Drink up and swim: a guide to UK spas

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Spas went out of fashion in Britain at the turn of the century but are beginning to make a comeback, with plans to reopen natural spa baths in Bath, Buxton and Llandrindod Wells within the next couple of years. A few health farms, or "hydros", now import dried mud from European spas and use it reconstituted. Water from several spas is available for drinking and there are still three places where people can bathe or swim in the water.

Droitwich Spa Natural Brine Bath is a therapeutic salt bath (not a swimming pool) which promises relief from stress, rheumatism, arthritis, and skin problems. Cost: pounds 5.50. Tel: 01905 794894.

Buxton Spa Swimming Pool is rich in magnesium, sodium, and sulphate. The warm egg-tasting water comes up from the ground at 82F and is available on-tap opposite the town's information centre. Cost: pounds 1.40. Tel: 01298 26548.

Matlock New Bath Hotel, Derbyshire, has a natural hot spa bath rich in magnesium, sodium and sulphate and said to be good for rheumatism and arthritis. Matlock water can be drunk from the spring at the tourist information centre. Cost: pounds 70 single room. Tel: 01629 583275.

Royal Leamington Spa's salty tasting water is available from the pump rooms and contains sodium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. It was traditionally drunk as a cure for rheumatism and circulation problems.

Cheltenham Spa provides saline spring water on-tap at the town hall, with a high sodium, calcium and magnesium content. It was recommended by the Victorians for constipation and cardiovascular disorders.

At Royal Tunbridge Wells, visitors are charged 25p for a glass of iron- rich water from the Pantiles; young Victorian women drank it to cure infertility. In Bath a glass of calcium and iron-rich spring water costs 50p from the pump room and is said to help digestive, kidney and skin problems. Water from Trefriw Wells Spa, a licensed medicine in Germany, contains iron, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, and silica. Sold in Boots as Spatone Iron Plus (pounds 5.99 for a month's supply) it is recommended for anaemia, rheumatism, iron and skin problems.

Anyone who can't get away for a spa holiday this summer could try some of the ever-growing range of "spa products" on the market for use at home. Kanebo Koa Kuma bath salts (pounds 37.95 for 10 sachets), containing ginseng, brown algae and green tea, claim to increase metabolism, encourage perspiration and "guide the body towards slimness". Fango Active Mud (pounds 20 for Face and Body, pounds 16 for Hair and Scalp), from the Princess Marcella Borghese line, contains volcanic fango from the Montecatini Spa in Italy. The Boots Spa range is more affordable and includes a Spa Mud Mask pounds 2.99, Spa Mineral Bath pounds 2.59, Spa Detoxifying Bath pounds 2.99 for four sachets.

Those who would like to make their own spa baths should follow the advice from a highly pukka source - Black's medical dictionary: try peat, or salt (4kg per 135 litres of water) for rheumatism, sulphur for skin diseases, mustard as a general stimulant and paraffin wax for aches and pains.