THE shortlist

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Llandrindod Wells Spa Trust, Rock Park Centre, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 6AE (tel: 01597 822997). There are four water sources, three in the restaurant (10p a glass) and one chalybeate (iron rich) spring ( free from a tap on the bridge). The centre, offering heritage talks and complementary therapy, is open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, the restaurant 7 days, 10am-5pm.

Droitwich Spa Natural Brine Bath, St Andrew's Road, Droitwich Spa, Worcs, WR9 8DN (tel: 01905 794894). It will cost pounds 5.50 for a 40-minute session in this natural brine bath that has as much salt as the Dead Sea. It's good for stress, rheumatism, arthritis and skin problems. By appointment only. Mon-Fri 11.30am-7pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun 10am-2pm.

Buxton Spa Swimming Pool, St John's Road, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6BE (tel: 01298 26548). Rich in magnesium, sodium and sulphate. It costs pounds 1.40. Open Mon, Tues, Fri 11am-6.30pm, Wed, Thurs, 11am-8pm, Sat 9am-3.30pm. Or try the well opposite the tourist information kiosk and fill up a bucket free.

Strathpeffer Spa, The Square, Strathpeffer, Scotland IV14 9DW . There's a pump room in the square, open daily from 9am-6pm where a few mouthfuls of the sulphur water are free. Though it has the famous smell of eggs, it's supposed to be very good for easing the symptoms of arthritis.

Matlock Tourist Information Centre Fountain, Matlock, Derbyshire (tel: 01629 55082). You can drink the magnesium- and sulphate-rich waters for a penny which goes to charity. It's supposed to help arthritis and rheumatism, but if you want to get dunked in the indoor plunge pool at Matlock New Bath Hotel, it will cost you pounds 70 per single room per night (tel: 01629 583275).

Leamington Spa, The Parade. A public pump pours out the water free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's salty with sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and is renowned as a laxative.

Cheltenham Spa. Saline on tap at the town hall, with high sodium, calcium, magnesium (tel: 01242 523852)

Royal Tunbridge Wells spring. The Pantiles has a domed water tasting house where you pay 25p for a dipper to serve you with a glass of the town's iron-rich water. It's open 7 days a week until the end of September, from 10am-5pm

Bath Spa Pump Rooms, Bath BA1 1LZ (tel: 01225 477000). You can try to swallow a glass of this warm calcium and iron rich water for 50p from the pump room. (You can look at the baths but you can't dive in.) Open 7 days a week 9am-6pm.

Trefriw Wells Spa, Trefriw, Gwynedd, Wales (tel: 01492 640057). The water here is rich in iron and on sale in Germany as a medicinal tonic. A self guided tour with a free sample of the water costs pounds 2.65 for adults, pounds 2.40 for senior citizens. A 28-day supply of the water costs pounds 5.99. Open all year, 7 days, 10am-5.30pm.

Compiled by Colette Harris and Cayte Williams