MAXINE GORDON takes the measure of North Yorkshire's luxury new, multi award-winning spa

RUDDING Park is riding the crest of a wave of prestigious awards.

Last year, it opened its new roof-top spa, clinching the Harrogate hotel two gongs – Best Newcomer at the Good Spa Guide Awards and Best UK Spa Hotel by The Sunday Times. The spa's restaurant, the thoroughly modern Horto, also secured three AA Rosettes.

On the week of our visit to the spa, Rudding Park was also celebrating success in the annual TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards, being voted the best hotel outside London.

So what's all the fuss about?

That was the question playing in my mind as I drove my mum 20 miles outside of York for our first visit to Rudding Park.

The spa has a separate entrance and is in its own building, in a lovely honey-coloured stone that matches the rest of the hotel.

As we walked up the drive towards the sleek glass entrance, Mum's first utterance was: "This is different class."

It wasn't long before I started to concur. I'm not sure if it was when we were invited to enjoy a snack and a drink in Horto (a warm infusion of mandarin and ginger followed by a square of granola slice), or when I sank into cool water of the indoor pool (which I had to myself for a ten-minute swim) or when we realised there were heated beds overlooking the gardens which looked like the perfect place to rest after our spa treatments.

But by the time we were being pummelled by furious jets in the bath-water-hot outdoor hydrotherapy pool I knew Mum's first instincts were right.

In a day that was full of perfect moments, this was right up at the top. The design is perfect too – you enter the hydrotherapy pool down some steps while still inside the spa then swim out through a tiled corridor into the open air. It's an extraordinary moment as the crisp air hits your skin, but your body is nicely cocooned in the warm water. It was a freezing cold February day, which made the contrast all the more invigorating.

High-powered jets are activated by pressing a button; these furiously massage the bits of the body that seem to store aches and pains: neck and shoulders and the lower back.

And if that's not enough, there is a rooftop garden spa to enjoy too. Set among landscaped areas, complete with loungers and parasols for sunny days, there is also an outdoor spa pool, big enough for a large group, as well as an enclosed sauna, with glass windows overlooking the roof garden.

Back inside, there are foot spas and "experience" showers promising the likes of an exotic downpour or a fierce sea squall as well as two steam rooms, one offering an aromatic adventure by filling the air with the scent of fresh rosemary.

We were booked in for treatments just before lunch. I had a full-body massage using hot stones and warm oil, which was good, but I would have liked more massage time with the hot stones. Mum had no complaints about her mini-manicure and pedicure, each lasting 30 minutes, which resulted in her feeling completely pampered and delighted with her preened nails.

Afterwards, we carried on our relaxation in the impressive chill-out area; my favourite place was the sleep zone, where you recline in an undulated bed, pull over a blanket and gaze up to the black ceiling dotted with little white lights like a fairytale night sky.

But I couldn't snooze for long because we had a lunch date at Horto. This was something to savour too. Murray Wilson, the clever chef formerly behind Norse in Harrogate, is now running the show here. His trademark puffed rice was evident in a couple of my dishes – the halloumi chips I had for starters were coated in the wonder stuff, while there was a liberal scattering over my moreish chicken and satay sauce main. And it was top marks from Mum for the smoked mackerel pate with rhubarb chutney (a marriage made in heaven) with treacle bread, followed by a casserole of seabass, chorizo and tomato.

Time passed too quickly. Later in the afternoon, after trying every part of the spa, we grabbed some magazines and lay on the heated beds overlooking the roof-top garden, watching the winter sky slowly start to darken.

Before we left, we enjoyed a hot drink and chocolate tiffin in Horto – which fortified us for the 30-minute drive back to York.

So did Rudding Park live up to expectations? You bet it did – and more.

Rudding Park Hotel and Spa

Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 1JH

T: 01423 871350


The day package we enjoyed costs from £135.