Lauren Atkinson-Smith tests out a prenatal treatment on the outskirts of Dartmoor National Park
Boringdon Hall is conveniently located halfway between the outskirts of Dartmoor National Park and the South West coast, both of which are less than a 15-minute drive away. The area is well served with walks — helpfully highlighted in guest rooms instruction manuals. History buffs will be pleased to learn the site was mentioned in the Domesday Book. While taking a turn around the grounds — like a pregnant lady of the manor who’s trying to meet her daily ‘steps’ quota — I can see why the Saxons named the place Boringdon, meaning enchanted place on the hill.
The spa & treatment
The Gaia Spa opened in late 2016 and offers a range of bespoke in-house Gaia products and treatments, all overseen by current owner and founder, Diane Nettleton. I am greeted by my therapist, Gemma, who talks me through my prenatal treatment. This begins with a gentle foot scrub, a pleasant addition to any of the longer treatments on the menu. From there, I hop onto the massage table sitting sideways on with my back to Gemma, who gently works in the same warming scrub along the length of my spine, before a full-body massage with baby-safe ESPA products.
The treatment’s every bit as relaxing and satisfying as a normal massage — with pressure applied that’s perfect. Knots were untied and the creams and oils used were sensitive, but still fragrant.
My full-body-hot-stone-massage novice husband enjoys his treatment’s intense accuracy, which works away a nagging shoulder complaint. With a newfound appreciation for the healing powers of heat, he takes full advantage of the Finnish sauna, crystal salt steam room, laconium herbal sauna, and aromatherapy steam room in the spa.
Eat & drink
Walking into the Grand Hall, which today houses a decadent bar and lounge, guests are greeted by the sight of an enormous King James I coat of arms, artfully sculpted onto the mantle above the fireplace, which is dated 1640, a further reminder of the building’s great age. Tapestries and fine portraits of past kings, queens, lords and ladies also adorn the walls.
Dinner is served in the Gallery Restaurant, devised by award-winning chef Scott Paton. An extra effort for the awkward pregnant lady is extended by the kitchen and staff, too, checking ingredients on my behalf and suggesting alternatives. Fortunately, my choices from the three-course menu are baby friendly: seared Brigham scallops with celeriac, soy and truffle; slow-cooked lamb with creamed garlic, potato and jus roti; and coconut cheesecake with mango and lime sorbet. And for those feeling indecisive or unrestrained, there’s either the five- or seven-course taster menu, sampling a bit of almost everything.
Post-dinner, we are entertained by a murder mystery evening witnessed through a windowed gallery at the opposite end of the Grand Hall. Although tempted to find a way of joining in the forensic fun, we instead opt to investigate rumours of a secret speakeasy bar well hidden somewhere within Boringdon’s ample supply of nooks and corridors. Of our surreptitious search, all I will say is take time to read up on Tales Of The Unexpected while you’re there.
Our medieval four-poster bedroom, named Isabella, is located in the upper reaches of the original hall, tastefully decorated to show off the free-standing roll top bath in front of the stone fireplace. Subtle-yet-regal flock-patterned fabrics hang at the windows and embellish the bed, while dark wooden furniture adds further historic touches to the room. A common thread of royal purple, harking back to a time when numerous noblemen and women set foot in Boringdon, ties all the rooms together, including the modern additions of the courtyard and stable rooms. The complimentary Gaia tea blends are a nice touch, too.
Double rooms from £140 per night, low season
Maternity pre- or postnatal treatment
90-minute treatment £125