Get a coffee, light a candle and relax as this is a long review and I want you to relax along with me! Please bear in mind for decency sake I was not able to take any photos while in the spa so I have used shots from the Rockliffe website.
As I have already mentioned, Paul and I spent the day before our wedding anniversary in the spa at Rockliffe Hall, a luxury 5* hotel in Darlington, in fact the North Easts only 5* hotel.
Based in a tiny village on the outskirts of the town, Rockliffe is a fine example of juxtaposition. The grand old hall flanked by the new addition housing rooms and the spa, both blended as sympathetically as big budget architecture could allow, all of which sits at the bottom of a long driveway that wouldn’t look too out of place in a modern day Downton Abbey!
Arriving in the spa reception you are greeted with an overarching sense of luxury and opulence. From the deep piled carpet to the open space and chic clean lines of the spa boutique which itself stocks Daniel Sandler, Leighton Denny, Ren and [Comfort Zone]. The spa boutique often holds beauty events and the wonderful Daniel Sandler has held workshops here.
Upon checking in, we are shown up to the brasserie on the first floor of the spa for our induction and welcome drinks. We are introduced to all the staff by name which is a nice touch but I’m pretty sure most of the Katie’s in the north east must work there, blimey!
Seated to fill our forms, we are given a juice sampler to work our way through. Watermelon, beetroot and carrot are the main ingredients and I am afraid to say I duffed at them all. Thankfully Paul downed my 3 and his too! Pre ordering lunch was a great idea as it meant it was ready for us when we arrived, with a large selection for our set 2 courses. Helpfully, all the side dishes were listed too (at an extra cost).
On completion, we were the first to be shown down to the spa facilities. As I have been before we skipped the tour and Paul was ushered off to the mens changing facilities on his own while I had the quick guide to the ladies. As far as changing rooms go, these have to be the most luxurious I have seen. Masses of space, walled with sturdy wooden lockers that are actually big enough to hold all the rubbish we ladies tote round with us.
On the vanity, you are spoiled for choice with make up remover, cleanser, toner, moisturiser and then a whole host of hair products by Clynol that wouldn’t be out of place in a hair salon. All for complimentary use. Why don’t more spa’s do this!!
After changing and meeting Paul on the wet side, we made a beeline for the hydrotherapy pool as it is a place of fantasy. Thanks to being the first in, we had a good 15-20 minutes of time by ourselves to use the pool and connecting experience rooms. This was a lovely touch for some nice quiet alone time. The hydrotherapy pool is an inherently a warm muggy environment but you can chill out on the wooden steamer loungers beside floor to ceiling windows looking out over manicured lawns and the golf course beyond. In this area there are 3 experience rooms, the foot spa thrones and some snail showers.
The tepidarium is a mildly warm, lightly steamed room filled with strangely comfortable tiled reclining beds. It’s easy to nod off to sleep in here (I’m looking at you Paul!)
The ice room, with its ethereal blue glow is next and as I am a hot body this has to be my favourite room. With a refreshingly chill temperature and aromatherapy scents I would stay in here all day. The ice crystals make a nice bracing post hot room treat, rubbing them across your forearms and face to cool down.
I am not a great fan of the hot experience rooms at all because I can’t bear to be that hot but there is a tropicarium, roman sauna and a caldarium – steam room which is great if you suffer from asthma or sinus troubles. Paul is a fan of all of these and spends time in them while I swim. He preferred the caldarium steam room, again, with no attention to detail overlooked it was spotlessly clean and just the right amount of luxury, befalling to the choice of tiles and lighting.
Now on to the pool, a huge 20m pool with a dedicated childs area is lined on one wall with beautifully ornate, coloured glass windows, letting beams of coloured light shine across the surface and topped by a huge bay window looking out on to lawns. My only disappointment with the pool was the start of a 45 minute long aqua aerobics class. I appreciate the gym members require this but I found it off putting and disruptive which is a shame as the space around the pool is very serene. Masses of loungers, chairs and tables, this is where the juice bar resides.
Complimentary iced water and ever changing fruit tea is constantly available as is a great selection of fresh fruit and a paid bar menu for goodies such as champagne. It would be nice if there was a short cut from the hydrotherapy pool lounging area through to the juice bar as it is one heck of a long slub when you’re carrying 2 drinks back to the quiet haven to avoid those annoying fitness fanatics (ha!)
My treatment time had rapidly crept up on us so Paul took himself off to explore the Nordic Walking route while I sauntered upstairs with Katie, my therapist for the day, for a 45 minute long warm oil body massage. On entering the treatment zone you are again blown away by the opulence, you feel like you’re in a swanky mansion house somewhere. Shown in to my huge treatment room (Pine) I am told to sit and soak my feet while Katie and I discuss my needs. We decide to skip any arm and leg work and get rid of those damn laptop induced shoulder knots and do a great head massage too.
After 45 minutes of loveliness it was time to head for lunch. On this occasion I decided to skip the sleep room but after a massage you can lie on a snuggly lounger and be tucked in under a warm fleecy faux fur throw, stick on some headphones with tranquil music on and chill out staring up at a beautiful stain glass atrium.
Lunch was delicious. The starters were amazing, Paul had bruschetta with parma ham and poached egg while I had mozzarella, roasted red pepper and rocket salad. Mains, Paul had a huge cut of salmon with Moroccan cous cous and I had a chicken Caesar wrap with a side of fries to share. The wrap was rammed with chicken and the accompanying salad was garnished with anchovy fillets to carry through the Caesar theme. Paul had these off my plate and in his gob before I could blink! After our meal we were presented with a glass tray with Happy Anniversary wrote in chocolate and piled with hand made chocolates truffles. Mmm we felt like royalty.
|Fed and watered and very happy|
Royalty and luxury is one feeling you get as standard at Rockliffe, whether you buy a £200+ spa package or are there for a £50 swim day. You get the same treatment regardless and this is why I think it is the best spa in the North East and whole heartedly worth the money and the reason I personally have returned several times. Since the day it opened right up to present day, nothing is looking tired, nothing looks like it needs replacing. Everything is still just pristine. I will tell you, my biggest bug bear in spas and pools is grouting. I am disgusted by tile grout covered in mildew and you won’t find any at Rockliffe (unlike other big spas I hate to say!)
I was given vouchers for my 30Th in May by my mother in law and 2 brothers so that paid for this trip. Pauls spa morning + 2 course lunch was £65 (no treatment) and my morning spa, 45 minute treatment + 2 course lunch was £100. I even had pennies left over for a Daniel Sandler lipstick from the boutique!
If you are local and looking for a well deserved pamper day, Rockliffe is the one for you. If you are from further afield, make this a priority destination for a spa weekend hotel stay!