Serious art of relaxing can take it out of you
HELEN JOHNSON has her work cut out choosing between a nap or spa treatment on a luxury break in Chester
YOU know it’s going to be a good day when the most taxing decision you’re going to have to make is where to take a nap.
This was the enviable position my friend and I found ourselves in when we ventured to the Macdonald Craxton Wood hotel and spa, just outside Chester for an overnight stay.
I knew that as a prolific spa-goer with a keen eye for detail, my friend would not hold back when it came to sharing her opinion.
More importantly, as a busy junior doctor and mother of a young child, she was a prime candidate for a bit of pampering in luxurious surroundings.
Just as well that the hotel giant has spent more than £1.4m overhauling and extending Craxton Wood’s spa facility, which now boasts an impressive thermal suite, large swimming pool, 14 cosy treatment rooms and several inviting areas designed purely for relaxation.
Getting to Craxton Wood from Manchester is simple – drive up the M56 until you almost run out of motorway, drive for a few more minutes after leaving the junction and you’re there. Yet despite its relative proximity to a major transport link, the hotel and spa feels like it could be in the middle of the countryside – thanks in part to the acres of green space it sits in.
After a friendly welcome at the hotel’s reception, we headed to the spa, where it became apparent that they understood there’s more to a good spa visit than just testing your endurance in the sauna and taking a dip in the pool.
Sometimes, there is nothing more indulgent than doing nothing whatsoever, so we were excited to discover the spa boasted two excellent locations for doing just that.
Guests can flit back and forth between the neighbouring candle-lit relaxation room and the bright and airy garden room.
The former, which not only facilitates, but actively encourages the act of napping, is kitted out with comfy beds and wool blankets.
The latter, meanwhile, is a light and airy sun trap leading on to the picturesque grounds, where we were free to nod off in the glow of the early spring sun, or relax with the reading material of our choice.
We punctuated the relentless relaxation with repeated visits to the various saunas and steam rooms in the wellequipped thermal suite.
My friend remarked there was only one notable omission to the spa’s impressive offering – a jacuzzi in which to sip a glass of prosecco or two. Or three.
I did eventually manage to drag myself away from the relaxation room long enough to enjoy one of the many treatments on offer to guests.
Thanks to my slap dash approach to skin care, and a winter spent on various ski slopes, often without any factor 30 or even a scrap of make up to protect my poor face, it was in dire need of help.
There was only one solution, and that was to try out the taster facial.
My talented therapist Nina certainly had her work cut out for her, but rose to the challenge of breathing life back into my neglected skin admirably.
Faced with an array of dry spots and red patches, she selected a range of Elemis products which smelled just as delicious as they felt being applied to my skin.
It wasn’t only my face that was in for a treat either, with the treatment extending to a muchneeded neck and shoulder rub, before I was almost lulled into hibernation thanks to a gentle head massage.
Fortunately I managed to stay awake to appreciate the stellar job Nina had done on my skin. It’s funny how doing very little can work up a serious appetite, so we needed our evening meal at the stylish grill and restaurant to deliver, and fortunately, it certainly did.
Even my discerning companion could not fault the service or the food.
We both chose the Gressingham duck and were pleased we did. Rounded out with pea soup and caramel poached pear for her and cured cod loin and sticky toffee pudding for me, dinner was a resounding success.
We went on to have a great night’s sleep in a classic and comfortable standard twin room with a beautiful garden view.
After checking out, we weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to the weekend, so we took a five-minute drive to discount shopping outlet Cheshire Oaks for indulgence of a different kind.