Climbing the spiral staircase from the changing rooms my pulse slows as I breathe in the scented air. The sound of the sea crashing against the rocks pours out of the speakers and lures me up and through the doors into the dimly lit corridor where candles flicker in the corners. Plants and fountains add to the tranquillity. I leave my mobile, stress and outside world in the lockers: this is a distinctly different area meant only for relaxation.
Whilst the spa is on the first floor the leisure area and changing rooms are on the ground floor. Facilities include a swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna which are restricted to adults only during parts of the day. After checking in with the spa reception upstairs I receive my bath robe, towel and slippers from the leisure club reception and enter the changing rooms which were the only negative part of the whole day. The lockers, which operate on a code system, simply don’t lock. It is frustrating and time consuming. The poor pregnant receptionist spends her day trying to find a locker that works. The system isn’t going to change soon so if you do visit please double check that your locker is in fact locked, before you leave your valuables in there.
Upstairs in the spa area are two seating areas: the relaxation room and the lounge. The relaxation room is dark and quiet. There are eight large beds spaced widely apart. Each bed has cushions and a table with candles. Magazines are provided but it is too dark to read channelling me to close my eyes and just breathe. At first this is quite difficult. Surely, I should be doing something, if not for me then certainly for someone else and the mother guilt rises. The key is remembering that lying in the dark watching the candles is doing something. It’s part of the process of calming down before a treatment so we receive the full benefit or enjoying the soporific effect post treatment. Those candles around the room aren’t just there to look pretty – the flickering is known to have a hypnotic effect increasing the speed at which you relax.
The lounge area next door is brightly lit and wall to ceiling windows look over the swimming pool below. It is in here that lunch/afternoon tea is served as well as complimentary teas and flavoured waters. Lunch is pre ordered on arrival from a surprisingly wide array of main courses some of which were Falafel burger with chips, Caesar salad and a Bento Box. Side dishes are charged at £3.50. The chef certainly doesn’t hold back on the portions and I am considering adopting him so I can be fed this well at home. If we’re considering value for money, then Mercure certainly delivers when it comes to food. It also tastes delicious.
The menu of treatments is equally as tantalising. I opted for a back, neck and shoulder massage (25 minutes) followed by a scalp massage (25 minutes). The therapist (Shanice) – lovely lady, very smiley – opened with a consultation, asking the right questions to be able to tailor the treatment to my needs. She did a good job but the best thing was that she didn’t talk unless it was to ask if the pressure was enough. Oh gosh how I find small talk difficult with someone rubbing my leg. The spa uses the Decleor range which “actively unite the science and art of using plant oils in aromatherapy products and treatments”. Which basically means that it’s a quality product which sits beautifully on the skin and adds to the feeling that you’re being cared for. The range is vegan friendly and is sold in the reception area but I wasn’t pushed to purchase. I was free to smell and try the testers without prejudice.
Overall, I found this to be a very good spa.
- Spa is separate from the rest of the hotel so feel free to wear your robe during lunch
- Décor is reminiscent of tropical shores and feels like a different world
- Staff were welcoming and relaxed
- Lockers are old and many don’t work. Can be frustrating and unnecessarily time consuming
- The window sills in the lounge area were dusty and the floor in the swimming pool was dirty. Updating décor is expensive but giving these rooms a good clean doesn’t cost anything
About the hotel
Continuing my mission this year to find the best spas in Wales my mother and I have booked a spa day at the Mercure Holland House hotel. The hotel stands proudly on Newport Road, Cardiff. It is the only 4-star hotel this side of Cardiff and it seems almost happy to be distinct and far from the madding crowd. It is approximately a five-minute walk from Queen Street station and equally as far from the high street shops and restaurants. It’s a prime location. I’ve read that this was one of the main reasons why Real Madrid opted to stay here for the Champions League final in 2019. The interior design is warm and welcoming. The restaurant, bar and lounge are open plan separated by ropes hanging from the ceiling (simple but effective). The lighting is ambient. I like it immediately.
Underneath the hotel is a small car park which on a Sunday morning had plenty of free spaces but I can imagine that on a weekday this would be full. There is street parking locally such as The Parade and Richmond Road but I wouldn’t recommend it as there have been a number of break ins recently. Knox Road car park is reasonably priced, within a five-minute walk and secure: there are always spaces available.