Taking her expertise to Chepstow in Wales, spa expert and journalist, Kathryn Hudson, went to St Pierre, a Marriott Hotel and Country Club to find out her verdict …
As it’s a Marriott hotel, I was expecting big and modern, not pretty and quaint. Drive through the golf course, under a red brick arch into a quad and you are presented with a small, 14th century castle, complete with two turrets.
To the left and back of the quad are rooms converted from the old stables, given names like Daisy and Lobelia. They are separated from each other by patches of colourful country garden: lupins, lavender, and foxgloves. To the right is a small church and graveyard, and in the middle is a manicured piece of lawn which looks like it should have some old men playing bowls on it. From this angle, the hotel looks fairly small, but beyond there are lots of extensions.
Just off the M5 and over the Severn Bridge, it is easily accessible from Bristol and a few minutes from Chepstow and Chepstow Racecourse. On the doorstep of the Wye Valley, it’s a particularly scenic area, with lots of do in the vicinity. For the active, the Forest of Dean mountain bike trail, Go Ape, the National Diving Centre and the Brecon Beacons are all within a 45 minute drive. For shopping, both Cardiff and Bristol are within easy reach and there’s Tintern Abbey for those looking for a bit of culture.
The spa has three treatment rooms, a manicure/pedicure room and a relaxation room. To get to the spa you have to walk through both the Zest restaurant, and the gym. Then, to get from the treatment rooms to the pool and wet facilities, you need to go back into the gym and up some stairs (this confused me as it seems counter-intuitive to go up stairs to a swimming pool!) The spa is dark and soporific, so it’s a bit of a jolt back to reality to go into the gym with its pumping tunes. The 15m swimming pool, the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room are housed in a round building overlooking the acres of parkland. There are a few loungers here if you want to kick back with your eyes shut.
I had the Decléor full body massage, followed by the Decléor facial, and it was the best two hours I had spent in a long time. My therapist rolled up her sleeves and went to work on my back with her hands, elbows and forearms. A nice move was bending my arm up behind my back, which is great for releasing tension around the shoulder blades. She managed to elicit a few satisfying cracks too. The facial was so much more than an application of potions – of course there was lots of that – but the massage of the face, neck and upper chest was amazing. Who knew that a nose massage could feel so good? A move I particularly liked was one hand on the forehead and one on the sternum, the pressure on them alternated, in tune with the breath. Afterwards I felt completely and utterly relaxed. I didn’t want to lose the feeling and would have loved to have been wheeled back to my room and dumped on my bed. I would say there were lasting therapeutic benefits as well: my skin felt and looked much better afterwards.
Two restaurants are on offer. Zest, a Marriott branded bistro/bar which features at a lot of its hotels, and Morgans, a more fine dining concept reflecting the local area, with Welsh cheeses and beef on the menu. We didn’t try Morgans, but the menu looked tasty. Zest has a varied offering, including kids’ meals, healthy options, pizza and pasta. Good if you want a light bite and to stay casual, or eat outside. Morgans, which has an AA rosette, is more appropriate for a hearty meal and if you fancy dressing up.
If you’re burnt out and want to go somewhere to flop, I’m not sure this is the place. It’s a big, busy hotel, which often hosts conferences and weddings. Given the golfing, walking and other sporting opportunities on offer around here, I’d say this is more the place to bring your trainers than a book. As there is so much to do locally, I think this is a good break for couples, especially for golf enthusiasts, as the resort has two championship courses. My husband was delighted to get the opportunity to try out the Forest of Dean mountain bike track. With both restaurants serving kids’ menus, the swimming pool, crèche, tennis courts and parkland, it’s an easy place for families to visit as well.
– There is plenty of water and herbal teas on offer at the spa, but once you leave, that’s it. After a treatment you need to guzzle the water, so bring a big bottle especially if you are going to the sauna or steam room.
– The treatments are excellent, so consider upgrading for more and longer!
– If the weather is good bring a picnic blanket and find a quiet spot in the 400-acres of parkland to doze.
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