Great Places to Stay
- Stobo Castle Health Club
Stobo Castle Health Club is located near Peebles in the tranquil Borders area of Scotland. It offers a comprehensive range of thirty body treatments as well as a sauna, sanarium, flotarium, swimming pool, whirlpool, gym and exercise classes to help you feel revitalised, rejuvenated, de-toxed and de-stressed. Travel writer Vivien Devlin relaxes and enjoys the 5-star treatment.
Stobo Castle - Past and Future
The castle was built in 1811 for Sir James Montgomery and his family who stayed there for 100 years. Latterly, the Countess of Dysart resided here until the mid sixties, after which it was tragically left empty for almost a decade. The Winyard family bought this Georgian mansion house in 1975 when it was in a dilapidated and derelict condition. After a complete renovation the castle was transformed into a Health Spa which opened in 1978 and continues to be privately and independently run by Stephen Winyard. 30,000 guests from all over the world have benefited from a visit to Stobo. During the past twenty years further refurbishment has taken place to create a luxurious Spa retreat, combining the latest health and beauty therapies within the setting of a grand and classic baronial country house.
Due to the ever increasing popularity and demand by both day and residential guests, a £5 million expansion programme is now on schedule over the coming year. This will create a separate Spa complex featuring a 25 metre swimming pool, thalasotherapy spa, aromatic steam room, aerobics studio, state of the art gym, heated mosaic relaxation couches and new treatment rooms. The existing treatment rooms and pool area will then be transformed into additional bedrooms. It is envisaged that an extra 30 to 40 staff will be employed as the expansion will enable Stobo to welcome a further 20 residential guests.
There are 29 bedrooms with a capacity of 59 guests to ensure a quiet and private environment. As many women come with friends or relatives, most rooms have twin beds although there is accommodation for single guests. The rooms are all named after the original Stobo Castle family history, including Hylton - (a smallish room with a four poster bed), Dysart, Philipson and Seymour, (a luxurious suite) each one absolutely individual in size, style and view. Over the past two years a complete refurbishment project has been underway to offer guests the ultimate in 5 star comfort, quality and design. For a more private retreat a group of friends, family or business colleagues, could reserve Park Lodge, a newly converted cottage in the castle grounds with luxury accommodation for up to 12 guests with a private sitting room and garden.
The person given the task of re-decoration at Stobo Castle is Lizzie Bell, an expert and highly acclaimed interior designer from Drysdale's, in Edinburgh's New Town. Every bedroom has been approached individually as a separate project, choosing a different, fresh and bright colour scheme to suit its size and architectural style. Some have a quirky layout as part of the corner turrets which have been turned into delightful compact bathrooms, complete with flowing canopies. Everywhere you can see where Lizzie's unique good taste and imaginative vision have come into play. Pretty pink flower-patterned drapes contrast with blue gingham checks for bed and chair fabrics. Cornflower yellow walls are matched with a red plaid sofa. Stripes, flowery chintz and tartan check. Yet this juxtaposition of bold colours and busy patterns works sublimely well, blending classic fabrics and furnishings in the Castle tradition, together with a brash, cool and contemporary "anything goes" new look.
My room was the fabulous Seymour, with twin double beds, two sumptuous high backed sofas, armchairs, attractive tables and lamps, large TV screen, cute round dressing room in the turret and a spacious marble and brick-effect tiled bathroom, featuring a bath and separate power shower. The decoration looked sparkling new as if it had just been completed the day before. A biscuit-cream thick-pile carpet, so soft to walk on in bare feet, classic William Morris style multi-coloured fabrics contrasting with crimson check armchairs. The beds have gorgeous soft-grey fur lined rugs. The top quality furnishings are simply luxurious and I was so impressed that I had to find out more. The fabric design is called Braquerine by Pierre Frey and is imported exclusively from France by Drysdales. Clearly no expense has been spared in the interior decoration which is a wise investment. Top quality and classic design will keep its fresh look for years. Guests will also very much appreciate the opportunity of resting and sleeping in such delightful rooms, to sit in gracious drawing and dining rooms and to feel relaxed and at home in such a beautiful and elegant Country house.
The Dining Room at Stobo
Unlike the proverbial carrot juice and lettuce leaf cuisine of the old fashioned Health Farm of years gone by, you will not be put on a reducing diet at Stobo - unless you wish to. Here you will be offered three meals - or should I say feasts - each day starting with a very hearty, yet healthy breakfast. Fresh and dried fruits with natural yoghurt, fruit juices, porridge, boiled, scrambled or poached eggs served with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes. A basket of home-made granary toast with butter and preserves, coffee and a selection of teas.
If you are particularly lazy - and why not - you can request a continental breakfast in your room. Breakfast is served in the dining room until 9am so it's quite an early start but your morning routine will soon begin with the first facial or manicure of the day.
For lunch there is a superb cold buffet, including smoked salmon, prawns, sliced meats, and every kind of vegetable and salad, as well as home-made soup, a hot dish of the day, and a selection of puddings and ice-cream. The menu gives an indication of the calorie count per dish which just might prevent you from over-indulgence.
At the end of the day, after being pampered and pummelled, it's time for a bath and change before dinner. The conversation around the large dining room tables is animated as friends, old and new, compare notes and chat about their Spa experience. There are four courses served at dinner, with a choice of appetisers, meat, fish and vegetarian main course, desserts and then a cheese board. The cuisine is superb: avocado and crab salad, light grilled monkfish with fresh vegetables, or spicy wild mushroom lasagne; lemon cheesecake. You may also order wine at dinner and several guests feel they have earned a drink after such a busy schedule.
Stobo Castle Health Spa
The international bestseller, The Little Book of Calm recommends "Massage - one of the most pleasurable ways to be soothed into a state of relaxation."
Stobo Castle is in the heart of the tranquil Scottish Border country - the perfect place to unwind and forget all the pressures of work and daily life at home. For the second year in succession, Stobo has won the Health Spa of the Year award 2002 despite stiff competition against many other prestigious Spa resorts across the UK. Judges assessed the level of excellence in the range of treatments, professional service and expertise, value for money, facilities, design and comfort.
My two night package included two body massages by hand, a facial massage and a manicure with polish, use of all the leisure, health and fitness facilities, exercise classes, two night's accommodation in beautifully designed, luxurious bedrooms and all meals, right through to lunch on the last day.
On three, four, five or week long stays other treatments are included, such as a deluxe pedicure, a French facial and an aromazone session - a leg and thigh treatment. The selection of treatments within each package is regarded as the basis for your Spa visit. Additional body, face and beauty treatments can be booked in advance of your visit - from ultratone muscle toning, reflexology, Ionithermie Detox, and an osteopathy massage to eyebrow tints, Indian scalp treatments, Collagen Lip treatment and a bikini-line wax - it's all on offer.
You may also choose a Health and Fitness plan which is geared more to exercise and getting the body into shape. You will be given a full fitness analysis and advised on how to "achieve, believe and compete" through tuition, diet, exercise and sports.
There are 40 therapists in total working across a 7 day week, with a fast turnaround of appointments. The only quibble I have is that treatments are very tightly scheduled which gives a sense of staff watching the clock rather than a leisurely treatment. A 45 minute massage is actually only 35, a half hour facial is a strict 25 minutes as the therapist has to be ready in time for the next guest. Before you know it, you are being ushered out the door. In the perfect world you would wish a full hour's facial with ten minutes at the end to rest. No one wishes to feel rushed at a Spa retreat.
While the majority of guests are women (90%), there were three men with their partners very much appreciating time away together in a totally relaxing environment. As more men realise the vital importance of keeping fit and youthful, as well as the physical benefits of massage and facials, they will perhaps follow female advice and book into Stobo too.
Day guests are also welcome but in order to maintain a quiet and restful environment, these are limited to about 10 -15 per day. People arrive around 9.30 in the morning and enjoy a full day at the Spa, with four treatments and lunch included. This is the perfect opportunity to experience Stobo Castle on a trial basis, to see if you would like to return for a two or three day package. Day and residential visits are very popular as a present and last Christmas 1,000 people purchased a Stobo Castle gift voucher to give to family and friends. A very welcome gift indeed.
Stobo Castle is the ultimate Chill Out zone and anyone, of all ages and lifestyle would benefit from a few days here. Restful and peaceful in graceful, luxurious surroundings, Stobo is a sanctuary dedicated to soothe the mind and body.
To quote again from the Little Book of Calm: " Feeling stressed?, Need some help to regain balance in your life"? Then arrange a visit to Stobo Castle and be good to yourself.
As the brochure invitingly entices you: "Your time is your own. As soon as you step through the door of Stobo, you feel far removed from the cares of the world and utterly at ease".
Yes, in a nutshell, that sums up the Stobo Experience.
For further information on Stobo Castle Health Spa in Stobo, Peebleshire, see their Web Site.
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