I can never figure out if I’m the ideal candidate for some spa time, or if I’m the complete opposite.
Or so I found myself pondering at the weekend, ahead of my spa treatments at the award-winning four-star Westerwood Hotel, near Cumbernauld. A massage, with these knots in my shoulders? A manicure, when my nails are this short from my usual combination of biting and days spent hammering at a keyboard? About the only part of the day spa experience that corresponds with my usual habits is all the cake you get to eat as part of the pre-treatment afternoon tea.
But routines are made to be broken, and when spa booking specialists SpaSeekers invited me for a day of pampering and relaxation at The Westerwood, I was quick to say yes.
Dramatic sky: Glasgow’s own
The first thing you’ll notice about The Westerwood is the sheer scale of the place. Set in acres of Scottish countryside at the foot of the Campsie Hills, the hotel boasts 148 bedrooms, tonnes of conference space, a full-size 18-hole golf course and extensive fitness and leisure facilities – all about a 20 minute drive from Glasgow city centre. The spa itself has recently undergone a £500,000 refit and now includes 10 treatment rooms, a relaxation room, indoor swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi.
On arrival, I made my way through the hotel’s winding corridors, past the conference suites and through the Grill Restaurant to the spa reception. There, I was greeted warmly by Elaine and given my cosy robe, slippers, a towel and a little goody bag with a selection of the luxury Espa products used by The Westerwood in their spa treatments. After a short tour of the facilities and a quick demonstration of the ingenious keyless/coinless lockers, I was left to get changed and head back up to the restaurant to meet Eilidh and Suzy for our afternoon tea.
The Grill Restaurant overlooks the 18th hole of the Westerwood golf course and looks lovely when set up for dinner, but during the day it’s a much more laid back affair in which the wearing of robes was encouraged. We were served an afternoon tea platter with a selection of tasty sandwiches, cakes and unlimited cups of tea – as well as the restaurant’s mocktail of the day, a zesty cranberry-based drink with a spritz of lime.
While the sandwiches are served from a set menu, our server James made sure to check our dietary requirements before the food was served – which meant a plate of specially-prepared, mayonnaise-free sandwiches for yours truly. In place of the egg mayonnaise and tuna mayonnaise options I was given a tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich which I think the girls might have been a wee bit jealous of! Not that there wasn’t enough food to go round, especially with massages and pool time in our future.
The way that the schedule had worked out, Suzy and Eilidh were booked in for their spa treatments straight after lunch while I had an hour to mosey around and explore the facilities. Now, although I had worn the awesome new bikini that I can’t get enough of, I didn’t really fancy going in the water – the pool was quite busy with families, and I didn’t want to risk taking my phone and camera into the sauna! Instead, I curled up on one of the heated beds by the pool with my book and let my muscles properly relax.
Yes, I’m reading about hate crimes and murder after finally meeting Eva Dolan up at Bloody Scotland the other week. There’s only so much zen you can fit into a day after all.
When 3pm rolled around, I headed into the spa treatment area to wait for my therapist. We’d been given the option of choosing a one-hour treatment or two half-hour treatments, the same as you’d be offered if booking the Day Spa experience through SpaSeekers. I went for a back, neck and shoulder massage and a nail file and polish – my reasoning being it gave me something to enjoy on the day, and something to take home with me.
My therapist, Patrycja, let me get comfortable on the bed (an aside: why don’t they make those things with cutouts for your boobs?! I can never figure out where to put the bloody things!) before giving me the choice of two Espa massage oils by applying them to my wrists and letting me smell them. The musky, warm-scented oil that drew me in turned out to be the Fitness oil, which Patrycja said would work a treat on my aching lower back.
As you know, I don’t go for massages that often – but every time I do, I ask myself why on earth that is. As a writer, I do most of my work in the same sitting position, whether at my desk at work or at my desk at home (or, let’s be honest, on the sofa at home, where Scooter the cat has taken to curling up on my leg while I work in the evenings). I make a point of standing and walking about a little every so often, particularly at work where I get drinking water from the far kitchen to ensure I’m stretching my legs at least a little during the working day. As a lifestyle, though, and even bearing in mind I don’t drive and walk a fair amount every day, it’s murder on the lower back.
And, it seems, my shoulders. I was completely unaware that my shoulders were knotted with tension until Patrycja began to work through those knots, and it was far more painful than I had anticipated. But it was the good kind of pain though – the kind that felt like this wonderful release of tension as the muscles began to relax.
Patrycja is one of several Westerwood therapists trained in both the relaxation treatments and beauty treatments, which meant that she was also doing my manicure – and that we were actually able to chat, which obviously isn’t an option when you’re having a massage! She told me about how her daughter likes to have her nails painted, and we bonded over our inability to drive. The Westerwood uses Jessica polishes for their manicures and has a good selection of colours, so I was able to find the russet-peachy shade I had planned on for those autumnal feels.
Nails done – and with a warning not to let my usual impatience get the better of me – Patrycja led me to the part of the spa experience I’d been most looking forward to: the relaxation room. This low-lit room, full of comfy beds and even comfier pod chairs, is the perfect place to chill out during your spa experience, with unlimited water and tea on hand to enjoy as you do so.
This was where the promised feeling of zen hit me proper, and I felt thoroughly blissed out. I’ve been making a decent effort to take more time for myself since cutting my hours at work, but I think that when you work for yourself it’s impossible to escape that guilty little voice in your head in the quiet moments reminding you that you have fifteen thousand tasks you could be getting on with. When you’re at a spa, those voices have nowhere to go. Sure, you could be flicking through your emails and filling out to-do lists on your smartphone, but it’s not in keeping with the spirit of the place. Scheduled relaxation time forces you to let go…
Sitting in that low-lit room, waiting for my nails to dry and just being still for a moment was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had drifted off for a nap at that point. So shoutout to the group of women loudly discussing what they planned to order from the Chinese when they got home, in defiance of all the signs urging patrons to be considerate of their fellow guests – if it hadn’t been for you, I might not have been awake to guide my mum off the motorway on her way to pick me up!
Getting ready was no hassle: since I hadn’t been in the pool I just slipped my skirt and t-shirt back on over my bikini, which meant I could let those lovely massage oils keep doing their aromatic work. The Westerwood is fully equipped with showers, hairdryers, a swimsuit drying machine (yes, really) and even bags to take your wet costume home in if it comes to it! All that was left to do was enjoy a lovely coffee with my mum in the upstairs bar before getting ready to head home again.
Thanks to The Westerwood Hotel and SpaSeekers for getting this tightly-wound ball of stress into a zen mood – your efforts are not unappreciated!
Fancy finding your own zen with Spaseekers? They’re currently giving away a trip for two, with treatments and afternoon tea, to the Westerwood Spa on Facebook – the competition closes on 25th October.
I enjoyed complimentary spa time, treatments and afternoon tea at The Westerwood courtesy of SpaSeekers, but all views are my own and unbiased. Swimming pool photo supplied by The Westerwood Hotel.