Stobo Castle Health Spa
Peebleshire EH 45 8NY
If you fancy a relaxing countryside break in Scotland then instead of booking into a hotel why not indulge in a pampering rural retreat and spend a few days at Stobo Castle Health Spa?
The majestic turreted 19th century castle is located in the heart of the tranquil Scottish Borders, yet just a half an hour drive from Edinburgh. Surrounded by magnificent Oriental gardens, this is the perfect place to unwind and forget all the pressures of work and daily life at home. Amongst many prestigious Spa awards over recent years, Stobo has been voted by Harpers and Queen magazine as one of the “150 Greatest Escapes in the World. ”
“Having stayed at Stobo Castle many times over the past twenty odd years, I would give Stobo Castle 5 stars for everything. It’s the nearest thing to heaven.”
The castle was built in 1811 for Sir James Montgomery and his family who stayed here for 100 years. Latterly, the Countess of Dysart resided here until the mid sixties, after which it remained empty for almost a decade. The Winyard family bought this A listed Georgian mansion house in 1975 when it was in a derelict condition. After a complete renovation the castle was transformed into a Health Spa, the innovative creation of the late Mrs Gaynor Winyard who managed the Spa for almost 20 years. Today Stobo Castle is independently owned and managed by her son, Stephen who has turned the family business into a successful, multi million pound Spa destination. Major investment in recent years has seen Stobo transformed into a 21st century state-of-the-art health and leisure complex: two floors of treatment rooms, a stunning swimming pool, a suite of steam rooms, jacuzzi whirlpool, gymnasium, dance and aerobics studio.
Relax, rejuventate, detox, de-stress
The inclusive accommodation tariff includes all meals, use of spa facilities and daily exercise programme. Guests may then book a So Relaxing, So Indulgent, So Fitness or Vitality break package featuring a selected massage, facial, manicure or training sessions. Additional body, face and specialist beauty treatments from an extensive menu, can be booked in advance of your visit. A personal tailor-made schedule can also be arranged based around either a relaxing health and beauty or serious diet, detox and fitness programme.
Ionithermie cellulite toning, reflexology, hot stone massage, marine miracle mud wraps, reiki, eyebrow tint, Mary Cohr Peel and Lift skin facial, Indian scalp treatment, fake bake, bikini-line wax to the ultimate two hour Vie Ritual in the Secret Garden - it`s all on offer and a lot more. There’s a special menu for men, featuring Marine massages, bodywraps and Mary Cohr anti-ageing facials. To keep fit and supple, you can book yoga, pilates and personal training sessions.
The daily routine and scheduling of beauty and health treatments is run like a military operation - it works efficiently with charming, personal service. The Spa reception is within a glass roofed, sunny winter garden where guests like to sit, chatting with friends over coffee or resting between treatments. Here on the hour and half hour the therapists (from a full team of 70) arrive to meet their next client and take them to the treatment room.
On my first afternoon I enjoyed a body exfoliation to deep cleanse and soften the skin followed an hour later by a deep and muscle thumping back massage, which helped unknot the tension in my shoulders. Wishing to experience the more unique and special treatments, the next morning I was booked in for a superb Darphin Haute Couture facial. This lasts for almost 2 hours and it`s worth every minute. My therapist explained the whole process of skin exfoliant, cleansing, toning, face and eye masks, as well as gentle facial massage and moisturising. This was an amazing experience and it`s true to say my face was “beautified” after this epic facial.
Guests have full use of the Spa - a fabulous `water palace` and complete chill out zone. The 25 metre ozone infinity pool has floor to ceiling windows with loungers around the side overlooking the gardens. Enjoy a leisurely swim in dimmed blue lighting or take part in the energetic water aerobics classes which take place morning and afternoon. Within the ladies changing room is a suite of contrasting heat and steam rooms which are utterly luxurious and a unique experience. The Laconium is a very special and relaxing dry heat room (65 degrees) to purify the skin. Lie back on the warm tiled seating, close our eyes and with the soft soundtrack to relax you, drift away and dream. Next door is the mint green Aromatic steam room, where the temperature reaches 45 degrees with a humidity of 90-100% which stimulates the blood circulation. Sit here for about 15 minutes, inhaling the eucalyptus scented steam, then cool off in a refreshing shower and then rest. The shower itself is an experience with different settings such as Tropical which makes you feel you are in a South American rain forest. Men have the use of their own private sauna and a steam room beside the pool.
While the majority of guests are women, more and more men are enjoying the healthy Stobo lifestyle, keeping fit in the gym as well as booking a massage or facial.
Journalist Edward Black was taken by surprise:
“My first experience of a facial was the most supremely relaxing of my life. It started with a leg and arm massage with oils that smelt of lavender. Then a white facial mask of sea-algae and menthol was applied, complete with eye pads. I was duly left for ten minute to sleep. When the mask was removed my face seemed to have acquired a genuinely impurity free sheen. It was bliss.”
Each day a complimentary programme of exercise classes, (aerobics, yoga, and T`ai chi), country walks and extra curricular activities is offered which can be fitted into your busy daily diary around treatments and meals.
And so to bed
There’s a choice of single, twin and double rooms to cater for the range of guests - solo travelers, girl friends, mother and daughter, couples. They range in size from standard and classic to the Cashmere suite. The rooms are all named after the original Stobo Castle family history, including Hylton (four poster bed), Seymour, (luxurious suite with vast marble bathroom) and Lessels (quaint attic room with great views) which offer guests 5 star comfort. Each room has an individual colour scheme to suit its size and style. Corner turrets have been turned into delightful bathrooms, complete with flowing canopies. Pretty pink flowered drapes contrast with blue gingham checks; Cornflower yellow walls are matched with a red plaid sofa. Stripes, flowery chintz, and tartan check - a juxtaposition of patterns which works sublimely well, blending a traditional style with a brash, contemporary, anything goes, look.
All rooms have radio, satellite TV, tea and coffee tray, bathrobes hair dryers and direct dial telephone. Weekend stays are very popular with Saturday nights booked up for 3 – 4 months ahead.
The new Cashmere Suite offers a couple their own glamourously gorgeous private apartment – completely furnished in the soft touch of natural cashmere. The walls are lined with cashmere, the throws on the bed and the sofas are made of cashmere. The bedroom is dressed in rich claret, the lounge in camel colour while the windows are draped in layered silk. The design highlight is probably the bathroom with its central cream limestone bath – made for two – soft lighting, twin basins and separate shower. A private terrace with sun loungers, books, expensive bath soaps, original art, Plasma screen TVs in each room, CD system and room service dinner, completes the picture. Designed by Lizzie Bell at a cost of £ 350,000, it’s a unique concept which has won a Tourism Innovation award.
“I can't speak highly enough of going to Stobo through the So Pampering package. But if you want to feel special, go Stobo, go Cashmere”. JS. Glasgow
“I’ve been to 59 countries in my life and some classy joints. But nothing comes close to the sheer luxury of the Cashmere suite at Stobo Castle.” Bill Leckie
Within the grounds are two self contained houses, Park Lodge, with 5 Classic bedrooms, and Castle Lodge, with 12 contemporary rooms offering good value accommodation at £ 99 pp per night. The Lodges are the perfect private residences for groups of friends, families or corporate events.
No expense is spared it seems on the interior decoration which is a wise investment. Top quality and modern classic design will keep its fresh look for years. Overall, this is a grand Country House featuring period architecture and charming public rooms. Elegant dining rooms and charming drawing room with sumptuous sofas and piles of magazines – the perfect quiet environment for a cup of tea in the afternoon or coffee after dinner.
Dining at Stobo
Unlike the proverbial carrot juice and lettuce leaf cuisine of the old fashioned Health Farm of years gone by, you will not be put on a reducing diet at Stobo - unless you wish to. Here you will be offered three meals - or should I say feasts - each day starting with a very hearty, yet healthy breakfast.
Fresh and dried fruits with natural yoghurt, fruit juice, boiled, scrambled or poached eggs served with mushrooms and tomatoes, toast with butter and preserves, coffee and a selection of teas.
For lunch there is a healthy cold buffet, including smoked salmon, prawns, sliced meats, vegetables and salad, or home-made soup, a hot dish of the day, and selection of puddings and ice-cream. The menu gives an indication of the calorie count per dish which just might prevent over-indulgence.
At the end of the day, after being pampered and pummelled, it`s time for a bath and change before dinner. The conversation around the dining room tables is animated as friends, old and new, compare notes and chat about their Spa experience. The three course dinner has a choice of appetisers, meat, fish and vegetarian main course, desserts or cheese board. The cuisine is superb - fresh, light and healthy: perhaps avocado and crab salad, grilled monkfish with fresh vegetables, or spicy wild mushroom lasagne; lemon cheesecake. You may also order wine at dinner and several guests certainly feel they have earned a drink after such a busy schedule.
“The staff were extremely helpful, the therapists were professional and the food was amazing (especially the cheesecakes!). I have booked again for next year for 3 nights. We used the pool after dinner too & had the whole place to ourselves as I think people forget it is open until 10.30pm.”
Relaxation is the ultimate goal at Stobo. Most guests wear their white toweling bathrobe all day, wandering from the Spa to their bedroom or lounge and into the dining room for lunch. Otherwise T shirt and shorts or track suit are quite suitable during the day, only dressing up for dinner.
Outdoors, the Borders countryside is perfect for cycling, walking. There’s a tennis court in the grounds and golf, riding and fishing can be arranged.
Amid graceful, classic surroundings and peaceful zen gardens, Stobo Castle is a modern day sanctuary dedicated to soothe the mind, body and spirit. As the brochure invitingly entices you: “As soon as you step through the door of Stobo … you feel far removed from the cares of the world and utterly at ease”.
Yes, that is the So Stobo Experience.
Vivien Devlin May, 2007