Maison Talbooth, Dedham
The heart of Constable Country might not seem the most obvious place for a spa day but, trust me, it is by far one of the most relaxing. Set within the grounds of well-established Victorian country house hotel Maison Talbooth, a good size outdoor pool is heated to 85 degrees all year long. Surrounded by warm brick walls, rolling lawns and high trees, there’s nothing at all to hint at what century you are in, and that really is the beauty of the setting. It appears pretty much as unspoilt as when John Constable was painting landscapes of his beloved Dedham Vale and surrounding scenery.
You can lounge inside the Pool House reminiscent of many of the Cotswold’s coolest luxurious country house hotels: cowhide rugs, large rustic wooden benches, and requisite copies of Hello! magazine (part of a relaxing spa day must involve flicking through its glossy pages oggling minor celebs getting married or showing off a new baby).
My 12-year-old daughter Maya and I were there for a spa day. She is, it has to be said, perhaps a little too familiar with spas and beauty products to the extent where my most expensive coconut oil and honey will disappear from the kitchen only to reappear on her hair as a mask (blame my previous existence as a travel editor), but she’d yet to experience a facial. And not just any facial - this was using Dermalogica’s special teen range Clear Start. Cleansing, exfoliating, analysis (teen skin is obviously a serious business), blackhead removal, a mask and generally being cooed over by lovely therapists certainly suited her.
With time left over (my slightly older skin took a little longer to sort), she had her nails painted bright pink and was beaming as we left. Meanwhile I added on the sort of high impact element to my facial that most people would save for a special occasion; the stress of ‘nightmare’ builders (I have referred to them in another piece but will leave it at that for now) means wine + moaning + lack of sleep = haggard face. This tailor-made add on oxygen treatment, £20, worked wonders with the lovely therapist using a high tech piece of kit, plenty of potions and a bit of elbow grease when added on to the Dermalogica Visible Brilliance facial (thorough and soothing with pressure point massage, steam and mask).
Before entering the spa, a small space imaginatively decked out with groovy silver tooth-shaped stools, we’d shared a lunch outside by the pool. Cod fritters with lemon and tarragon mayonnaise and rocket salad were perfectly golden and crispy on the outside and soft inside; a sharing platter brought perfect summer treats such as Italian salami, basil gravadlax, olives, artichokes and rustic bread. Puddings were indulgent and better for not trying to be healthy. Maya tucked into warm cinnamon donuts with a cream and spiced apple compote and I happily spooned milk chocolate mousse with crème Chantilly and nuts into my mouth.
We left in high spirits with goodie bags in hand containing smaller versions of the products used the spa giving me hope that my kitchen supplies will be safe for a little longer.
* Full spa day costs £160 including access to pool, hot tub and tennis course (11am-5pm), welcome spa pack, tea or coffee on arrival, two-course lunch and two 55-minute treatments, milsomhotels.com/maison-talbooth