaxes, taking you from raggy duck to that elegant swan in moments. Made all the better by the fact that you can step out and straight into the steamy do-you-good vapours of the Spa’s Thermal Suite which surrounds the pool.

The aroma steam room was a place to linger with its punchy infused vapours urging you to take some do-you-good deep breaths. The rooms, also including a Himalayan salt steam, have sparkly coloured lights on the ceiling and a decent amount of space inside so you don’t have to get too cosy with a sweaty stranger.

This was a first taste of the new Spa at Ramside Hall near Durham.

It is out to impress with a huge 25m swimming pool (plenty of loungy beds around it – tick box), the Thermal Suite and of course beauty treatment rooms and a refreshing menu of spa day packages to tempt.

The Spa is in a new wing built alongside Ramside’s golf course and busy hotel so there’s lots going on when you arrive. There are new premier rooms in the wing which are impressive. They overlook the golf course with balcony and big views. Furnishings are luxurious with lots of textures and muted autumn colours. Beds deliver a fabulous night’s sleep.

White Company toiletries in the bathrooms and big drench showers complete the style.

It was treatment time in the Spa. In the changing rooms I loved the choice of two sizes of flip-flops in the locker. Hate it when you get huge fabric slippers that end up really soggy. The flip flops go home with you – and probably on holiday.

The spa range is from Espa, a luxurious therapeutic brand and I had a signature ritual treatment with therapist Katharine.

In the treatment room you talk about any skin and body concerns you want addressed. The treatment includes a facial and neck, shoulder and back massage.

_0032_comfortzone2My request was to be uplifted and anti-aged! They are not miracle workers but it’s a good start. They can steer in the right direction and Katharine gave me the choice of oils, using those for the treatment based on my own preference – so be relaxed or rejuvenated, depending on your mood.

The oils for the facials included nourishing rose and neroli. The facial was deep, cleansing and highly effective with exfoliation, mask and massage. Skin felt and looked lovely afterwards. The shoulder massage was powerful and ouchy in parts – the pressure is to your taste so you can go gentle – but I did want my knots dissolved and this did the trick.

After all this you’re sent to the sleep retreat – a dangerous thing when you’re having an evening treatment. You play with sound therapy beds as vigorous or gentle as you like.

One of the nice things about the Spa is the thought that has gone in to who is using it. There’s a fabulous nail bar and make-up area with Morgan Taylor nail and Mii cosmetics, a beauty snug and cool little balcony area with an infinity pool. This area can be ‘spa party’ central, designed as an area for small groups away from the central areas (and you can order in the fizz here! ).

But this area can also be hired for couples – and includes a hanging hammock for two! Might be an idea after your ‘Two Peas in a Pod’ dual treatment, perfect for a date night.

The spa packages include full days but also half days that include a brunch or afternoon tea option or a twilight spa, basically making the spa experience as accessible as a meal out once a fortnight rather than a full-blown special occasion day treat twice a year. 

Fusion restaurant sits alongside the spa. When I went in the evening it didn’t seem as though you could rock up in your robe and flip-flops, perhaps that’s different in the daytime.

The pan-Asian restaurant Fusion has been masterminded by chef Martin Moore. If you’ve eaten dim sum or pad Thai in the region, he’s probably been involved! The dishes at Fusion are light, healthy but punched through with good flavours and simplicity on the plate. It’s a combination that works  well. You want to feel that you’re eating nourishing stuff when you’ve just de-toxed the rest of you.

Having said that, the Fusion Spa Afternoon Tea with a selection of four savoury tasters and four sweet things – coconut and limeleaf panna cotta among them – looks indulgent, inventive and anything but virtuous.

I tried a basket of dim sum which was nicely cooked, the right balance of zippy flavours and well textured dough and filling in pork and prawn varieties. 

Beef teriyaki don was a flavour-packed dish cooked with really flavoursome meat – tender beef strips carried their flavour through that intense, sweet sauce. A good blend of crunchy veg in the mix and sticky rice. 

On the drinks menu I’d have liked to have seen some more interesting fruit juices and blends on offer, ‘juice-bar’ style but the restaurant itself was great: busy and staff were good. A destination if you’re doing the spa thing or not.

Go get yourself a shoulder pummelling soon!