Thinking back to your school days, the last word that probably springs to mind is ‘relaxing’. The same goes for the headmasters, nursery nurses, Sixth Form teachers and university professors of this world – they’re not exactly known to be the most blissed-out bunch, are they?
Luckily, though, the end of July always comes around, signalling six weeks or more of well-deserved rest. And because there are few things more soothing in this world than a spa session, the clever folk at Rockliffe Hall have devised a fun, school-themed day offer, specially-created for stressed-out scholars and their most well-behaved mates.
A couple of my nearest and dearest – including my other half – happen to be teachers – so it seemed the perfect fit for us. We arrived at the spa at 9am prompt, giddy like school kids, ready for a day of laid-back activities, tranquil ‘playtime’ and a lesson or two in the art of relaxation and mindfulness. Here’s what we got up to…
After checking our names off the register at reception, we were met by the spa headmistress, Victoria Rickett – an expert pamperer who, thankfully, was a lot warmer and friendlier than the headmistresses of our school days.
After our morning drink (freshly-squeezed OJ – no milk!) and reading through our very own timetable (every spa pupil gets one), it was time to change into our uniforms – snuggly robes and fluffy slippers – and make our way to towards the spa’s five-star and fabulous facilities for our first lesson.
Art was never the highlight of my school week and I’m not sure my other half even took the subject, but on this occasion we couldn’t wait to partner up and tackle the couple of hours ahead of us together.
Not that the time proved exactly strenuous – quite the opposite in fact. Turns out, learning the art of relaxation is pretty fun and includes a lot of lazing about – whether by the spa’s 20-metre pool, in the bubbling Hydro Pool, soothing saunas or outdoor hot tubs.
It was the other half’s first visit, so they took great pleasure in testing the waters – quite literally – while I nabbed a bed to catch up on my reading homework (i.e the latest edition of Conde Nast Traveller and bit of Vogue – the perfect study session if you ask me).
Soon, it was time to take a break from our morning’s hard work and enjoy some ‘free time’. And because getting muddy with your buddies is always a fun way to while away mid-morning, playtime during this spa day means a mud rasul – a cheeky treatment for two, during which you’re allowed to slather and splat each other with great gobs of dead sea mud.
It was a messy task – but a fun one indeed. Apply the stuff – which is packed with skin-loving minerals and essential oils known for their therapeutic benefits – from the neck downwards and sit and relax while you wait for warm rain to begin falling from steam room’s ceiling, washing you down clean. We were also given a pot of bath salts for a little exfoliating action, plus a squeezy bottle of oil to leave our skin baby soft and plump.
Remember school dinners? Not exactly gourmet, were they? Thankfully, the same can’t be said for the dishes served at Rockliffe’s canteen. Spa pupils are treated to two delicious courses in the hotel’s renowned Brasserie restaurant – and you make your choices at the beginning of your day.
We opted for starters and mains, settling on a crisp and flaky goats cheese parcel and a creamy, comforting bowl of soup (garlic and potato was the special this day), and two perfectly-cooked fillets of steak. Both slabs arrived slightly charred on the outside and mouth-watering juicy inside, with a pot of French fries on the side and portions of fresh, crisp salad. Ideal fuel for an afternoon of more lessons and studying.
I dreaded science lessons at school – almost as much as I dreaded maths – but I can assure you that a spot of chemistry here is nowhere near as puzzling, or as boring, as it was back then.
After some time spent kicking back in the spa’s sumptuous relaxation lounge – a large, chilled-out zone filled with luxury heated beds, fur blankets and warm towels – our therapists came to pick us up to teach us a few things about the subject of skincare.
It was a case of experimenting with lotions and potions to create the perfect facial – in my case a 60-minute purifying skin boost using Caudalie products. The French brand is world-renowned for its luxury skincare; products that combine high-tech, scientific technologies with the benefits of grape extracts, straight from its breathtaking vineyards in Bordeaux.
I’d dabbled with a few of the brand’s hero products in the past, but this was my first time experiencing a Caudalie facial – a real treat for any skincare junkie. And what a joy to be able to access to them right here in the North East?
Makeup was melted away with a few slicks of silky cleansing oil, gently buffed with a bit of deep-cleansing exfoliator (a grainy cream that didn’t scratch or burn) and spritzed with the brand’s award-winning ‘beauty elixir’ – a fragrant and refreshing mist that calms, injects moisture and helps refine the pores.
My arms, hands and décolleté received a stress-busting massage while my skin was treated to mud mask. Again, another purifying product designed to mop up excess oil and purge blackheads, which really did its job. It was removed with toasty hot mitts, sweeping away any dead skin cells in their wake.
To finish off, my therapist applied the brand’s firming serum over the entire face, gently massaging along the forehead and temples, along with a pump or two of mattifying fluid to blot away any shine. I loved these two products so much (I saw instant results), I ended up purchasing them in the ‘gift shop’ come home time.
We rounded off the day in the hotel’s Spa Garden, studying our environment from the glass-fronted sauna, then the warmed tile loungers and the infinity edge hydrotherapy pool.
This wasn’t our first visit to the Spa Garden, but every experience we have here never fails to blow us away. It’s as if you’re been magically transported to a holiday hotspot, complete with complimentary pool snacks and nibbles, cocktails (or herbal teas), and laid-back summer tunes.
We spent the remainder of our school day here; sipping away and catching up, curling up for some shut-eye and flicking through magazines. A typical school day usually ends around 3pm, but we happily stayed after hours – ’til around tea time – to soak up every last bit of the zen-like atmosphere.
Home time soon came around (unfortunately) and while there were no parents waiting for us at the gates, we left feeling comforted and at peace, with glowing results – our skin felt amazing.
It’s the perfect spa day for all you teachers out there. A great way to kick-start the summer holidays (you lucky ducks) and to treat yourself to some TLC. But book up while you can – it won’t be around long!
Rockliffe Hall’s ‘School’s Out!’ package is available for a minimum of two people; £130 per person including a 60-minute treatment or £160 per person including a 90-minute treatment. Available Monday to Friday, until Thursday 31 August 2017. Subject to availability. Please note that full payment is required at the time of booking, which is non-refundable and non –transferable.
For more information, or to book, visit rockliffehall.com