Our sleuth investigates the curative claims of wellbeing retreats worldwide. This week – Southampton’s Harbour Hotel & Spa
Peeping out over the calm waters of the Ocean Village Marina is this new offering from the Harbour Hotels group. Resembling a super-yacht but firmly anchored to the ground, this seven floor five star luxurious hotel and spa boasts a roof-top bar overlooking the Solent, a ground floor restaurant nestled next to the water and a luxury spa, fitness centre and pool.
A winter and spring spent bundled up in multiple layers, faced with dark mornings, gloomy afternoons and chilly nights has made this Spy approach the early summer sun with pasty, dull skin and a constant headache from city fumes.
A rejuvenating weekend by the sea with views over the Solent, a Lava Shell Massage to boost circulation and soothe Spy’s winter aches and pains and a seafood dinner in the Jetty restaurant.
Approaching Southampton via the Itchen Bridge on a gloriously sunny and warm Saturday afternoon, Spy got her first glimpse of the majestic Harbour Hotel and Spa. Standing at the edge of the Ocean Village Marina, surrounded by boats of all sizes, she blends into the landscape remarkably well.
Arriving into a large and bright reception area teaming with smiling and helpful staff gave Spy the first twinge of hope that the winter fog might be starting to lift.
Spy’s room for the night was a beautiful suite on one of the higher floors, with a decked balcony overlooking the marina.
There are 85 guest bedrooms here, all kitted out with welcome little treats such as a Nespresso machine, White Company toiletries and decanters of gin and sherry.
Spy could quite easily have whiled away the rest of the day on the balcony, watching the boats and sipping on a refreshing G&T, but the spa was the main attraction here, and a lava shell massage was on the menu.
The HarSpa and fitness centre are, like the rest of the hotel, bathed in light thanks to the floor the ceiling windows all around. However, the treatment rooms are snugly tucked away down a corridor with low lighting, soft music and calm, experienced therapists on hand to transport your body and mind to another place for an hour or so.
Ellie, Spy’s therapist for the afternoon, was smiley and knowledgeable and instantly put Spy at ease. After explaining the process of the lava shell massage along with its benefits, Ellie set to work on Spy’s aching, tense muscles. The tiger-striped clam shells are filled with a small heat activated sachet and used as a massage tool to smooth out knots and ease tension. The heat can last over an hour, unlike hot stones which have to be regularly warmed-up. The warmth from the shells, the dim lighting and the scent from the carefully chosen essential oils wafting around the room almost sent Spy to sleep.
The allocated hour passed far too quickly, and after a refreshing glass of water and suggestions from Ellie of which HarSpa products could help Spy’s skin improve, Spy ventured into the rest of the spa.
There is a good sized indoor pool, with views out over the marina on one side and large doors opening to a terrace for sunbathers. A hydrotherapy pool bubbles away in one corner, and a sauna, steam room and relaxation room are a few steps away. Each area was large enough to accommodate quite a few people without tripping over each other and disturbing the peace.
Sun-loungers and chairs are dotted about, perfect for relaxing on and tucking into a novel after your dip.
The terrace seemed to be the place to hang out in your swimmers with a glass of chilled champagne – Spy’s favourite kind of spa treat.
After an afternoon of sheer luxury and pampering, Spy was ready for a pre-dinner cocktail followed by a meal in the Jetty restaurant.
On the top floor of the hotel is HarBar on 6th. As soon as the lift doors opened, Spy realised this was no sleepy, stuffy hotel bar and lounge. The tremendous panoramic views over the marina and out to sea were bathed in a golden sunset, the glamorous clientele were sipping sundowners either outside on the terrace or lounging by the windows, and the DJ was getting the evening started with some gentle tunes. As Spy sipped her Mojito she forgot she was even in Southampton.
Dinner in the Jetty restaurant on the ground floor was a delicious affair. The philosophy is ‘fresh, seasonal and local’, and that it was. The fish was sublime and Spy’s dessert named ‘Oops I dropped my ice cream’ was far tastier than it sounds.
Spy retired to her room for the night feeling light and dreamy, relaxed and rejuvenated.
The Southampton Harbour Hotel and Spa is perfectly located for those who love the water, without being on the water. That said, it’s just a short hop over to the cruise terminals so a pre or post cruise stay is definitely recommended.
The HarSpa offers a wide variety of treatments for both men and women, with knowledgeable and experienced therapists and staff. The treatment rooms are well planned and roomy with neutral and calming decor.
Spy never feels calmer than when she is by the water, and you can’t get much closer than this.
The lava shell massage left Spy supple and relaxed, ready for some summer fun.
Spa breaks including an overnight stay, treatment and full use of the spa and fitness centre facilities from £245 per couple.
Spa days from £55 per person.
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