We’ve been missing out (Picture: Supplied)
‘Why on Earth…’ I asked my friend Ryan as the two of us lounged in a shed sauna in the grounds of Mallory Court Hotel, a traditional country house hotel, blissfully ignorant of the howling window outside, ‘…haven’t we done this before?’
In getting on for 20 years of friendship, Ryan and I have been on our fair share of short trips around the UK.
A shared passion for enjoying pints and scenery, combined with us being the only two single ones left in our friendship group and my crippling fear of flying, has meant that multiple weekends a year the two of us will find ourselves at one hotel or another for a few nights.
We usually try and incorporate some activities in between the drinking, whether that’s a gig, a walk, or some live comedy, but the thought had never occurred to us, even as we got into our mid-30s, of using one of these trips to unwind.
And blokes don’t come much more ordinary than Ryan or I – so I decided when the opportunity came up to visit Mallory Court Hotel and Spa in, where else, Leamington Spa, that he and I would be the perfect people to check it out.
Who better, I reasoned, to try a country house and spa than two people who were decidedly not ‘spa people’.
Well, spoiler alert: we loved it.
The walk to the spa lets you leave the old behind for some thoroughly modern treatments (Picture: Ryan McEwan)
A very classy room (Picture: Ross McCafferty)
After a summer spent in the parks of London, I thought I’d been spoiled for green space, but Mallory Court was next level, with perfectly maintained grounds (complete with a rose garden), a herb garden, and even a croquet lawn among the highlights (we would have definitely had a game if we knew the rules).
Our king-sized room was tucked in a corner of the main building, with more stunning views into the herb garden, and the fanciest toiletries I’ve ever purloined from a hotel room…
Ryan and I aren’t used to the finer things in life (Picture: Ross McCafferty)
The hotel is set in stunning grounds (Picture: Ross McCafferty)
There were even several comfy armchairs, a couch in front of the TV, and even a dining table and chairs to really give you that suite feel.
Truthfully, with the room so swish, and the shower and bath so impressive, we could have stayed there all evening – but there was a whole hotel and spa to explore.
In Summer, the outside areas are popular (Picture: Ryan McEwan)
You get a keen sense of history wherever you are (Picture: Ryan McEwan)
The Court house itself is well over 100 years old, and despite modern interiors in both the common areas – like the drawing room, and the bedrooms (you can’t argue with a television set in an oak wardrobe can you?) – there is always the sense that everything has been designed to evoke the feeling of history.
Which is why it’s such a good thing that the spa is in a separate building, a far more modern affair among some trees at the end of a pleasant two-minute amble from the main house.
The ‘Elan Spa’, to give it the proper name, is where Ryan and I thought that we would feel most ill at-ease – worrying about judgmental eyes on us as we lounged in a jacuzzi in a pair of matching Lidl swimming shorts.
But nothing could have been further from the reality – the different sections of the spa (a pool, three saunas and a steam room, as well as a hot tub outside) mean that everyone can get on with their own relaxation experience.
I promise I didn’t steal this (Picture: Ryan McEwan)
The restaurant was where the hotel really came into its own (Picture: Ryan McEwan)
And relax we did. I’ve never been one for outdoor jacuzzis or hot tubs, but it was all kept to a comforting temperature and the acres of Warwickshire countryside stretching out ahead meant it was a far better experience than I expected.
The outdoor sauna too, is handy for those who want to indulge in the full Finnish experience, but for Ryan and I, who were mainly prioritising relaxing before dinner and sweating out some of the weekend’s alcohol, the pool and jacuzzi were enough.
Despite being so relaxed we could have slept, we had a reservation in the award-winning, 3 AA Rosette restaurant, and it was there the hotel really came into its own, and a divine tasting menu made us realise that, yes, we could certainly enjoy this type of holiday.
We did feel particularly classy after ‘retiring to the drawing room’ (Picture: Ross McCafferty)
The menu changes every single day, inspired by the seasons and local produce, and with Ryan and I being more accustomed to McDonalds than Michelin stars, we decided to surrender ourselves to our waiter’s recommendation.
And we were glad we did, being treated to several courses, with highlights including an impossible tender aged fillet of beef in Madeira sauce, and a chocolate cremeux (with, admittedly, ingredients we had to Google), that was delightful.
Having read my fair share of books that featured posh people with country houses, I had always wanted to say ‘let’s retire to the drawing room’ – so that’s exactly what we did, pretending we were classy as we unwound in another tastefully decorated oak furnished space.
A blissful night’s sleep followed, and after a cooked breakfast (even luxury relaxation hotel stays should still end with a full English) we headed back to the city with a spring in our step, feeling refreshed-well rested, and disabused of the notion that people like us couldn’t enjoy a spa break.
There was only one regret – why hadn’t we done this before?
I assumed spa holidays were something for couples and honeymoons – not something that the ordinary bloke could do.