15th century Cotswold Manor House launches new 21st century spa garden retreat


Who doesn’t love to be pampered? And a spa day is always a good idea, whether you’re in need of some relaxation or looking to spend some quality time with a loved one, a friend or just escape the hustle and bustle of normal life to have some me-time alone.

So, when I was invited to sample the luxury of the new Spa Garden Retreat at Ellenborough Park, I jumped at the chance and invited my daughter to join me in an indulgent pamper party à deux.

Ellenborough Park

The stunning 15th century Cotswold Manor House was easy to find just outside Southam and about 2½ miles northeast of the centre of Cheltenham. Once through the gateway, the arrival at the magnificent mansion of honey-hued stone was as delightful as I had expected.

Nestling in 90 acres of stunning parkland, but boasting immaculate tended lawns, topiary and vibrant flower beds closer to home, the under-stated entrance led to a striking period hotel Reception area.

Beautiful gardens

With high expectations, my daughter and I checked in – not forgetting to book ourselves in later for lunch in the Horse Box Brasserie – and then checked in again at the Spa Reception further down the hotel drive.

Entrance to Spa Reception

The super-attentive Spa Receptionist could not do enough to make us feel welcome and gave us a mini tour of the facility before leading us off to our private Spa Garden Retreat. I’d had no pre-conceived ideas of what to expect, so the secret, secluded, serene space in the private walled garden – that got its inspiration from the Chelsea Flower Show – came as quite a surprise.

Private wall garden

Our homes and gardens have become so important to us since lockdown that enjoying a garden spa is one of our favourite new things. Ellenborough Park may have been around for hundreds of years, but the new Spa Garden Retreat is very much 21st century.

A honeysuckle-enriched arched walkway, that could be roped off to deter anyone daring to trespass uninvited into our cloistered enclave, led to the enclosed walled garden. The alfresco relaxation zone had sun loungers, flowers and plants in borders and on the walls, garden decorations, a sauna cabin and a hot tub set under a Norwegian aluminium pergolux with louvred ceiling designed to use all year round.

To keep hydrated, we were provided with a jug of iced and fruited water and also availed ourselves of the Taittinger champagne from its own stylish yacht box – just five exist in the world and Ellenborough Park’s is the only one on dry land. QR codes are conveniently dotted around to allow guests to order more drinks and light bites without leaving their repose, and guests can also use the QR codes to connect to the in-house Sonos system for their own relaxing background music.

Our attentive Receptionist told us that the private and personal pamper space, although bookable for groups of between two and twelve people, was just for the two of us and for a whole 90 minutes. That seems like a long time to just sit and enjoy bubbling water in the hot tub or dry heat in the sauna or a snooze on the sunbed, but I have never known 90 minutes fly by so quickly – I didn’t even get chance to read a chapter of my book!

All too soon it was time for lunch in the Horse Box Brasserie, a less formal dining area with comfortable seating, 15th century features such as stained glass, wood panelling and crystal chandeliers.

The menu was not as expensive as I expected it to be, and I enjoyed the small plate of spider crab croquettes with saffron & parmesan mayo followed by the mango parfait with coconut granola and pineapple compote. If it wasn’t for the traditional décor of the brasserie, I would have thought I was in the Caribbean!

It would have been lovely to end our Ellenborough escape with a treatment in the luxury spa or wander around the beautiful gardens, but commitments from our normal life called, so we reluctantly had to miss out on these treats.

We had to sadly forego these pleasures for another time, but we have promised ourselves another Ellenborough experience nearer to Christmas when we plan to treat ourselves to a spa treatment and a quintessentially British afternoon tea in the historic Great Hall.

The only problem is which afternoon tea event to choose?

Ellenborough Park’s first Bottomless Afternoon Tea with a scrumptious selection of sweet and savoury treats, all paired with a variety of delightful teas and featuring performer Russell Jones (best known as a contender on Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor).

We might even sign up for a Festive Wreath Making Masterclass with Afternoon Tea before the class. Donna Beaver from the Flower Studio provides this class, and it is Donna who is responsible each year for dressing Ellenborough Park ready for Christmas with stylish twists on a traditional flower arrangement.

Or we could take Afternoon Tea with Santa and take my little grandson along to enjoy time with Santa and his elves in the Great Hall. Or enjoy a Christmas Carol Afternoon Tea to get into the Christmas spirit just before the big day itself.

So much going on and so much to choose from at Ellenborough Park – this age-old Cotswold Manor with traditional and modern country interiors spoils its guests with total relaxation and indulgence in the heart of the Cotswolds.


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