Spa Towns UK
Our United Kingdom has a fair few spa towns – resorts that developed around the area’s natural mineral springs. The name comes from a Belgian town called Spa, and Bath in Somerset has been famed for its therapeutic waters since the second half of the 17th century.
Spa towns in the UK are among the most famous in the world, and their fascinating history makes them a great destination for a weekend break. Spending time in such an area makes a refreshing change from a city or seaside break, and such towns have lots to offer visitors. Even perhaps those on honeymoon or a mini-moon.
UK spa towns include Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, Malvern in Worcestershire, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, Buxton in Derbyshire and of course Bath in Somerset. There are also well known English spa towns in West Yorkshire, Surrey, Kent and more. Yorkshire alone has five spa towns. Various places across the UK were formerly known as spa towns too.
There are numerous spa towns scattered across the globe, from Canada, Croatia and the Czech Republic to a range of locations in Eastern and Western Europe. Often part of the town’s name denotes a spa, such as Bad in Germany, Bains in France and Hot Springs in the US.
This guide to the best UK spa towns includes several I have visited over the years, detailing five of the best spa towns that all make a great destination for a relaxed weekend break – or a longer stay in the area. These are Buxton, Harrogate, Malvern, Cheltenham and, of course, Bath.
Situated in the picturesque Peak District, Buxton is a handsome thermal spa town characterised by Georgian and Victorian architecture and pretty gardens. A major mineral water producer of the same name is also based in this Derbyshire spa town.
What to do in Buxton
Buxton is a buzzing town with lots going on. As well as a comprehensive range of shops, markets and eateries, there is stunning original architecture, ornamental gardens and of course a number of spas. Poole’s Cavern is a natural wonder, with all sorts of intriguing limestone formations to see. Buxton Country Park can also be accessed from the Visitor Centre at the cavern.
The town also has two golf courses, Buxton Raceway, a Go Ape and Buxton Opera House as well as other festivals, theatres and music venues. Beyond Buxton, there is the Derbyshire Dales area to explore, including Matlock and Matlock Bath as well as Bakewell – home of the famous pudding.
Where to eat in Buxton
There is a wide range of cafes and restaurants in Buxton to suit all budgets and tastes. Cafes like Eat at No.5, The Tradesman’s Entrance and The Herb Garden vegetarian bistro are always popular and offer good value for money.
For dinner, choose between Greek at Ithaca, Mexican at the Lone Star, Italian at St Moritz, Simply Thai or British at local pubs like The Royal Oak Inn or Buxton Brewery Tap House.
Where to stay in Buxton
The position of the Lee Wood Hotel cannot really be bettered – it is just 200 metres from Buxton Opera House. Despite this, the location is peaceful thanks to the spacious garden setting. 38 comfortable rooms have all the amenities you need. Guests praise the great breakfast and conservatory restaurant at this lovely hotel, with free parking, in Buxton town centre.
Check out the latest rates & reviews for Buxton Lee Wood Hotel HERE.
Roseleigh overlooks Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens and the lake, and is situated in a Victorian townhouse with many original features. On quiet, pedestrianised, yet central Broad Walk, Roseleigh can cater for various dietary requirements and offers free parking and WiFi. Guests love the beautiful house, welcoming hosts and comfortable accommodation as well as the attention to detail.
See recent reviews and compare rates for Roseleigh, Buxton HERE
This Buxton guest house is situated atop a hill just outside central Buxton, and the town is within walking distance. Lovely hosts and a courtyard setting add to the welcoming feel, and the farmhouse and outbuildings date back to the 16th century. Those who stay here praise the food in particular – from the full English breakfast to homemade biscuits and Derbyshire oatcakes.
Read more about room rates and reviews for Hawthorn Farm, Buxton HERE
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Harrogate lies to the east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It has been known as a spa resort for centuries thanks to the local mineral springs. Harrogate is one of Yorkshire’s most upmarket towns, and is also one of the top spa towns in the UK.
What to do in Harrogate
Ancient and modern spa culture are some of Harrogate’s key attractions. There are the Moorish-style, fully restored Turkish Baths and Health Spa. Harrogate and the surrounding area are packed with appealing, leafy parks, broad, tree-lined boulevards and historic buildings such as the art deco Sun Pavilion.
Favourite sights include the Valley Gardens, Cold Bath Brewing Company and the Royal Pump Room Museum. Knaresborough is just four miles from Harrogate, and is also an ancient spa and market town well worth a visit. Other places to go include Ripon and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Where to eat in Harrogate
Betty’s Tea Rooms are famous nationwide, and there are plenty of other cafes and bakeries in Harrogate too. Whatever your craving there’s a restaurant in Harrogate to satisfy, with great eateries offering everything from Mediterranean – including Turkish and Greek – to Thai, Brazilian, British and beyond.
Where to stay in Harrogate
This central hotel is within easy walking distance of Harrogate town centre. The homely, family-run property offers an excellent breakfast to set you up for the day, and has some interesting features such as turrets and stained glass windows. Rooms and beds are clean and comfortable, and there is on site parking.
View up-to-date reviews and rates for Ascot House Hotel, Harrogate HERE
If you don’t mind splashing a little more cash on your spa town short break, then Rudding Park Hotel is well worth it. This is regarded as one of the finest hotels in all of England, let alone Yorkshire. Located around three miles from Harrogate, Rudding Park hotel is a stylish, deluxe property with 90 rooms, a rooftop spa, fine dining restaurants and a while host of other amenities. It even has a Visit England award to its name – for the UK’s Best Hotel, no less.
See current reviews and room rates for Rudding Park, Harrogate HERE
West Park Hotel is an original Victorian coach house in Harrogate that has been converted into a luxury boutique property. The hotel overlooks Harrogate Stray in the centre of this Yorkshire spa town. There are 25 elegantly-appointed bedrooms and suites including the penthouse. Guests love the underfloor heating, deep bathtubs and coffee machines.
Discover room rates and reviews of West Park Hotel, Harrogate HERE
The air doesn’t get much fresher than in Malvern, a Victorian spa town nestled among the green Worcestershire hills. This compact town makes a very appealing destination for a short break or longer holiday.
What to do in Malvern
Malvern’s roots can be traced back to long before the Victorians came to take the therapeutic waters here. The Priory church and surrounding area date back to 1085, and there are Iron Age, Victorian and Georgian remains in the town.
This Worcestershire town offers lots of local crafts and antiques for sale, and the sloping high street makes a lovely setting for a day of browsing shops and dipping in and out of cafes. And if you get bored of those you can always head for the Malvern Hills – easily accessed from the town centre. They are a favourite with walkers and hikers from all over the British Isles.
Where to eat in Malvern
From modern British or Mediterranean to Indian, Thai, Nepalese, Mexican and more there are plenty of top-rated restaurants in Malvern. Eateries cater for all tastes and budgets, from cafes to fine dining establishments like L’Amuse Bouche. There are plenty of bars to pop into as you wind your way up the hill, too.
Where to stay in Malvern
The Cotford Hotel is home to L’Amuse Bouche restaurant, and also offers 15 fully refurbished and individually styled bedrooms. This Malvern hotel is set within its own attractive gardens on the side of the Malvern Hills, just a short walk from the town centre. Overlooking the Severn Valley, The Cotford has many original character features dating from the mid 1800s.
Read reviews and compare room rates for The Cotford Hotel, Malvern HERE
On Belle Vue Terrace in central Malvern, the Mount Pleasant hotel is very well located. A highlight is the Mulberry Tree restaurant and bar, which is highly regarded by locals and visitors alike. The hotel overlooks Malvern’s Priory church and there are easterly views over the Vale of Evesham. Guests love the central location, comfortable rooms and excellent breakfast.
See and compare current rates for Mount Pleasant Hotel, Malvern HERE
This Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice B&B in Malvern seems to attract nothing but consistent five star reviews. The family-owned Victorian Villa is just ten minutes’ walk from central Malvern and even offers free pick-up from Great Malvern train station. Guests rave about the homemade bread and cakes and warm welcome offered by the hosts.
View room rates and reviews for Cannara, Malvern HERE
Cheltenham became a spa town following the discovery of its natural springs in the early 18th century. Today, it is known as a wealthy, refined and elegant town, and its position close to the Cotswolds makes it a great base for exploring the region.
What to do in Cheltenham
There is lots to do in the spa town of Cheltenham, from wandering along the promenade to take in the smart local homes to learning all about the region’s history at The Wilson art gallery and museum. Don’t miss Pittville Park, Pittville Pump Room and the Montpellier district, and for cultured types there’s the Everyman Theatre.
Cheltenham Racecourse is also a must for many visitors. Beyond town, the Cotswolds are one of England’s star attractions in their own right – think soft, rolling hills and gorgeous honey-toned villages.
Where to eat in Cheltenham
As a sizeable town, the choice of eateries in Cheltenham is broad. Fans of Asian cuisine can try Thai at Bangkok Kitchen, sample Japanese at Koj or KIBOU Kitchen and Bar or go for Indian at Prithvi, Bombay and Co or The Mahal.
You can dine out French-style at Petit Coco, MUSE Brasserie or Le Champignon Sauvage. Cheltenham also has plenty of pubs, high street chains and European or Mediterranean venues too.
Where to stay in Cheltenham
The idea of living like a Cheltenham local – if only for a few days – is really appealing, so why not stay at the Portland Apartments? These luxurious flats are just a five minute walk from all the bars, restaurants and shops of central Cheltenham. Guests love this clean, stylish accommodation and the helpful hosts.
Discover more about Portland Apartments, Cheltenham HERE
This deluxe hotel is situated in a honey-coloured Cotswold stone property on a tree-lined avenue close to central Cheltenham. Inside, comfortable rooms boast period features and views over the town or surrounding countryside. Free parking and WiFi are complemented by a great on site restaurant.
Read more about Cotswold Grange Hotel, Cheltenham HERE
The Clarence Court Hotel is perfectly positioned on a handsome Regency square, just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. There is an on site bar and restaurant serving beers, wines and cocktails as well as home cooked meals. All of Cheltenham’s main attractions are within easy walking distance, and visitors praise the huge, comfortable beds and great breakfasts.
View current rates and reviews for Clarence Court Hotel, Cheltenham HERE
Bath barely needs any introduction – it’s one of the UK’s best-loved cities. Handsome Georgian architecture, cobbled lanes and ancient bridges make this a must on any Brit’s bucket list.
What to do in Bath
Just wandering around Bath is a satisfying pastime in itself, but there are some essential attractions to see while you’re here. The well-preserved Roman baths are top of the list – this is possibly one of the most important historical sites on the planet.
Royal Crescent and The Circus are also musts, as is Pulteney Bridge. The Assembly Rooms, Jane Austen Centre and Fashion Museum are also very popular here, and the city is jam-packed with buildings of historic significance. Don’t miss the festive market at Christmas-time – it’s one of Britain’s best.
Where to eat in Bath
From Philippine or Cajun and Creole fast food at JC’s Kitchen or LJ Hugs to fine Italian at Sotto Sotto or modern European at Eight, there are so many dining options in this old university city. There are plenty of cafes in Bath too, including the famous Sally Lunn’s Eating House and Museum. It’s the place to sample the original Bath Bun, which is still made to a secret recipe.
Where to stay in Bath
The Kennard dates from 1794 and is a boutique bed and breakfast property on Henrietta Street in the heart of Bath. This elegant Georgian townhouse houses 12 individually styled rooms. Bath’s main attractions, including The Roman Baths and The Thermae Bath Spa are all within easy reach on foot. Central Bath’s best shops and restaurants are also close by.
Find out more about The Kennard, Bath HERE
The location of Duke’s on Great Pulteney Street could not be bettered, and this character-packed property offers 17 stylish rooms. Unusually a stay here also includes an on-street parking permit. Guests love this Georgian hotel in Bath for its beautiful, comfortable and peaceful rooms, fabulous cooked breakfasts and comprehensive honesty bar.
See the latest room rates and reviews for Duke’s Bath HERE.
The Roseate Villa Bath is close to the city centre, yet tucked into a quiet corner overlooking Henrietta Park. This boutique style property comprises two converted Victorian houses and attracts rave reviews. Visitors praise the attentive yet unobtrusive service, ideal location and food – including a superb range of breakfast options, home baked biscuits and afternoon tea.
View recent reviews and current rates for Roseate Villa Bath HERE
Which of these spa towns UK will you visit?
Having been to all of the above, it’s hard to recommend just one of these – the best spa towns and city in the UK. I love Malvern’s bright, open location leading to the surrounding hills, the smart regency feel of Cheltenham close to the Cotswolds and Buxton’s position close to Derbyshire’s stunning hills and dales. Harrogate is also a picturesque and upmarket North Yorkshire town, while Bath is a must on any UK itinerary. Whichever you choose and whether you ‘take the waters’ or not, do have a fabulous time!
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