Inside The Spa at Carden: a £10m countryside resort spa opening this summer
Promising to deliver the ultimate wellbeing experience on home soil is a big feat, which is why tongues are wagging about the launch of The Spa at Carden in August.
The £10 million luxury spa resort is not only mega in size – a 4,500sq ft two-storey building sat alongside Carden Park Hotel in 1,000 acres of privately owned Cheshire countryside estate – but also big in its promise to “be more of an experience than just a spa facility”, blending results-driven treatments with first-class service.
Although many spa resorts have opened in the UK in the past year, The Spa at Carden is on the industry’s radar because of the sheer size of investment. We caught up with spa director Steve Ewing to get the lowdown on the new spa and how it plans to be a game changer for the industry.
Why is the spa being built?
Carden Park Hotel is already a big name in the UK with staycationers and serious golfers alike, having won titles such as England’s Best Golf Hotel 2018 at the World Golf Awards. The owners have watched the spa industry evolve into a thriving market and want to take a piece of the pie, which is why they’re closing their outdated hotel-based spa and opening a separate two-storey spa building on the estate.
“There’s been a huge movement within the holiday industry towards staycations, with people as happy to have a break in the UK as they are to go abroad. We don’t see this trend stopping, which is why we want to attract these people with an amazing spa experience,” says Ewing.
“We’ve also seen that there’s a real change in what spa-goers want from their break – consumers are tired of conveyor belt experiences where they have a standard treatment and lunch and then move on. We’re trying to break the mould by delivering a bespoke service that means something.”
The spa will be fundamental to the future success of the hotel, with the owners believing it will add extra value to the business. However, it won’t be an “elitist spa”, as Ewing says, with the average price for a 60-minute treatment starting at £75, and reasonably priced half- and full-day spa packages being created.
What’s different about the spa?
The spa’s concept is focused on the mental and physical health benefits of nature and wellbeing, with every aspect of the journey – from facilities to treatments – bringing some element of the outside-in.
A big part of the build is the 2,500sq ft spa garden, which will include an outdoor infinity pool that operates on different levels, three hot tubs, a fire pit with relaxation seating, central cocktail bar, garden sauna with two glass walls to give panoramic views of the countryside, outdoor shower, and multiple loungers and shelters. This is situated near to the estate’s three-acre vineyard, where the business creates its own sparkling wine Carden Park Estate Reserve.
“The spa garden is based around the five element theory, that for true fulfilment and happiness you need a balance between the core elements – earth, fire, metal, water and wood,” explains Ewing. This is matched with the spa’s nature-themed interior design and core product house Elemental Herbology – a line which is based on the same theory.
“It’ll be a conscious journey for clients. We will define which element they need more of to find that ‘balance’ and then give the customer a ‘prescription’ via our treatments and facilities, as well as guests being able to find that element in the spa’s surroundings,” he adds. “There will also be a herb garden, with items grown used in treatments as another nice follow through with the theme.”
Being able to enjoy the garden all year is a key focus for the business, helping to further promote its nature and mindfulness message. “We’re conscious that a lot of UK spas do an al fresco experience but don’t consider our country’s unpredictable weather, which is why we’ve winterproofed our outdoor space,” says Ewing.
What facilities will it have?
The short answer is a lot – even when you minus the impressive outdoor space. Indoors it will have a restaurant with a rooftop terrace, two luxury changing rooms, 14 treatment rooms, an infinity pool with heated jets, thermal suite (salt steam room, tepidarium, aroma steam room, bio sauna, experience showers and Finnish sauna), and a manicure and pedicure space – The Beauty Bar by Bollinger – in partnership with wine producer Bollinger.
There will also be three relaxation zones – a sensory room, which houses funky loungers and a video transmission of beautiful images of nature; traditional relaxation room, with star-like lights and beds to aid relaxation; and a panoramic relaxation space, which has floor-to-ceiling glass walls so you can enjoy the views of the Cheshire countryside.
“We’re trying to create wow moments, which is why there are lots of glass walls. The idea is you’re inside but feel like you’re outside,” says Ewing. “The ambition is to be known in the UK as one of the best spas and not just because we’re big, but because of the quality of experience we provide.”
A big challenge for Ewing has been managing the build and making sure the facility delivers. “I’ve previously worked with chains such as Macdonald Hotels, Mercure and International Hotels, learning the trade and earning my stripes, but I’ve never been able to move the bricks and mortar, which is what is so exciting about being here,” he says.
However, Brexit has been a consideration, especially when talking to product houses and suppliers. “No one really knows what’s going to happen so there’s questions I’ve had to ask suppliers, such as what are their plans and contingencies? How could leaving the EU affect delivery times and pricing?” explains Ewing. “You have to make sure you’re getting products in at the right price otherwise your whole business model changes because you’re paying more for everything.”
How many people will run the operation?
When the facility opens, it will have a team of 32 therapists (21 of whom are crossing over from the old spa) and then additional staff to cover the operations and front of house. The current spa team is undergoing extensive training to bring them up to scratch for the launch and other therapists are being recruited now.
“It’s my job to make the industry’s best therapists want to work here. I know the importance of having a solid team. Of course money is a driver, but people want more than that. They want to feel a part of something bigger and feel included, and this ‘feeling’ doesn’t just apply to just millennials or generation Z,” explains Ewing.
The Spa at Carden Park’s three pillars for recruiting and retaining staff are training, culture and additional benefits. For example, Ewing has just introduced levels of pay based on experience for spa therapists as an incentive for them to upskill.
“There’s no doubt that there’s a shortage of therapists coming into the industry, but I also think there’s a huge responsibility on spas to stop the churn. Lots of therapists leave because they’re not being trained or inducted properly. You have to give them the right tools so they can deliver.”
Computer-generated images of the spa (top to bottom): The Spa at Carden wellness garden, The Beauty Bar by Bollinger, spa reception, indoor pool area
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