COMPILED BY Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Robyn Alexander PHOTOS Dook/The Newt in Somerset
“Poetry… takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity,” wrote the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in 1798. The Romantics were early proponents of the idea that reconnecting with the natural world is essential for city dwellers. To make sense of life, we need spaces in which to experience peace, serenity and stillness – and the three unique spas featured here are a good place to start.
Asked to pick her favourite spot at Xigera, Toni Tollman – director of design and projects at lodge owners Red Carnation Hotel Collection – says, “The spa. There is nothing quite like having a mani or pedi while elephants play in the water in front of you.” Xigera’s wellness space is designed to make guests feel at one with the natural surroundings. Set away from the main lodge, it includes a swimming pool, yoga deck, chill-out area, fitness centre, and two luxuriously appointed circular treatment rooms. These are enfolded by slatted screens of Japanese cedar, making for an interplay of light and dark that cocoons guests, yet allows for connection to the wilderness – as does the fact that the rooms are kept silent but for the sounds of birds and wildlife. We were especially charmed by the resident tree squirrels, who treat the screens as their own special playground.
Equestrian elements abound at the new Die Stalle spa at Bosjes Estate in the Langkloof valley, and no wonder – it’s situated in what was the farm’s original stables. Interior designer Liam Mooney was responsible for transforming the historic building into a contemporary spa facility. “While we didn’t want to be too derivative, we wanted to speak subtly to the history of the building,” says Liam of the transformation. “It was important that the design was as relaxing as possible.” He opted for vaulted ceilings and rounded corners, with a soothing colour palette, textured Venetian plasterwork and beautiful Moroccan zellige tiles adding to the sense of luxurious ease. An elegant trough water feature at the entrance to the building is a nod to the original occupants, while the striking equine sculpture by artist Rowan Smith is an eye-catching addition to the reception area.
Designer Karen Roos worked with Mike Tyler of Simon Morray-Jones Architects in Bath on the conversion of the existing “barton” – a traditional cattle stable dating back to the 18th and 19th century – into The Newt in Somerset’s gorgeous new spa. The aim throughout, says Karen, was to bring the outside in. “Given the Somerset weather, which changes every 20 minutes, we needed to be indoors while enjoying the airy feeling of outside,” she says. Massive double-glazed sheets of glass were used to fill in gateways, and stone and wood were sourced from local suppliers. Textures are “quite rustic”, says Karen, and the mood is calm and sensual, with the exquisite hammam (pictured opposite) sporting a ceiling of aqua Bisazza mosaic tiles “to suggest sky”. The spa also has a herbal healing garden attached to it, in which guests can pick herbs to be used in their treatments. Our favourite touch? The sauna’s double-glazed glass wall (above, centre left), which, as Karen suggests, really does bring the garden and adjacent forest right into the space.