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

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

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.

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