Deanna Thomas finds relaxation is a priority in the Shropshire hills
THE UK boasts some beautiful towns and villages; with chocolate box houses, pubs older than your great nana’s great grandnan and rolling green views that make you proud to be British. But there aren’t many towns that compare to Ludlow.
A few years ago, this small Shropshire market town was home to three Michelin-starred restaurants. Time and chefs have moved on, but its legacy as a must-visit destination for food lovers lives on; in the daily market, the impressive Ludlow Food Centre, the annual food festival in the grounds of Ludlow Castle and the number of good restaurants in the area. The town is still alive with traditional butchers, greengrocers, cheesemongers, bakers, beer shops and delis all proud to showcase produce which is grown, reared, made and brewed within a 30 mile radius.
We hopped on the train from Piccadilly for a stay at Fishmore Hall, a privately owned boutique hotel with a 3 AA Rosette restaurant run by Head Chef Andrew Birch, who took part in BBC2’s Great British Menu. It was a gorgeous afternoon, so the 18 minute, slightly uphill walk from the station was no problem.
The whitewashed Regency-style hotel and surrounding gardens boast an almost 360° view of the Shropshire Hills. The building was saved from a derelict state by its (then) 27-year-old owner Laura Penman, who re-launched the fifteen bedroom hotel in October 2007.
Relaxation is a priority so each bedroom is equipped with modern decor and add-ons including pillow menus, Hypnos beds, Frette linen sheets and flat screen TVs. Bathrooms have been individually designed with large walk-in showers, giant waterfall showerheads, British brand ELEMIS toiletries and mood lighting. We appreciated the personalised notes left in our rooms to tell us that day’s weather report and to remind us that the clocks were going forward that weekend.
Fishmore Hall SPAshell – the UK’s first modular spa - is a relatively new addition, only launching in November 2016. The modern, high spec spa building is set within the hotel’s gardens, overlooking the Clee Hills and on a good day, the Welsh Marches. It offers guests a high standard of wellbeing ELEMIS treatments in an ideal ‘get away from it all’ setting, to recalibrate body and mind. The spa’s reception area overlooks the private garden and leads onto four treatment rooms with interconnecting doors to create two couples rooms if required. Once checked-in, after filling in the required health form to help therapists tailor-make each holistic experience, guests are led to the changing area with shower facilities and lockers. Inside each locker is a soft grey bathrobe, a fresh towel and a pair of slippers.
The Spa facilities are available to hotel guests with or without a treatment booked, so they are free to get away from it all, relax by the windows of the lounge area, sip on a chilled glass of lemon water or herbal tea and flick through a magazine. There’s also an Italian designed, state-of-the-art steam room and adjacent sauna with push button technology to change the music, temperature and lighting to suit.
The outside decking area leads on to a Cedarwood wellness pool and if the weather allows, it’s easy to spend a little extra time in there just taking in the view across the fields.
I won’t lie, there’s no elegant way to mount the oversized white hammock on the decking, even Elle McPherson would have trouble getting on that thing gracefully, but once you’re in there comfortably, it’s a lovely place to relax – especially if your BAE’s on there with you.
The outdoor bucket and monsoon drench shower will wake you up a little and provides a refreshing and revitalising experience.
From the treatments available, I opted for a signature Lava Shell Thermal Rescue Experience (55 minutes £65). Lava Shells are the world’s first self-heating massage tool using a natural, biodegradable heat technology to provide a continuous and seamless body massage. The unique shape of the tiger-striped clam shells allow them to become an extension of the therapist’s hands, deploying deeply therapeutic relief where needed.
Fishmore also offers a Thermal Relax Experience which uses two hot shells to work Elemis Frangipani Monoi body oil deep into the muscles, but the Rescue Experience is more stimulating. It works using one hot and one ice cold shell giving muscles and nerves a workout with a side order of vitality - plus the added bonus of intensely hydrated skin. Other benefits are to boost blood and lymph circulation, soothe aches and pains and reduce swelling and water retention.
A number of other treatments are available including facials, massage, body scrubs and wraps, as well as manicure and pedicures. The spa and garden area is also able for exclusive hire for groups to create their own Fishmore Hall Spa experience with additions such as afternoon tea, champagne or celebration cake to make your day even more special.