Shining spa

Round & About


Michelle Miley checks into Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa, near Newbury.

Life can sometimes feel like such an obstacle course of practical demands that “me time” feels like a distant, pre-children dream. So, checking into the Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa (awarded a five-bubble rating by The Good Spa Guide) for an overnight break was a very surreal experience…

Amid a glorious patch of Berkshire countryside (Highclere Castle is a hop away), the four-star, family-owned Donnington Valley is a place that melts your cares away. First of all, the spa itself. I’d heard brilliant things about the Ultimate Vitamin Glow Facial, one of the signature Decléor treatments industry experts hail as a skin saviour. I was in brilliant hands, my face and neck cocooned in warm, fragrant face food. I can’t remember when I’ve felt more relaxed (though normally I’m embarrassed about my skin) and our faces felt miraculously “bouncy” and glowing, days later.

I almost felt as though some kind of “reset” button had been pressed, and the joy of a stay is that you can build on that, indulging all your senses and whims. So, after floating about with my friend in our fluffy white robes, we headed to the 18-metre swimming pool for a swim (well, a plop, being seven months pregnant!), a soak in the jacuzzi and some light steaming in the steam and sauna rooms.

Checking into our hotel room (a cosy dream of neutral tones, comfy bed and pillows fluffy enough to suit a princess), I tucked into the beautifully wrapped velvety truffles and switched on the giant TV, thinking ‘this is the life’! My date for the evening (my husband) arrived in time to join me for a view of the sunset over the golf course (distracting him from the fact I’d devoured all the complimentary orange marmalade and banana & butterscotch biscuits!). As I often wish men would realise, it’s the little things that make you feel really special, and the White Company smellies in the bathroom, and pre-dinner bubbles in our goodie bag, did just that.

Dinner in the 2-AA Rosette restaurant, in a private booth, did not disappoint. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, from a £16 carafe to £200 bottle; hubby had a dry, Aussie pinot that went beautifully with his crispy squid and I loved my smoked duck followed by hearty venison and marrowbone jus. The modern setting is romantic and luxey; high-beamed ceiling and brass chandeliers (special mention to the pink-and-gold koi carp wallpaper in the ladies!) As for dessert: roasted pineapple with coconut ice cream and a chocolate fondant won our hearts; 10 out of 10! The staff in both the spa and restaurant put their heart and soul into serving and it was perfect.

Big hint to anyone out there wanting to treat the one you love… For overnight spa packages, or treatments, visit