Have you made a new year's resolution to relax more? One way of getting away from it all when time is tight is to take a spa break, but how do you choose a good one? For the past year, Visit Britain, the national tourism agency, has been trialling a spa accreditation scheme, setting standards for quality.
The ever popular Center Parcs was the first group to sign up (08448 266 266, www.centerparcs.co.uk). However, this is a scheme that will grow, so meanwhile here are some suggestions of new places that might help you de-stress.
For a treat, The Spa at Luton Hoo opened in November (01582 734 437, www.lutonhoo.co.uk), in the five-star hotel created from a Bedfordshire stately home and surrounded by gardens designed by Capability Brown. A two-night spa break costs from pound;176 per person per night, for dinner, BB and two treatments.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Inside Spa opened last summer in Nelson, Lancashire, (01282 661 735, www.insidespa.co.uk) with all the facilities you might expect, including hydrotherapy, an ice fountain, and a salt-inhalation steam room, yet a two-hour session starts at only pound;10.
One of the first big names in spas, Champneys, (08703 300 300, www.champneys.com) is opening a series of Town and City Spas up and down the country, with Chichester, Enfield, Guildford and St Albans already open and eight more to come, all providing a full range of treatments and wellness products.
Find more on www.enjoyengland.comrelax and on www.enjoyengland.comruralescapes
Where to go
I spent a very relaxed long weekend at Ragdale Hall near Loughborough, Leicestershire.
I loved the country manor-style home and the beautiful grounds, which were a delight to wander through.
The whole atmosphere was laidback and I sampled some of the many different treatments and classes on offer.
The Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden is like walking into a completely different world. It's somewhere you can forget everything, relax and be looked after.
The staff are there if you need them but do not impose at all. It's just a lovely environment to be with friends or to just relax by yourself and let everything slow down ... a rare occurrence in the centre of London.
Laura, south London
Henlow Grange in Bedfordshire is time out of mind. Beautiful setting, beautiful countryside and pampering to boot. And not at a price to break the bank.
I had a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and still found time for a relaxing swim, sauna and yoga class.
This used to be a haunt of the stars, no doubt they will return after the recent refurbishment. I'd recommend it for those on a budget outside London.