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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

The Spa at Ashford Castle


The newly renovated Ashford Castle is as luxurious a country hotel as you could find and I've outlined how much we liked it in a previous post. There was so much to cover that I thought I'd share my pictures of the spa separately.  I didn't choose the hotel on the basis of their spa facilities but I very much enjoyed their beautiful indoor pool. This isn't a large space but it's a gorgeous jewel box of a place though it's hard to convey the the quality of the fixtures and fittings in the  photos. Everything is just lovely, tasteful, textured, elegant and light.
The view out over Lough Corrib was breathtaking, even in the dull February light and the pool i was warm enough to entice me. However the most interesting view was  not the lake vista, but the extraordinary mosaic installation above the pool. Designed by South African ceramic artist Jane du Rand you can understand immediately why this room was featured in Architectural Digest. I've seen a lot of stunning hotel pools but this has to be the most beautiful indoor pool I've ever seen.

Du Rand's ceramic piece is exquisite and as you can see it features an intricate Tree of Life design, inhabited by mythical creatures and motifs. The tiles have a shimmering quality and the wall seems to glow with life and beauty.

This is a three dimensional piece and as you can see below, the flowers have a beautiful texture as they curl out from the wall. I recommend having a look at Jane du Rand's website because it's hard to conceive  of the variety and beauty of her mosaic work. Having seen this piece in person I immediately wanted to know more about her work.
The mosaic creates a beauty and stillness even in all it's glorious decoration and it is clearly the single design motif from which the rest of the spa  is inspired. However, all of the spaces int he spa have a characterful feel ,combining functionality, beauty and form in a pale palette. The changing room is photographed below.
Astonishingly they even manage to draw in the countryside/castle theme with these rather curious looking white bucks in the corridor linking the changing room and reception to the pool and upstairs gym.
Ashford Castle is a wonderful hotel and they have done a great job both of updating the interior and adding a spa.  From the exterior the spa building has the feel of an elegant Victorian conservatory , or at least a modern interpretation of one. And, just like the new (1960s) addition to the hotel , the spa blends in well. with the older part of the castle on the left. Here's a photo taken from Architectural Digest. 
Above the pool area is an excise room/gym which  shares the fabulous view out over the lough. If you make it to Ashford Castle I highly recommend checking out the spa. If you want to enjoy a treatment it is best to book in advance as they are often fully booked. The whole hotel, from the spa to the grounds, the public spaces, the bedroom and staff, has a warm, elegant, welcoming feel.  This is a luxurious and yet friendly hotel, we loved our stay and will certainly be back.

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