MAXINE GORDON throws off the excesses of the festive season with a pampering visit to Middlethorpe Hall.

IF you are looking for the perfect bolthole for a spot of TLC after the full-on frenzy of the festive season, your new year's resolution should be to make tracks for Middlethorpe Hall.

The 17th-century country house hotel also has a charming spa, in a neighbouring red-brick cottage, in a pretty, tree-lined courtyard.

It is a veritable oasis of calm and relaxation - just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of York.

The 40-foot indoor pool, with windows on to the walled garden, is one of the most lovely places to swim in York.

When I arrived, just shortly after 8am for a half-day spa visit, there was just one other person in the pool.

The low-winter sun flooded the building as I eased my aching muscles in a gentle swim. The mood of relaxation continued as I stretched out, starfish-like, in the hot tub. Again, being an early bird paid dividends as I had the bubbling hot spa to myself.

The jets pummelled parts that I hadn't even realised were tense. Next, I turned up the heat further by a stint in the steam room, breathing in the invigorating scent of lemon verbena. I closed my eyes, let my body suck in the fierce heat, and imagined myself in summer, somewhere in France, with not a care in the world...

I was chillaxed, but not to quite the max. I was saving that for what was to come. My visit included a treatment in the upstairs beauty suite. I chose a back, neck and shoulder massage. Spa manager Helen Ellerker, helped me select a body oil, by Neom, the North Yorkshire firm that produces organic, luxury body products and candles.

Helen had a firm hand – and wrist, arm and elbow – and used them all in succession to iron out the knots in all the usual tight spots: under the shoulder blades, across the lower back and up either side of my neck.

Afterwards, I returned downstairs to the welcoming club area. A pot of tea and a plate of home-made biscuits were awaiting for me: served in a pretty floral Villeroy and Boch tea set, and bang next to the real-flame fire. Wrapped in a white, fluffy robe, I sipped my tea and read that morning's paper, then browsed through a pile of the latest glossy magazines.

The spa is not only a place of pampering, it is somewhere to get fit too. In an adjacent garden building is a compact, yet comprehensive gym. There's all you need for a perfect work-out, from free weights and a rowing machine to a treadmill, step machine and reclining bike. A fitness trainer runs time-tabled sessions and there is also aqua fit on offer in the pool.

There is no joining fee at Middlethorpe Hall and you can take out singular monthly membership. But if you commit to an annual membership (from £697) you can reap a host of benefits, calculated at almost £600, including one night b&b stay in a double bedded room at Middlethorpe Hall (value £199) ; a free luncheon in Middlethorpe Hall when two or more are dining (value £28); a £30 voucher towards treatments of your choice at Middlethorpe Spa and two guest vouchers (value £30) among others.

* Middlethorpe Spa, Middlethorpe Hall, Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 2GB. Half day spa and beauty treatment packages start at £69. To find out more, visit or call the spa directly on 01904 661317.

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