Hitting the spa is a sweet way to spend a bad weather day or ease down after a hard snow or surf session. We checked out a mountain and seaside spa for your unwinding pleasure
Words by Sam Haddad
Best for Surf
Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
Mawgan Porth is a beautiful, horseshoe-shaped bay just north of hen party-favourite Newquay. On the right, a slope of homes and hotels, though tastefully built mind, look out onto the deep Atlantic blue and sandy beach below, while curvy green hills and craggy cliffs make up the view to the left. It’s super-peaceful outside the obvious peak times, and certainly knows how to rock a good sunset.
Where to spa?
The eco-friendly spa at the Scarlet Hotel is warm and welcoming and quite different from the white pharmacy-style aesthetic you find in most modern hotels. The relaxation rooms are bright and airy and boast floor-toceiling views of the bay, as do the outdoor wood-heated hot tubs and seaweed baths, and indoor and outdoor pools, which are heated by solar panels. The treatment rooms are dark and comforting with hanging tents that sway gently as if to join in with helping you relax.
Treatments include head massages, seaweed wraps, mud bakes and four-hour Ayurvedic “journeys” for those that way inclined. There’s also a hammam and meditation room. You can still have treatments at the spa even if you’re not staying there.
Where to surf?
The Mawgan Porth beach break on your doorstep works best on a low and mid tide and picks up even the slightest of swell. Nearby Watergate Bay is also a beach break, and it works well on a high tide, though gets super-crowded, especially at weekends, and in the evenings when locals head there after finishing work. For lessons visit thesurfclubcornwall.co.uk.
Where to stay?
The Scarlet Hotel rooms are simple but stunning. They’re coloured with a nature-inspired palette and all have views of the Atlantic Ocean. And you can walk the hotel dog Jasper for free! From £90 per person per night, though you’ll get a discount if you arrive by rail, foot, bike or coach. For a cheaper option stay at the Blue Bay Hotel from £35 per person per night.
Where to eat?
The Scarlet has a great, though pricey restaurant, or you can eat at the Blue Bay, which has a solid varied menu. If you fancy venturing to Watergate, a short cab or drive away, the Beach Hut does excellent locally-caught fish and the Phoenix does good gastro pub-fare. The Phoenix also has a pizzeria, pool table and general good drinking vibe for afters too.
Make your old geography teacher proud and hike to Bedruthan Steps. The natural wave-formed stacks of rock can be viewed from the coastal path to the right of Mawgan Porth. Or go wild swimming in the ocean, the Surf Club Cornwall (as before) can supply you with a guide.
Get the train to Bodmin Parkway, a 25-minute cab fare away, coach to Newquay, a 10-minute cab away, or depending on where you live and how energetic you’re feeling, cycle and park your steed in the secure, undercover bike storage area.
Best for Snow
Merano, South Tyrol
Merano niftily sidesteps alpine kitsch by combining progressive architecture, think lots of glass, steel and cubes, with the traditional trappings of a historic spa town. Visitors have been coming here since the mid-1800s convinced of the health properties that ooze out of its balmy microclimate, super-clean air and mineral-rich underground springs. It also gets a whopping 300 days of sunshine a year.
Where to spa?
Terme Merano is the daddy of all mountain resort spas. Slap bang in the centre of town on the bank of the river Passer, the striking glass cube was designed by big name architect Matteo Thun and opened in 2005.
As you’d expect it’s super-light and spacious. It has a staggering 25 pools fed from natural springs, including whirlpools, therapeutic radon pools, a brine pool that plays underwater music and an outdoor pool with power jets to massage your back, while you gaze at the indecently beautiful mountain panorama around you. There are eight saunas, for which you have to be starkers, which may unsettle Brits but doesn’t seem to faze the rest of Europe, a steam room and a snow room at minus 12 to cool you down afterwards. Treatments all have a local spin and include bathing in hay, wool, apple or wine, chestnut peelings and all manner of massage, from shiatsu and acupressure to reflexology. Entry to the pools and saunas, but not including treatments, starts at £9 for two hours.
Where to ride?
The nearest hill Merano 2000 is good for beginners but intermediate and advanced riders are best off heading to Val Senales, 35km up the valley. It’s properly picturesque and high up on a glacier so you can ride all year round (Nikita run a girls’ weekend there in summer) and be virtually guaranteed decent snow cover in winter. There’s no crowds and hardly any lift queues, helping you get a proper away-from-it-all feeling. The Nitro-sponsored snow park at 3200m is excellent for all levels of freestyle riders too.
Where to stay?
Hotel Aurora is right on the river. It’s trad on the outside, but the rooms have recently been updated with a swanky design flourish don’t you know. Doubles start at £54 per person per night.
Where to eat?
Locals’ favourite Pizzeria Bruschetta, around five minutes from the centre, does epic pasta (and unsurprisingly pizza) with a great atmosphere. Plus it’s easy on the purse strings. For comedy Eurotrash-style music and décor head to Sketch for after dinner cocktails.
Get some serious speed at the snow tubing track at the foot of Val Senales or if you’re in Merano late season (from April onwards) cruise the city on bikes, which can be hired free at the spa or railway station.
Easyjet fly to Innsbruck, which is an hour’s drive to Merano, and British Airways fly to Verona, which is an hour and a half’s drive to Merano. From Verona you can take a Terravision coach to Merano for £24, or you can rent a car from either airport.