Armathwaite Hall review
Choose a Life Regimen programme or a pamper at this spa hotel in Cumbria
The Quick Read: Armathwaite Hall near Keswick in the Lake District is a traditional, family-friendly country house hotel and spa with marvellous views out to Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw mountain. You can come here for various pamper packages and to use the spa, for sure – but what’s most interesting for Queens is the Life Regimen package, a ‘positive ageing’ programme which includes blood tests, a life assessment, a personal training session and a huge companion guide to take home full of personal recommendations – not bad for a posh spa hotel, though they do need to work on the vegetarian healthy eating element before we’d wholeheartedly recommend it.
Who it’s best for: Armathwaite Hall is great for couples or friends wanting some upmarket R&R together. It’s ideally located for the northern Lakes, so works a treat when one person hankers for the spa experience while the other is after something more outdoorsy and active. The Life Regimen programme is aimed at anyone who wants to improve their health and fitness, and you’d feel most comfy here with a companion. Overall, the venue attracts a well-heeled clientele in their mid thirties and upwards from all over the UK. There are family rooms and spa packages for teens: if you’re considering a family break, it’s probably best for older children. It’s dog-friendly too.
What you can do: Life Regimen is the spa’s ‘positive ageing’ programme. It consists of a lengthy initial consultation including blood tests and life assessment, a full body massage, and a facial and skin consultation. At your final consultation your consultant spends time going through your Life Companion take-home guide, which includes tailor-made realistic life changes including a personalised fitness regime.
For something more relaxed, there are lots of spa packages and treatments include those devised by smaller brands such as Just Be, a small UK aromatherapy brand, which makes a decent change to the usual suspects. The therapies are more imaginative than your standard spa, focusing as much on the desired outcome of the treatment as the experience itself – such as the immune boosting Just Be Elemental treatment, involving a body scrub and peat mask.
There’s a bright pool area with plenty of natural light, an outdoor hot tub on the terrace with lovely views, and an indoor hydrotherapy area with a calmer, more low key feel – this includes a pool with swan-neck shower, sauna, steam room, and aroma room. The gym has enough cardio and resistance equipment for a full workout – it’s open to hotel guests and local members too – and there are fitness classes to join (which include Spinning).
The 400 acres of grounds are large enough for a pleasant meander, and if the weather is warm, the terrace would be ideal for just whiling away the hours with a book, but outdoors addicts will want to do some of the gorgeous local walks. The estate also offers activities (at extra cost) such as coarse fishing, mountain biking, archery, tennis and croquet.
Where you stay: Armathwaite Hall started life as a stately home but has been a privately owned hotel since the 1970s. The bedrooms in the main house and the communal areas are kept traditional (so that means animal horns and heads along the walls and a roaring fire in the oak-panelled hall) – but the bedrooms in the spa extension are contemporary in feel and the ground-floor ones include a small private balcony. Although the views aren’t so good, they’re closer to the spa and pool, so on balance we’d go for those. There are 46 bedrooms in all (including some family rooms), and the more expensive ones have stunning views. Photos of Lake District scenery are a theme throughout (as if you needed to be reminded of the natural beauty of the area!)
Choose the conservatory area in the lounge restaurant, a light and comfortable space, for watching the clouds pass by over the nearby mountains. The spa is housed in a modern building – much brighter than the main hotel. Post-treatment, you relax in the ‘hush’ room, on a comfy recliner complete with soft throws to keep you warm and cosy. The brasserie area close to the spa is perfectly pleasant for hanging out in with a coffee in your robe, but if you want views, stick to the lakeside restaurant and one of the lounges.
How was it for us: Living in Manchester means that I get to the Lake District at least a couple of times a year, usually on rough and ready trips, staying in a B&B or hostel, and involving hiking and enjoying the mountain scenery. For this trip, I wanted something a little more swish and sedate. Armathwaite’s Life Regimen package sounded a bit more unusual than the standard spa fare and I was intrigued by the idea of a thorough health assessment.
The programme began on Friday afternoon with a whole barrage of tests conducted by Jason, my consultant. He took my blood (just a pin prick) to assess my blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and measured my fitness, peak flow, waist and height and weight. I was also quizzed about my fitness regime, my food preferences and the quality of my sleep and handed in my pre-retreat questionnaire including a three page food diary for Jason to conduct a full nutritional analysis.
On Saturday, Jason met with me for my personal training session and worked me thoroughly, with a range of exercises based on my fitness levels and goals. This session gave him what he needed to put together a home-fitness programme for me. I left the studio high on exercise endorphins and sweaty and wobbly from my efforts!
The programme wasn’t all hard work as it also included two wonderful treatments. On the Friday, I had a ‘Comfort Touch’ massage, which was really firm, soothing my muscles, stiff from sitting at a desk all week. The Tranquillity oil used certainly had the desired effect, as I fell asleep not long after my evening meal. Saturday’s treatment was an anti-ageing facial, complete with face massage and skin analysis. I spent the rest of my time enjoying the facilities, swimming laps in the pool, and sweating out my stress in the sauna.
Sunday was a bright and chilly wintery day, perfect for yet another turn in the hot tub before my final consultation with Jason to talk through my test results. Thankfully, all was looking good overall, though a few tweaks with diet and water intake could improve things still further. Disappointingly, the hotel struggled to cater for my meat-free, gluten-free diet, and I probably didn’t even manage the minimum ‘five a day’ fruit and veg, which seemed really incongruous given the advice given in the Life Regimen programme. Despite this, it was an enjoyable and enlightening weekend.
What we took home: A huge personalised companion guide, including a home fitness programme, facts and figures about my health, and a pre-bed stretching routine. Seeing a full nutritional breakdown of my food over three days made me far more informed about the food choices I am currently making and gave me an idea of which nutrients might be lacking in my diet.
Would we go back: Yes. I’d like to make more of the stunning location, and try out some of the other treatments on offer. I hope they’ll have improved their vegetarian food offer by then.
People watch: Massage therapist Claire was skilled and hugely experienced. Jason, the personal trainer and my Life Regimen consultant, was extremely patient, despite incessant questions – the home fitness programme he drew up was tailored to my needs.
Food watch: The Lake View restaurant is a fine dining restaurant offering modern English meals with French influences, using independent and local suppliers wherever it can. You’ll need to comply by the dress code (no blue jeans or trainers) if you want to eat here in the evening. Breakfast is also taken here – with the usual hotel English cooked breakfast choices, as well as home-made granola, and a cold buffet of fruits, cheeses and meats.
If you’re after something more informal, there’s also the bistro/brasserie which has a much simpler, though not necessarily healthier, menu. Think fish and chips with homemade mushy peas, tartare sauce, served with hand cut chips. However salads were available at lunchtime.
The vegetarian choices in both restaurants were extremely limited, and not very imaginative; only one of the main courses in the brasserie (there were around 10) was suitable for vegetarians (the ubiquitous mushroom risotto). Additionally, if you’re after lighter, healthier fare, you might struggle. We were told the brasserie menu was due for an overhaul and would include some lighter and healthier options on our next visit.
For those who want to indulge, there’s afternoon tea in the lounge complete with sandwiches, cakes and scones, or kick back your heels in the bar.
What’s queenly: Blackout curtains and an extremely comfortable bed meant that we had one of the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had in a hotel. The DIY aromatherapy Himalayan bath salts box was a nice touch in the spa shop.
What’s lowly: The lack of good vegetarian choices (you’d have to repeat meal choices if you stayed more than one night) is a real low. Both restaurants really struggled with accommodating multiple dietary restrictions too (meat, dairy and gluten free).
Insider tip: If you’re on the Life Regimen programme, fill out the food diary as thoroughly as you can, to ensure an accurate nutritional analysis and the most appropriate advice.
Price with a companion: A one-night spa break costs from £115 per person midweek (based on two sharing at £330 per room), and includes bed & breakfast, a three course brasserie dinner and a 60 minute treatment. The Life Regimen day spa experience costs £150 (or £173 on a Saturday) per person.
Price going solo: A one-night spa break during the week costs from £165. This includes one treatment, bed & breakfast, and three course brasserie dinner.
Additional treatments start at £39 for a half hour body massage.
Value for money: This is an upmarket hotel and is priced accordingly. However, the Life Regimen programme does include a LOT of one-to-one time.
Reviewed by Ruth Rosselson
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