I’ve always loved Scotland. Ever since I made my first 6 hour train journey to the friendly, eclectic city of Glasgow when I was a skinny teenager, I’ve held a soft spot for this noble and welcoming land. The air seems fresher, the land seems greener and strangers greet you warmly in the street – and they’re not serial killers as one might assume in London.
Recently, as the hustle and bustle of London life took its toll, I decided to visit two of what many Scots deem to be the best spa hotels in the country. Accompanied by my beauty-loving buddy Ella Jade, I flew into Glasgow Airport armed with girly magazines, face masks (a little but of extra pampering never hurt nobody) and volumes of chick lit – the brain could stay in London.
This quaint 19th century hotel overlooking a private garden square, is the only hotel in Glasgow with an AA five star accreditation. I stayed in this glorious abode once before when I was reviewing it for Yoga Magazine and instantly fell in love with the place. Our room was spacious and chic with Samsung compatible streaming – perfect for Netflix movie marathons, and boasted windows with sprawling views of the city.
We didn’t waste much time and immediately pranced down to the ultra glam spa to while away the hours before dinner. As a self-confessed spa addict, there are now few spas that can really take my breath away, but the spa at Blythswood Square did exactly that. After sweating out those city toxins in the crystal steam room and sauna, we rid ourselves of any remaining tension in the massive relaxation pool – quite possibly the biggest jacuzzi I had ever come across. There was also a second whirlpool nestled away in a separate room with changing lights which fast became my new happy place.
Dinner that evening was in the chic hotel restaurant – a pleasant mergence of classic Harris Tweed furnishing with sleek modern touches. Ella chose the superfood salad which was extravagantly “tossed” at the table and made up of avocado, pomegranate, feta, antioxidant-rich greens and grilled chicken. My less ethereal choice of lobster mac and cheese was gigantic in size, but so good I managed to devour the whole dish, in spite of a radially expanding midriff.
One divine elderflower and fig pavlova later, we were curled up in bed with peppermint teas watching a ludicrously girly film in fluffy bathrobes before drifting off into a deep slumber.
The next day we feasted on a perfect full Scottish vegetarian breakfast in bed before mincing down to the spa yet again for our joint ila massage treatment. Ever since I started out as a natural and organic beauty writer, ila has been a spa brand to truly touch my soul. Their products are 100% natural, made with organic skin-smoothing ingredients and smell gorgeous. As the expert hands of the therapists worked their magic, we both nearly drifted off into a serene place miles away from the manic hubbub of London Town.
Later than day, a 30 minute train journey took us into Edinburgh, where were found the delightfully kitsch Charlotte Square hotel. Upon checking in, I marvelled at the ornate decor of the lobby and elegant outdoor dining garden. This effortlessly stylish residence is made up of seven inter-connecting Georgian townhouses in the heart of the city’s New Town – a renowned UNESCO world heritage site.
Our bedroom featured inviting Scottish tartan furnishings and vintage-syle red telephones, as well as complimentary mini bottle of gin along with artisan tonic water for those all-important nightcaps. The detox can wait.
After a brief sunbathing session in a nearby park, I made my way to the hotel spa for a complexion-illuminating Oskia Glow Facial. As with ila, Oskia is another one of my all-time favourite natural skincare brands, so I couldn’t wait to lie back on the heated treatment bed and submit my face for pampering. After a deep cleanse, through exfoliation, brightening mask and deep hydration, I was close to nodding off yet again, but a quick peek at my dewy skin in the mirror woke me up with glee.
Dinner in the hotel’s BABA restaurant that evening was a happy surprise. A unique fusion of North African and Scottish cuisine, this vibrant dining space emanated with the sounds of excitable chatter and the exotic scents of the Levant. The concept here is all about gastronomic pleasure and sharing – just as well considering the colourful plates of maze look and taste so good, its hard to decide which to order.
The venison and peppercorn carpaccio with feta and roasted hazelnuts played homage to my tastebuds, whilst the smoky babaganoush with ruby red pomegranate and walnuts was hard to leave alone. A beetroot-cured plate of trout arrived doused with labneh, zesty orange and dill, before a couple of seared scallops made their regal appearance smothered in chermoula, tzaikzi and preserved lemon.
We ate like Moroccan queens until we could devour no more, although we managed to make room for the haggis and harissa kibbeh. Well, when in Rome…
Featured image – Charlotte Square