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Liz Gill and her daughter Anna enjoy a 'mother and daughter' spa break at the stately Rudding Park Hotel near Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

A visit to Rudding Park

Rudding Park Hotel, Spa & Golf


The Harrogate spa experience goes back a long way. To 1571 in fact, when a man called William Slingsby discovered and drank from a mineral well which he and the doctors of the day believed had health giving properties.


The discovery of more wells and a sulphur spring meant the town boomed over the next couple of hundred years as visitors flocked to drink or wallow in the waters. In its Victoria heyday it was said there were so many important people in The Pump Room at the height of the season that a cabinet meeting could have been held there.


Today though I’m going to have a very modern Harrogate spa experience, which certainly won’t mean having to endure any nasty smells or sip odd tasting liquids. At the beautiful Rudding Park Hotel just three miles south of the town centre, I’m having the hour long Blissful Hammam Ritual aimed at hydrating my skin and rebalancing my energy flows.

Hammam at Rudding Park, Harrogate

The hammam aspect refers to the warm table I lie on which according to my therapist Maria should help me slip into deep relaxation. I certainly feel serene as she starts briskly rubbing a pure black olive soap over my limbs with a loofah-style kessa glove. The blissful scrub which, she says, contains Himalayan salt and dozens of trace elements is then massaged into my skin followed by an enveloping layer of ‘bio energy’ mud. The ritual finishes with a pouring over me of a wonderfully rose scented, warm milk-like lotion.


The treatment is a layered one with each component going on top of the previous one and by the time I come to shower it all off I’m so covered in mud I look as if I could have been rolling around in the garden. My skin certainly feels fabulous though and I feel very peaceful.


This feeling is enhanced by the deep relaxation room with its dark brown walls and giant golden apple sculpture in the centre. The beds in the room are curved with a dip in the middle and there are only four of them so there is no sense of being too near anyone else. I drink peppermint tea – I could also have had fruit or herb based – and doze off. Across the room my daughter Anna who has just had an aromatherapy facial is similarly chilled.

Relaxation room at Rudding Park, Harrogate

My treatment, like the other signature treatments at the spa, uses the ila range, a collection which claims to be ‘beyond organic’ in that it uses not just pure raw ingredients but sources them ethically from local artisan producers in ways which benefit that community – an incense component is helping to build a school in an Indian village for example – and then hand blends them in the UK in an environment which strives for a sense of harmony and good vibrations. The other ranges are the luxury French skincare brand CARITA and aromatherapies developed by Aromatherapy Associates.


As well as several hammam and body rituals experiences the spa offers nine types of facial including two with ultrasound and LED technology and a range of massages. These include one using chakras and sound healing; another with hot lava shells said to be helpful for anyone with arthritis. A third has light healing using high vibrational energy; another offers head and eye massage based on Ayurvedic principles. There is also special pampering for mothers-to-be and treatments for men using Refinery products.


After our spa sessions we stroll back to our room in the Follifoot Wing, an attractive blend of modern and traditional. So the exterior blends with the main Grade I listed Regency house but the interiors have a cool contemporary style. Our room, for example, has a funky animal print sofa and minimalist style desks and bedside tables.

Hotel library at Rudding Park

In the corridors and public spaces is a similar mix of the old and new: a Perspex ‘bubble chair’ hanging beside the traditional library shelves; antique pictures alongside works by new artists. We walk to dinner past a series of photographs of some of the big names who have stayed here usually while addressing the Yorkshire International Business Convention: George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bishop Desmond Tutu.


Dinner is delicious. I have a crab and salmon mousse starter followed by slow cooked belly pork and finished with passion fruit crème brulee. My daughter has asparagus ravioli, fillet steak and blueberry steamed pudding. For breakfast next day Anna goes for the full Yorkshire fry, I opt for kippers from Whitby.


Afterwards we look inside the estate’s beautiful 1874 Gothic revival church, watch some of the golfers on the 18-hole Hawtree course and then stroll through the grounds. The hotel has 200 acres with a particularly dazzling collection of rhododendrons and azaleas: we’ve gazed out a great bank of them from our room’s private balcony. We end up at the kitchen garden which produces many of the vegetables, herbs and edible flowers for the restaurant. We chat to the head gardener Adrian who is generous with his time and happy to share his knowledge.

The Kitchen Garden at Rudding Park, North Yorkshire, UK.

The 90 bedroom hotel is well placed for visiting Knaresborough, York, Bolton and Fountains Abbey, the latter a World Heritage site, as well as Harrogate itself. The town has elegant parades, smart shops, attractive gardens, Betty’s Cafe with its famous Fat Rascal teacakes and the restored Victorian Turkish Baths.


Rudding Park is currently adding a £9.5m spa development which is due to open next spring. It will have an indoor pool, a hydrotherapy pool, 11 treatment rooms, a suite of relaxation rooms, heat treatment cabins and a rooftop garden. It would be interesting to know what old William Slingbsy would have made of it.


Rudding Park offers a spa package which includes, dinner, bed and breakfast and a 50 minute bespoke treatment per person. Prices start from £210 for a single room and £295 for a double and go up to £805 for the most luxurious double suite in high season. More information from or telephone 01423 871 350


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