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Where to spa in the great outdoors co-founder, Abi Selby, talks about the world of outdoor spa experiences that await in the summer months, from swim up bars to natural pools and spa gardens.

Most people go to spas to feel good. The Good Spa Guide recently issued their State of Spa Report 2024, looking at spa trends, and when asked what the main reason for going to a spa was, 64% said it was to relax and chill, while 36% said it was to feel good afterwards - both ultimately contributing to the same outcome.

While looking good might be part of feeling good, spas remain places of holistic, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing first and foremost, and it's both fascinating and a joy for me to see more and more people discovering this world and everything it has to offer.

Summer spas

As we head into the summer months, we have seen a particular surge in people seeking to reconnect with nature. Wild swimming pools, alfresco spaces, beautiful countryside locations, and hotel spas that put a particular emphasis on sustainability are all giving us opportunities to enjoy an enhanced way to relax in the fresh air in order to optimise our seasonal down time.

That said, I think perhaps these outdoor experiences have been something of a hidden gem for a long time. We all associate spas with saunas and steam rooms - the cocooning warmth of thermal suites and heated treatment beds. However, in the summer months, that isn't necessarily what we're looking for.

This is where exquisite spa gardens, outdoor facilities and experiences that help us reconnect with nature truly come into their own, giving holiday vibes and one of the best ways to spend a day in the sunshine.

Open-air spa luxury

Amongst the perennial favourites, and delivering an experience worthy of any five-star holiday, for example, is the luxurious Pennyhill Park, complete with thermal pools which move seamlessly from inside to outside, a vast outdoor pool and loungers aplenty.

There are also exquisite cabanas where you can while away the afternoon complete with your own copper bath, stocked fridge and tea and coffee making facilities, all overlooking the spa grounds.

Spa therapies with a twist

For those looking for a moment of mindfulness in a unique environment, the bathing rituals at Forest Spa at Middleton Lodge are a touchless experience in treatment huts sequestered in the wooded gardens of the luxury, eco-friendly hotel and spa.

Stroll down paths flanked by wild herbs, flowers, lavender and rosemary, all of which give off heady, natural scents to help you unwind, before a tranquil, botanical experience all to yourself. Return to the main spa area afterwards and sit by the open-air pool watching the world go by.

Natural swimming pools

There are also several immaculate spa destinations with beautiful natural swimming ponds. At South Lodge in West Sussex you will find a natural pool surrounded by a hidden rockery, wildflower meadow and a sun deck.

At Yorkshire Spa Retreat in North Yorkshire, the natural swimming pond is filtered and purified biologically by water plants and a specialist filtration system, so it feels like a chilled mountain lake. You can also go to the magnificent Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire, for a pool which offers environmentally friendly, natural bathing in bio-filtered water.

Ribby Hall

Spa gardens

Many spas have also taken more than swimming outside, with superb spa gardens to enjoy. The Spa Hotel at Ribby Hall Village has a Zen Garden with an outdoor hot tub, bar, a beautiful seating area, a Himalayan salt sauna and an outdoor experience shower with mood lighting and body jets. Alternatively, Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House has poolside terraces along with cabanas, hot tubs and fire pits woven into a landscaped oasis.

Cottonmill Spa

A real treat is the swim-up bar at Manor House Hotel - Alsager in Cheshire, famously the only one of its kind in the UK. It’s the perfect compliment to their other Secret Garden spa facilities including a pool house, vitality pool, hydrotherapy tub, pavilion, summer house, salt steam inhalation chamber, potting sauna shed, plunge bath and seating areas.

I also love The Buxton Crescent Hotel in Derbyshire, which has a serene indoor relaxation pool that sits under a ceiling of stars, a beautiful rooftop pool, and a heated outdoor area with two integrated Jacuzzi zones. That's as well as a suite of indoor facilities inspired by Buxton's heritage as a spa town thanks to its healing thermal waters.

A world of outdoor spa experiences

There are too many extraordinary outdoor spa experiences to talk about in one article. For example, at we have 111 spa destinations with outdoor experiences and counting, which offer health and wellbeing, and an extra touch of feel-good-factor in the summer months. However, what they all have in common is their ability to provide space to relax and unwind the way you want to, and ultimately to feel good by the time you leave, whatever the weather.

Discover more outdoor spa experiences

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