C.Side is Cowley Manor’s award-winning spa, open as both a residential spa for hotel guests and as a destination day and evening spa for visitors.
C.Side features a luxurious 17-metre green slate swimming pool indoors, as well a heated outdoor swimming pool complete with stylish sun loungers, an outdoor bar and waiter service.
There’s also a gym, steam room and sauna, not to mention a series of treatment rooms where guests and visitors can choose from a range of indulgent and therapeutic treatments including massages, wraps, pedicures and facials all encompassing Cowley Manor’s own Green & Spring products.
If your bank balance can stretch to it, SoGlos.com asks who wouldn’t like to be besides the C-Side, after we spent a leisurely day relaxing at Cowley Manor’s sumptuous spa near Cheltenham.
While a day at the seaside is usually associated with overcrowded beaches, lobster-complexioned Brits, sand-filled picnics and a donkey or two on one of the rare days the sun decides to shine in the UK, a day at the sumptuous C-Side spa was a polar opposite – soothingly peaceful, luxuriously relaxing and award-winningly stylish, with not a union jack in sight.
Such is the discreetly hidden away location of the modern, glass-fronted spa – sunk into Cowley Manor’s listed gardens and surrounded by a wall of Cotswold stone – that it took us a while to find C-Side on our arrival at the hotel. It was a location we thought befitting of an A-list retreat, protecting guests from prying eyes and offering a sanctuary of privacy whether the paparazzi would give you a second glance or not.
Met by an enthusiastic staff member – smiling brightly despite the ungodly hour displayed on the reception’s clock – we were handed fluffy bundles of towels, robes and squeaky white slippers, before being shown though a maze of corridors to his and hers changing rooms hidden behind secret dark wood doors.
Inside we found more trees had been used to create a wall of lockers, with a heated floor greeting our cold toes as we de-robed and then hopped into the monsoon showers complete with a range of the spa’s own branded toiletries.
As the early morning’s first rays were just beginning to sparkle on the dew covering Cowley Manor’s lawns, a cautiously dipped toe in the outdoor pool revealed toasty, bath-like warmth – ready to be dived head-first into, as we began our leisurely laps before a spot of breakfast.
As our enthusiastically bobbing breaststroke turned into lazy floating and the sun continued to rise, closing our eyes, my swimming partner and I kidded that we could easily be in Miami, given the art deco style of the elegantly designed pool – not to mention the unseasonally dazzling Cotswold sunshine beating down on our pasty, UV-unaccustomed, skin.
Dripping wet, we decided to give the indoor pool a road test next and came to the conclusion that while it was a shame to miss out on the sunshine, the slate pool was ideal for energetic laps if training rather than tanning was the reason for visiting. The only thing missing, we agreed, was a Jacuzzi. And perhaps a studio for classes, if we were being picky.
Lying back on the sun loungers surrounding the pool with a glossy magazine or two for entertainment I waited in anticipation for my appointment, while my partner convinced himself that he’d be hitting the gym while I was indulging in C-Side’s signature massage.
It wasn’t long before my therapist, Melanie, was explaining that my indulgent Cloud 9 treatment – which costs £107 for 90 minutes – had been exclusively created by renowned aromatherapist Michelle Roques O’Neil. There had been a long menu of treatments – all beginning with ‘C’ – to choose from, but the ‘bliss-inducing’ full-body massage sounded too good to pass-up, despite the price tag.
As I lay down in the low-lit, sweet-smelling, minimalist treatment room – one of four – hot stones were placed on my back and an iPod played a soothing spa soundtrack. Top-to-toe massaging with individually-selected fresh and enlivening aromatherapy oils followed, with my tense shoulders getting an extra dose of kneading during the deeply relaxing treatment which combines aromatherapy, Qi energy balancing, reflexology and acupressure.
The treatment was finished off with a face, neck and head massage, and I’m embarrassed to admit that Melanie had to give me a gentle shake to say that almost two hours of deliciously decadent pampering was over. I knew immediately that I had dozed off – only for a few minutes I hoped – and when I asked if I had been snoring, Melanie was too polite to say, only adding that ‘a lot of people fall asleep during this treatment’.
Glowing with a fresh-coat of moisturising oil I went in search of my partner in the compact gym – complete with treadmills, rowing machines, exercise bikes and free weights – only to find him sitting back with a cup of herbal tea next to the pool. The state of relaxation was contagious it seemed, despite the best of intentions.
During our mid-week visit we shared C-Side with only a smattering of hotel guests – adding to the exclusive air and laid back environment which you don’t always get in a busier spa. Having been named one of the ‘Top 50 spas in the world’ by Sunday Times Travel Magazine and one of the ‘Top spas in the UK’ by The Observer, we were under no illusion that a day at C-Side wouldn’t be something special. What we didn’t prepare ourselves for, however, is just how hard it would be to drag ourselves back to the reality of everyday life – and come down from Cloud 9 – once we had been treated to a day of A-list pampering.
C-Side is open as both a residential spa to hotel guests and as a day spa to visitors. There are also a limited number of annual memberships now available. Call (01242) 870902 for more information.
By Michelle Fyrne
Tuesday 27 May 2008
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