When I was asked to review The Devonshire Spa at the University of Derby in Buxton from a man’s perspective, I shrugged my shoulders and thought why not? After all, it wasn’t like I was being asked to jump out of a plane or fight a lion with my bare hands, just an afternoon of being pampered.
Spa treatments are considered by many blokes to be a woman’s pastime but I’m only too aware from my day job at the local museum that hydropathic therapy was commonplace for affluent Roman and Victorian men and every era of history in between. I’m not sure why modern spa treatment has been relegated to an activity exclusive to ladies. The staff at the Spa confirmed that they don’t get many male visitors but they do get couples. Hopefully my experience will encourage more men to resist their gender paradigm and take the plunge (literally).
Apart from a bewildering sojourn to a Turkish Bath in Budapest, I have never done anything like this before. I was expecting The Devonshire Spa’s interior to be white and clinical and brightly lit but this belief may have been based on old photographs of the place I’ve seen when it was a hydropathic hospital pre-year 2000. The reality is actually the opposite; the interior is colourful and luxurious and the lighting is low. You are immediately seduced by heady aromas, gentle music and put at ease by the friendly staff.
After some brief administration, the main purpose of which is establish whether you have any medical concerns, my girlfriend and I were led to separate changing rooms and each provided with a locker, a robe, a towel and some slippers. We were then shown the hydro room where you can enjoy a swim, a sauna, a foot spa and a lie down, and told we would be fetched when it was time for our treatment. Bear in mind, at this point, I had no idea what this entailed exactly and I was feeling a tad nervous, confronted with a sequence of unknown experiences. However, there were still no planes to jump out of, no lions to fight and nothing obvious to worry about. Infact, I kept reminding myself that that my purpose here was to chill out.
An immediate concern was the presence of several other female spa users clad only in bathing costumes. Striving to be a gentleman, I did not know where to put my eyes, so spent a lot of time admiring the floor and the ceiling. Luckily, there was another man in there and he looked more relaxed which helped me to follow suit. I got the impression he had been before.
With this review in mind, I tried all the facilities; the pool, the Jacuzzi and all of the saunas which vary in temperature. I’m not convinced that I needed to sample the ice shower. I don’t think my screams went any way to putting me and my fellow bathers at ease. Two frequent medical problems I suffer from are bad sinuses and bad skin. The saunas improved both conditions very quickly. After just half an hour, I was already feeling the benefits to my health and began to wonder if this is something that I could be doing on a regular basis.
After about an hour, some pleasant young therapists called Hannah and Bibi took Jen and me for our treatment which, as it turned out, was an Ishga Invigorating Body Massage. At the prospect of another new experience, I felt some minor panic. Would I feel uncomfortable and embarrassed? How long would it take? Why in God’s name had I chosen to wear my pink pants?
The massage started with my feet; a part of my anatomy that I am unaccustomed to anyone touching. I can’t say as I get many requests for people handling what is arguably the ugliest part of my body. I don’t even like touching them myself! At least they were thoroughly clean by that point. The rest of the massage felt a lot less peculiar and it lasted for an hour but I was soon so relaxed in Hannah’s capable hands that I slipped into a semi-comatose state; not asleep but like I had transcended my earthbound form and gone off somewhere for a bit. I was no longer aware of time passing. By the end, I have to say that I’ve never felt so relaxed in my entire life. I was so comfortable that I actually had trouble getting off the bed and slid of it like some massive white blubbery pancake. It was like my body was doing its own thing.
The staff predicted my need for recovery and I was taken to a relaxation room to … erm … relax. There was someone else in there, having a nap, so I decided to do the same whilst I waited for Jen to join me. If we had not already been spoiled enough, we were then treated to afternoon tea which included a selection of cakes with a gluten-free assortment for the girlfriend. Yes, you read correctly, a selection of cakes! I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. I had to go back to the treatment rooms to check that my mortal coil was not still lying on the bed and I was now wandering around as a very happy ghost. The afternoon tea is available as an add-on for all visitors.
By now, you are probably getting the impression that I enjoyed myself. I’m not sure the same experience would suit everyone but The Devonshire Spa offers a variety of treatments which you can peruse at your leisure on their website. If I went again, I would probably ask to leave out the feet.
As well as the benefits to health, there are the daily niggles of life that wind us all up. Afterwards, I felt like I’d been restored to factory settings. The Devonshire Spa has a retail facility so you can treat yourself but I’m wondering if a frequent visit might be in order. I could take my mates, if only to see the expressions on their faces when I tell them we are not going paint-balling, but for an afternoon at the spa. I’m sure a lot of guys would feel some masculine trepidation, especially if you have not been before, like me, but I hope this review will reassure you that there is no need.
After living in Buxton for most of my life, I feel somewhat ashamed that I haven’t thoroughly explored all the wonderful places on my doorstep, this one included.
Monday CLOSED, Tuesday – Friday 9am – 9pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am – 8pm
For more information and an online brochure visit www.devonshiredome.co.uk/devonshire-spa or call the Devonshire Spa on 01298. 338408 for any enquiries.