A Much-Needed Spa Weekend at the Bedford Lodge Hotel in Suffolk
It seems that our lives nowadays just get busier and busier, with no respite. I imagine it’s a similar scenario for a lot of people: I work Monday to Friday. I fill my evenings with friends, entertainment, hobbies, fitness (that one is a white lie, I should be doing more fitness) and general life chores. I cram as much travel as possible into my weekends and annual leave allowance, and it ends up being one big non-stop buzz of activity, leaving my body in dire need of a break. Even if my mind is craving more, my body is physically tired and doesn’t get the sleep and rest it craves. Does that sound familiar to you?
Some people love to veg out at home and indulge in TV series marathons, but I really don’t find that relaxing enough, and I think it’s partly because I was raised without TV until the age of about 10 (only the occasional Disney film), and partly because I was raised with nightly back massages from my mother at bedtime. How good is that?
It does however mean that my body craves massages and that one of the only ways I can truly relax is on a massage table or on a spa day. Luckily I was recently invited to try out one of the most renowned and luxurious spas in England, within perfect distance from London for a spa break. The spa is part of the Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket, a peaceful town in Suffolk, a 90-minute drive to the north-east of London. They also offered us a night’s stay in the Bedford Lodge Hotel itself so I decided to make a weekend of it with no other than my mother, who is just as addicted to spas as me. Together with my mother we’ve visited spas in France, Spain, Egypt, Kenya and of course England, so I knew she’d be good company.
Booked in for a Ladies Day spa package on the Saturday, we arrived at the Bedford Lodge Hotel in the morning and checked into our hotel room on the ground floor of the recently renovated 18th-century building, which was formerly a hunting lodge for the Duke Bedford. We were pleasantly surprised to be indulgently escorted to the spa in a golf buggy!
This was a sign of good things to come as we treated like stars for the rest of the weekend by the wonderfully friendly staff in the spa and the hotel. I can without a doubt confirm that people outside of London are much friendlier. The attention to detail and genuinely warm smiles of the staff made such a difference, and was so welcome for someone like myself who’s has sadly become accustomed to the soul-less faces of commuters on the London Underground. Before beginning our spa day we received a tour of the very recently refurbished spa and all the facilities. The spa itself is housed in an old Georgian cottage, which once formed part of the estate of the sixth Duke of Bedford, giving the building a lovely homely feeling that puts you at ease.
Our first treatment of the day was a 60-min Personalised Massage using ESPA body oil. I was given complete choice over what type of massage, where on the body, what strength and what aroma (I opted for ‘Soothing’ which contains Franckincense and Lavender). Zoie, the masseuse, placed a bowl of the oil and warm water under my head so that I could begin to relax with deep breaths. I have to say that having a massage tailored to my exact requirements made it honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Do you enter a bit of a trance and wander off into an elaborate daydream when you’re being massaged? I do. An idyllic hour later I was gently lead to a sumptuous relaxation room complete with loungers and sofas, in which my mother and I lazed around while our brains attempted to regain consciousness after such deep relaxation.
As well as the various treatment rooms for massages, mud wraps, manicures, pedicures, facials and even tanning, the spa has a whole wing dedicated to hydrotherapy, with a sauna, a steam room, a rooftop hot tub, an experiential shower (‘Tropical Rain’, ‘Atlantic Mist, etc.) an ice bucket (in which I did my #IceBucketChallenge, you can watch the video here) and a large hydrotherapy pool with 5 different water features. On a mezzanine level above, and on the rooftop, are loungers and sofas, where we rested and read our books in between treatments and dips into the hydrotherapy area below. (That’s another white lie, as we both dozed off with books open on top of us, such was our state of relaxation).
Next up was a manicure, which is something neither of us ever normally splash out on, but which left us feeling very pampered. It did however make our next activity slightly tricky with wet nails!
The Cream Tea
The Ladies Day package includes a cream tea in the spa’s tea rooms and we had also ordered drinks and lunch from their menu earlier on in the day. Sat there in our fluffy dressing gowns, we struggled to keep the crumbs from our scones and macaroons away from our glistening nails until they dried!
We spent the rest of the afternoon flitting between the pool, hot tub and steam room, feeling any muscle tension simply melt away. We couldn’t be any more relaxed if we tried.
We eventually tore ourselves away from the spa and headed back to our hotel room in time to get changed for dinner and see a drinks party taking place in the sunset-bathed garden just outside our window. The hotel room and bathroom were nicely decorated and spotless, with very soft bedding, excellent pillows, Molton Brown toiletries and a tea and coffee set that my mother raved about and insisted I include in this review! I was surprised to be given a double room, not a twin, but it transpired that the hotel was completely full that night, with various wedding parties staying there. It was the last weekend of August, prime wedding-season, so it makes sense.
After drinks in the hotel bar and a meal in town, we settled in for the night and it made a huge difference that we didn’t have to return to reality straight after our spa day. Instead, we woke up refreshed and relaxed, somehow managing to hit the gym before breakfast, as I have a 10k run to train for. As well as the spa, the hotel has it’s own health club with a decent gym and swimming pool.
Breakfast was the only part that disappointed us. I’m a fan of a big hearty start to the day. We ordered a Full English with poached eggs but to be honest the food was a bit average. The cold buffet of cereals and fruits was fine, but neither of us felt that the fry-up quite hit the spot – they were rather wasted calories!
According to the Good Spa Guide, the Spa at the Bedford Lodge Hotel is “the only 5-bubble rated destination spa in East Anglia” (which I think is an incredibly cute rating system, don’t you?) and I definitely agree. I literally couldn’t find a fault with the spa. Our Ladies Day package costs £120 per person and they have a number of offers that change every couple of months. For example, at the moment you can get their Autumn Retreat (60-min massage, 2-course lunch & use of the spa facilities) for only £98. See here for all their offers.
The hotel was also just as lovely (minus the disappointing breakfast) and the staff in both were impeccably friendly and polite. (Also, I accidentally left something in the room and they kindly posted it to me). A double room for two costs from £170 per night and it’s clearly a popular hotel as they’re so full, so book early! We thoroughly enjoyed our spa weekend in Newmarket, and I would happily recommend it. For anyone not so keen on spas, Newmarket is also famous for it’s horse racing, so perhaps try and combine a spa break with a trip to the races for a full weekend escape.