Sometimes I think one of the best things about living in London is being able to easily leave the city and go somewhere else - and that's how I found myself on a train to Chippenham.
I was craving fresh air, relaxation and the chance to explore a new place - and this historic Wiltshire market town, just an hour and 13 minutes from Paddington ticked all the boxes.
A wander through the town centre satiated my desire to mooch around new, unchartered territory, and then it was time to head off to my final destination, Bowood Hotel and Spa, a 4* hotel with a two AA Rosette restaurant, and limitless peace and quiet.
So, what’s the hotel like?
OK well you’re not actually staying in Bowood House so leave your Downton Abbey fantasies at home.
The hotel is on the grounds of the grand old house - fun fact, the owners are BFFs with King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla and they have visited - however, it is possible to visit the jaw-dropping stately home and its abundant gardens as part of your stay, and you can even be driven there in a golf buggy from the hotel if you don't feel like the 15-minute walk.
Every staff member my friend and I interacted with, whether they were working on reception, in the spa or in the restaurant, treated us with great warmth and made our stay feel extra indulgent. This to me is the true sign of a luxury hotel, and I would recommend people to visit for the lovely staff alone! But, there are other reasons to head to this peaceful little pocket of Wiltshire... for instance, the hotel offers some of the best golf in England, and an 18-hole PGA course.
We were checked in to a Luxury Parkland Room which overlooked a lake, woodland and the golf course. From our cute little Juliet balcony we got to see animals enjoying the vast open space as dusk fell. There was also a herd of deer along the drive as we entered, which made my heart soar.
Showing my age, I was particularly delighted by the feel of the thick, beige carpets underfoot. Waiting for us in the room, were some freshly baked cookies, a lovely touch.
The bathroom (through a wide door frame, quickly added to my Pinterest 'dream house board') was brand new and luxurious, with a powerful shower and huge bath.
Well you weren't there for the golf or to swoon over doorframes... so what’s the spa like?
Facilites-wise, it’s not as show stopping as some other spa hotels. Along with a gym, the focus is on a 15m indoor pool which has a Jacuzzi and several metal loungers overlooking the golf course at one end. If you love golf, I expect you can happily lose hours here, but if you’re not very body confident, you might feel a bit awkward lying back in full view of the people teeing off outside.
To the side of the pool is the ‘Crystal Steam Room’ and ‘Rock Sauna’ if you’re looking to get a sweat on without stepping one foot into a trainer.
Normally the pool is adults only but there are a few hours a day where kids are allowed in, so try and time your visit accordingly! As I discovered, it changes the ambience from chill to shrill, and prompted me to leave and seek refuge in the spa lounge - which turned out to be a great decision.
The room, dimly lit with plenty of space to sit or stretch out, has modern, muted decor and I felt calm as soon as I entered. I happily spent an hour reading and dozing on a comfy lounger until it was time for my treatment - which I am still delighted about today.
I had a Work It Out Detoxing Massage (£70 for 30 minutes), and asked my therapist to only work on my ever-tight back and shoulders. It was hands-down the best hotel spa massage I have ever received, and I have continued to feel the benefits weeks later. Absolutely amazing. All the massages and facials use Temple Spa products, and their rich mediterranean scents filled the air around the treatment rooms and in the lounge area. Divine. I could have just stayed there until it was time to go home, basically.
Lounging on a lounger, pure bliss. What's the food like?
To the left of the hotel bar, and opposite the library (where afternoon tea is served), The Shelburne Restaurant is an airy, modern dining room with views over the golf course.
The menu has a focus on sustainability and celebrating local ingredients. I enjoyed a perfectly cooked diver scallop, along with a wonderful fillet of Loch Duart salmon. Make sure you order a side of broccoli with soy, ginger and chilli *chef’s kiss*. The menu is supported by an extensive wine list, and a very good espresso martini.
For breakfast, there’s a lot of vegan options, so I was able to indulge the other half of my flexi-pescatarian tastebuds with fresh grapefruit, and avocado and mushrooms on toast.
Lush! So, how do you get there?
Nearest station is Chippenham, and the hotel is about a 10-minute taxi ride from the station (this should cost you no more than £15)