Greenway Hotel and Spa, Cotswolds

Lauren Atkinson-Smith steps back in time in the lush Cotswolds for a luxury weekend spa breakWednesday, October 12

By Lauren Atkinson-Smith

“Beware your sat nav, it lies,” said the yellow sign guarding the entrance to a rather steep, rutted dirt path, which the calm electronic voice promised was the shortest route to the hotel. My husband and I made the necessary three-point turn and took the scenic route instead, which, fortunately, culminated in a pleasant drive down a tree-flanked driveway and a warm glow emanating from grand Elizabethan windows.

The reception desk in the corner of what would have once been a formal living room did its best not to intrude upon the sense of backwards time travel. In a room off to the right a barman cleaned glasses in the 24-hour bar complete with board games for a typically British, rainy night such as this one. But, the games would have to wait.

Weary from our drive through the dark and drizzle we were whisked up the grand staircase — 400-year-old floorboards creaking underfoot — to one of 21 bedrooms. Our cozy yet luxurious attic room, named as all the others after a species of tree, was adorned with regal stripes of cool blues and golds, offset by antique dark wood furniture mirroring the aged, sloping floor and beams.

At breakfast, the view from our table was the equal of our room's, looking out on to well-groomed gardens and sunlight dancing across a small pond. Once sufficiently fortified, we took a turn around the dew-decked grounds, playing ‘spot the rabbit' as they darted among the hedgerows.

The concierge recommended a visit to the local Iron Age ruins at the top of what turned out to be quite a large hill. We powered through nonetheless and were rewarded with just enough time to admire the sweeping vista of the Cotswolds' rolling hills and honey coloured tenements before hiking back down for our spa treatments.

The Elan Spa, adjacent to the country house, comes complete with a walled garden containing a wood-burning fire and al fresco hot tub — though you have to get in line. Directly behind the spa restaurant, nail bar and foyer humming with activity is the indoor pool, ringed by loungers, one of which was calling my name.

So, feeling the need for an all-round MOT, I settled on an Express ESPA facial and back, neck and shoulder massage. Expecting sweet smells, warm oils and creams to soothe my troubles away, I was surprised to discover I was to be part of a science experiment.

First, came an intuitive smell test to choose my preferred serum; my subconscious guided my hand to the one for dehydrated skin. I was then given an in-depth skin analysis using SkinVision technology. With my face cleansed and mirror poised, my therapist talked me through the dark patches and freckled areas — seen under a futuristic blue light, indicating sun-damaged skin — and suggested a personalised skincare regimen.

Finally, choosing between a head or hand and arm massage while my mask set was the last question I had to answer before I could lie back and switch off. The relaxing back, neck and shoulder massage was handled by a professional holistic therapist. Afterwards, I was keen to use the in-room ESPA products, as I wanted to smell of bergamot, jasmine and cedarwood all weekend long.

The dining room, part of the award-winning garden restaurant and a more recent addition to the Elizabethan house, has an enclosed view of what was the outside of the building and the imposing wooden back door which cleverly underlines the hotel's great age. The intimate surroundings served to amplifiy the delicious seasonal produce from some of the finest artisan producers in Cheltenham.

The Greenway Hotel does something rather special: it seamlessly blends modernity with centuries-old architectural history, so that they sit harmoniously side by side. And although I hope to visit again much sooner, I do wonder what the next 400 years have in store?

Essentials

A one-night stay at The Greenway Hotel in a classic room costs from £80 per night or in a master room from £219 per night, both based on two sharing and B&B. A 25-minute personalised express facial costs £40; a 25-minute back, neck and shoulder massage costs £45.

slh.com/hotels/the-greenway-hotel-and-spa



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