February 26, 2024

The best spa hotels in Dorset 2023

What makes a holiday in Dorset? Maybe it’s fish and chips at the seaside, or hiking to the highest point on England’s south coast before rewarding yourself with a pint of local beer. Or visits to nude hill figures or an iconic limestone arch might take your fancy. This jewel of the West Country has things to do in spades – eating, drinking, active or laidback – plus plenty of on-trend hotels in which to lay your head.

If Dorset’s much-extolled salted sea air and bucolic tranquillity isn’t enough to bring you utter relaxation, you’re in luck. Among the county’s hills and on its rugged coast are hotels that have getting guests to unwind baked into their being. Think warmed underground pools, blissful treatments ranging from traditional through modern, and space to just… be.

There’s more to Dorset than just apple cake and Thomas Hardy. If you want a UK getaway – and to give your wellbeing a holistic boost – these are the best spa hotels in Dorset to book.

The best spa hotels in Dorset are:

Bournemouth

Pool, sauna, repeat at The Nici

(The Nici)

The hotel that Bournemouth – overstocked with dowdy, dated seaside accommodation – has been crying out for. Inside, spaces are filled with art, tropical prints and a hint of Art Deco; outside, the star is a 30m heated pool, very much a nod to Miami’s South Beach, and the town’s long stetch of sand can be reached by a short zig-zag path.

If you can wrench yourself from a cabana, The Nici’s swish spa beckons, all soft lighting and gentle music (a change from the pumping soundtrack poolside). Treatments incorporate products from British “nutri-cosmeceutical” beauty brand Oskia, as well as CBD pioneers OTO. The latter’s Nici signature massage is a joy, where CBD-infused oils soothing tired muscles and dislodge long-held knots; afterwards, curl up in the relaxation space and pop open a can of OTO’s CBD seltzer, before making use of the steam room, sauna and indoor pool (or the gym, if you feel suitably energised post-treatment).

Evershot

Summer Lodge has long been a popular spa escape

(The Red Carnation Hotel Collection)

Summer Lodge remains Dorset’s countryside grande dame (and the county’s only five-star hotel). The quintessential rural pad, it has beautifully restored rooms with high ceilings, watercolours, and chandeliers. The four-acre estate is set in Evershot, a village little changed since it featured in local author Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (and while there, prop up the bar or sit beside the fire at the trad-yet-cool Acorn Inn).

The spa is a major highlight of Summer Lodge, packed with Elemis treatments, from deep-cleansing facials through to rejuvenating wraps, plus a hefty list of massages and manicures. Bespoke spa packages can be arranged depending on the occasion, and if you’re on a family break there are special “junior” treatments for younger guests. Wellbeing extends to a gym, sauna and heated indoor pool, and there are quiet corners of the fragrant gardens in which to unwind in private.

Sherborne

Dorset or Tolkein’s Shire? Outside The Eastbury’s petite spa there are Middle Earth vibes

(The Eastbury)

This is perhaps the prettiest little spa in the West Country, hidden at the bottom of The Eastbury’s walled garden and reminiscent of a Hobbit hole. Only the occasional ringing of bells from the abbey reminds you that you’re in the historic market town of Sherborne. There are two treatment rooms, where massage therapy mollifies any pesky aches, as well as a hydrotherapy tub, sauna and relaxation areas which you have all to yourself (you book the space by the hour).

The hotel dates from the 18th century, built as gentleman’s townhouse, so expect plenty of traditional style as well as modern touches brought in during a 2018 refurb. Since the start of 2023, they no longer have a restaurant (a shame, as chef Matthew Street’s tasting menus were impressive) but instead offers breakfast, light lunches and afternoon tea.

Christchurch

When the weather is fine, Christchurch shines

(Christchurch Harbour Hotel)

Christchurch’s natural harbour is wonderful sweep of the Dorset coast, and the best ways to soak up its views – over to Mudeford Spit and its expensive beach huts, and beyond to the Channel – is by staying at its namesake hotel. The 1930s property has a blended palette of muted and vibrant tones inside, and right on the water is its headline restaurant, The Jetty. It’s seafood-heavy menu comes from Alex Aitkin, who held a Michelin star at Le Poussin; for a reliable, fresh taste of local waters, plump for the catch of the day.

The HarSpa is found below-ground – they describe it as “subterranean” – and is lit by coloured spotlights around a heated pool and whirlpool tub. While away a day on one of the sun loungers (indoor and outdoor), an activity you can break up with Espa beauty treatments or full-body massages. The spa menu also features offerings designed specifically for men and pregnant women.

Studland

Not your usual spa setting at The Pig

(Jake Eastham)

The litter of Pig hotels has one of its very finest locations in east Dorset, at the edge of land overlooking the Old Harry Rocks chalk formation. There’s whimsy in the turrets and sloping roofs that make up the 16th-century manor, and – in classic Pig aesthetic – there’s a surrealism in the luxe Victoriana-meets-countryside décor. The restaurant makes use of the county’s incredible larder, only sourcing produce within a 25-mile radius, and its menu favours unfussy, well-paired flavours. Don’t forget to visit the pigs and sheep in their pens, which you can hear as you knock back cocktails (try the rum-drenched Jungle Pig 2.0) on the lawn.

Beyond the garden, which guests can discover down a path, are two adorable shepherd’s huts. These comprise the spa, simple and understated. They’re very Mr McGregor’s garden (of The Tale of Peter Rabbit fame) in style, in keeping with the kitchen garden ethos of the restaurant. The six treatments, each 60 minutes and costing £115, use products from the County Sligo seaweed brand VOYA. thepighotel.com

Read more on the best Dorset hotels

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