24-Hour Room Service: Whatley Manor, Wiltshire

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The Independent Travel

Padding from the Camomile Steam Grotto to the mint-infused shower I tried to decide whether the next stop should be the Wave Dream sensory room (where waves are reflected on to a domed ceiling), or if a spot of vigorous pummelling was in order in the hydrotherapy pool. It was a tough choice.

Padding from the Camomile Steam Grotto to the mint-infused shower I tried to decide whether the next stop should be the Wave Dream sensory room (where waves are reflected on to a domed ceiling), or if a spot of vigorous pummelling was in order in the hydrotherapy pool. It was a tough choice.

The elegant Aquarius Spa, all columns and mosaics, has been designed to resemble a (luxurious) Roman bath-house. After a salt scrub followed by a spot of relaxation on heated stone loungers in the tepidarium, you move into the dry heat of the laconium, then the tropical caldarium and camomile grotto. The hydrotherapy pool, meanwhile, has an open-air section, where you can enjoy a massage from underwater jets while looking out over a pretty wild-flower meadow.

This is also the only UK spa to house a La Prairie Swiss Art of Beauty centre, with signature treatments developed especially for the hotel. Which was actually where I was heading next; it was time for my "Aquarius cocoon". The treatment starts with a skin buffing, then you're slathered with warm oil and wrapped up while your scalp is massaged. Pure bliss.

New-wave country-house hotels with state-of-the-art spas are almost two-a-penny now in this neck of the Cotswolds. But Whatley Manor, which recently celebrated its first birthday, is a welcome addition to the pack.

This Twenties manor house lies in 12 acres of gardens and woodland, which meander romantically down to a tranquil river bank. At the hotel entrance, large gates open silently to reveal a cobbled courtyard and a profusion of lavender spilling out of the flower beds.

Inside, the hotel's restoration has been overseen by its owner Christian Landolt; eclectic art and sculpture sit beside sleek Italian furniture, while the walls are adorned with hand-made French wallpaper. Only in the dining room does the decor become a little confusing - with clashing patterns and swirly carpets - but the overall effect is striking and elegant.

The handsome oak-panelled drawing room with its vast windows overlooking the rose garden is the perfect place to relax with a cocktail before heading into dinner - a gastronomic extravaganza which finishes off the pampering perfectly.

LOCATION

Whatley Manor, Easton Grey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 ORB (01666 822888; www.whatleymanor.com). The hotel is a five-minute drive from picturesque Malmesbury and within easy touring access of the Cotswolds.

Time from international airport: London Heathrow is just 90 minutes away. Bristol International and Birmingham are also nearby. Local airfields catering for private jets include Kemble and Staverton. Trains from London Paddington take one hour 15 minutes to Chippenham or Kemble. From both a taxi costs £20-£25. The drive from London takes around two hours.

COMFORTABLE?

The 15 bedrooms and eight suites are all individually decorated; some have views over the grounds, others a small private terrace or balcony. Large, comfortable beds are covered in the softest Irish linen sheets. Bathrooms, in wood and marble, come stocked with large towels. Should you find it hard to leave the comforts of your room, the hotel has an excellent library of films on DVD.

Freebies: Floris bathroom products and free membership to the Aquarius spa for guests.

Keeping in touch: Top of the range Bang & Olufsen Beocenter 1 sound and vision systems and networked mobile phones in bedrooms. A boardroom with full secretarial back-up can also be hired, as well as a private cinema.

The bottom line: Doubles cost from £275 including full English breakfast. Suites from £650. A minimum two-night stay is required at weekends and the hotel does not take children under 12.

I'm not paying that: The very comfortable Old Bell in Malmesbury, England's oldest hotel, is just down the road. Cosy doubles start at £110, including full English breakfast and newspaper. The Old Bell Hotel and Restaurant, Abbey Row, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (01666 822344; www.oldbellhotel.com).

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