Eynsham Baths at Estelle Manor

The lowdown

Estelle Manor’s new luxury spa has been five years in the making and is the biggest UK spa opening of 2024. Hailed by some as the Best Spa in the Cotswolds, it’s actually on the edge of rural Oxfordshire, around 12 miles from Oxford city centre and an hour’s drive from Heathrow.

The new luxury spa at Estelle Manor sits just a few minutes’ walk away from its boutique country house mothership which opened its decadent doors to great acclaim in summer 2023. It’s single storey appearance giving little allusion to the supersized spa space that lies within.

Eynsham Baths is not your typical spa. The Manor’s owners have based the spa on a traditional Roman bath house concept, combining the best of ancient and modern to create a timeless wellness space that feels almost temple like with its grand marble interior and serene aura. But this is no place for bubbling Jacuzzis or poolside loungers, in fact it’s a lounger-free zone and the only bubbles are those found in your champagne, should you choose to indulge.

Spavellous for

Anyone looking for a wow factor spa and luxury hotel experience, city types after a taste of country chic, stylish families, party people looking to live out their Saltburn fantasies (no, not that one!), fans of a Riviera style outdoor pool, active types (there’s cycling, axe throwing, air rifle shooting and archery on site).

It’s also a great choice for a celebration spa escape, honeymoon, babymoon, romantic weekend away or multi-generation stay and would suit anyone looking to splash some cash enjoying a near city rural break (Oxford). Padel tennis players, outdoor pool lovers and dogs will be happy here too.

Spa info

To say that Estelle Manor’s visionary owners have put a serious amount of thought, love and money into its new spa is an understatement. The scale is huge, there’s marble at every turn and the spa is flooded with natural light, creating different moods throughout the day. It’s a sanctuary that offers luxury through simplicity, slowness, and a sense of space as well as classic design, quality materials and the carefully considered spa facilities and treatments. The spa team have collaborated with global health experts too to infuse the spa experience with current scientific thinking and create wellbeing practices that aim to deliver the best of ancient and modern in terms of health benefits as well as experience.

Eynsham’s wellness offering centres around bathing and contrast therapy, the practise of alternating hot and cold experiences, which delivers health benefits via sauna, steam rooms and water immersion. It further elevates its proposition with a variety of treatments using the spa’s five house-blended therapeutic oils. Nutritional wellbeing is also addressed, with an innovative menu of healthy food and refreshing drinks available at the tea lounge, including the spa’s 32 wellbeing teas. The exclusive feel is amplified by limiting spa guests to thirty-five per three-hour session, all of whom must either be staying at the hotel or have club membership. Members also have access to a few additional areas and facilities, including an outdoor spa pool with its own DJ cave that comes alive at weekends after dark.

You can see the lengths that the spa development team have gone to to consider, scrutinise, and question each element of the wellness experience, resulting in original Eynsham takes like ditching the ubiquitous spa robe; monastic towelling ponchos are the order of the day here. And treatments come with tea pairings, which are specially created by the spa’s own Tea Sommelier who imports many of the ingredients direct from India.

As you approach the single-storey neo-classical spa building you get little sense of the upscale experience that awaits. Entering Eynsham Baths is like walking into a luxurious minimalist temple. You’re immediately struck by the sense of space, light and spa-fragranced ‘minimaluxe’. The interior of the brand-new spa building is deceptively large, with the lower floor having been dug into the Eynsham earth to create a subterranean oasis.

Once we’d completed the necessary health questionnaire, and acquainted ourselves with the ‘no phones’ policy, we were led down a wide oak staircase to the supersized changing space with neat rows of lockers, interspersed with private vanity cubicles. The whole place feels as much like a basilica as a spa, and a million miles from the M40. Then, having donned the towelling poncho and branded flipflops provided, we made our way to the pool area.

The knowledgeable wellness team talked us through the spa concept – a traditional bath house style experience focusing on contrast therapy and encouraging low key socialising, Roman style. Spa guests can take their pick from two recommended thermal journeys; the energising Metabolic Evolution, or the calming Rest and Recover. Each has a suggested order of play and corresponding timings, or you can choose to just go with the flow.

The bath house is centred around a large Tepidarium, a 36-degree warm pool with high sky-lit ceilings, a central marble seating area and submerged benches around the edges. There are no bubbles, to the vocal surprise of a few guests, but the still waters add to the sense of calm, as does the almost subliminal soundtrack of low chanting. Next to this main pool is the toasty Caldarium, a smaller, 40-degree pool, the temperature of a just-the-right-side-of-too-hot bath, and, in the aptly named Frigidarium, two plunge pools separated by a pair of menacing bucket showers or ‘Scotch buckets’. The sunken plunge pools are twelve and six degrees respectively, translating approximately to ‘really cold’ and ‘(insert-expletive-of-choice) freezing’. When you enter the spa, you’ll vow that there’s no way you’ll be going near either plunge pool during your visit, but you will likely end up trying both, following some gentle encouragement from fellow spa-goers – and you and your circulation will be glad that you did.

Returning to the heat experiences, there’s a lavender-infused Hay Sauna, a large social space with suspended bundles of hay, which has long been associated with wellbeing and hailed as a remedy for everything from asthma to rheumatism. Hammam towels are provided to sit on while you’re in the sauna to help keep the place pristine. Another nice touch.

Further round, there’s a traditional steam room with marble benches and basin, and the bucket showers which deliver a drenching dump of icy water on you at the pull of a cord, providing entertainment for anyone relaxing in the Caldarium. Lastly, the Hammam, a steamy showstopping space with a huge pink marble table. So, the idea is that you spend your three hours (two and a half factoring in changing time) alternating between hot and cold experiences, occasionally chatting with fellow Romans…I mean guests…and taking a break to enjoy some delicious and nutritious raw and Ayurvedic-inspired food and refreshments when the mood takes you. Guests are allocated table for the duration or their visit and any food or drinks ordered are kept chilled/warm so you can return to them later. Another nice touch. And icy water is provided mini copper urns of cool water to keep yourself hydrated if you don’t want to tear yourself away from the spa action. There’s also a beautiful and seriously impressive tea bar where you can enjoy one of the 32 teas, paired with any treatments on the advice of the expert Tea Sommelier. We tried the Tibetan Sorig tea which was both soothing and delicious and is said to aid balance and indigestion. Wine and champers are also available, after all wellbeing is all about balance too.

Treatment highlights

In addition to the thermal spa journey Eynsham Baths offers a range of treatments and wellness therapies in its ten private treatment rooms. Treatments draw inspiration from ancient healing journeys and rituals found within Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese cultures, and include those that focus chakra alignment, improving circulation, muscle stretching, energising and releasing tension.

For anyone with a treatment booked, the journey starts in the ambiently-lit Nose Room where guests are introduced to the spa’s signature oil blends which have been designed to deepen the connection with the five spiritual Koshas at the heart of Vedanic Eastern Philosophy. Each hand-blended oil is ceremonially revealed to sample by lifting a glass a cloche, and the idea is that you will be drawn to the one that most suits your needs at that time. Your therapist will then factor in your responses when creating your bespoke treatment journey, designed to take you to your desired wellness destination. There’s a sense of theatre about this sensual experience, again unique to Eynsham Baths. It’s recommended that you enjoy the pools before having your treatment to help start the relaxation journey and ensure that the oil remedies are left to work on your skin after the treatment has finished.

We didn’t have time for a treatment when we visited but liked the sound of the Eynsham Baths signature facial, which promises to release jaw tension while redefining facial contours. And the confident-sounding Warrior Massage which targets ‘muscular holding patterns’.

rooms

Choose whether to stay in the Grade II manor house, stable rooms or the walled garden. Budget will likely be a factor here.

Manor Rooms channel Main Character Energy and are fabulously furnished, with original features, including wood panelling and the occasional balcony. These are the ones to book if you imagine yourself as Lord/Lady of the Manor.

Rooms in the Stable or Garden block offer a more modern take, with the same luxurious touches, Iike Italian Frette bed linen and cosy log burners, but are lighter on character, and wallet, though it is all relative.

Larger groups or privacy, you can opt for one of the Scandi style woodland cottages or houses near the spa, the larger of which come with the option of a personal chef. Children are welcome to stay in the Walled Garden Rooms and Suites, and extra beds are available at an additional cost.

Many of the rooms outside the Manor House are dog-friendly, as are some of the communal areas in the hotel.

wining & dining

Estelle Manor currently has three dining options:

The Glasshouse offers fresh seasonal dining, with wood-fired family favourites and sharing plates centred around ingredients from its own wall garden.

The Billiards Room is the hotel’s showstopper dining space, serving Dim Sum and Asian-inspired favourites to malachite tables flanked by emerald velvet banquettes that are playfully designed as billiards table pockets (you have to see it to appreciate it).

The Brasserie, the Manor’s all-day restaurant, is a lively space to enjoy everything from a full breakfast to an ambiently-lit dinner, surrounded by ornately carved fireplaces and wood panelling, plus and orangery next door. The food is good, I enjoyed a perfectly puffed cheese soufflé, but tables are quite tightly packed so it’s not the best bet if you’re looking to have a private conversation or exit the table without risking taking out a wine glass or two. It works well for breakfast though and the menu has something for everyone.

Coffee and cocktails are served in the stylish lounge and library, cosy spaces with open fires where you can enjoy garden views from the comfort of velvet sofas. Lounging space is at a premium though, at least until the sun comes out and everyone makes a beeline for the for the pretty South Terrace.

why so spavellous?

Estelle Manor is a stylish and relaxing rural retreat. It’s easy to reach from London, Oxford and anywhere in central England and there’s a sense of glam and fun about the place.

The outdoor pool and terrace are particularly lovely, and the spa is in a league of its own, at least in UK terms.

The whole ancient Rome meets Asia and Middle Eastern adds to the sense of escapism and the spa has a surprisingly relaxed ambiance.

spavellous tips

The spa is popular so you’ll probably need to book early to avoid disappointment. We recommend trying to book a slot for before check-in on your day of arrival to makes the most of your visit.

Look out for the hotel’s Spa and Slumber packages with include use of the spa, otherwise it’s an extra £95/person. And maybe start saving now…

spa-goers say

‘It’s a rare thing to get three hours of pure relaxation in such a beautiful spa. The decor is exceptionally calming.’ ‘can’t decide whether I loved the spa or outdoor pool more – two of my new happy places.’

WEBSITE

aDDRESS

Eynsham Park

Oxfordshire

OX29 6PN

England

sAT NAV

OX29 6PN
Photo credit: Mark Anthony Fox
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