The new breed of country retreat

By Sally Shalam, Evening Standard

Last updated at 17:35 06 October 2003

Once it was a matter of shooting, fishing or striding across field and woodland if you stayed in the country. Now, there's a new breed of rural retreat sporting state-of-the-art spas, Starck-ly fitted bathrooms and not a Barbour in sight.

Whatley Manor (Tel: 01666 822888), Malmesbury, Wiltshire, is one of just a handful of places worldwide offering La Prairie treatments at its marble and wood spa, Aquarias. Why bother getting all muddy when you can pay to have something of similar consistency massaged into your face at roughly £1 a minute?

Calcot Manor (Tel: 01666 890391), Tetbury, Gloucestershire, was once a classic country-house hotel clad in soft, golden Cotswold stone ... until it chucked out the chintz in favour of tweedy texture and muted tones in the sitting room, swapped hushed tones and a Michelin star in the restaurant for organic Med flavours and chatter, and built a pièce de résistance: a £2.5 million spa with hot tub affording fresh air as you survey the fields you won't be yomping across.

The Grove (Tel: 01923 807807), Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, is the ancestral home of the earls of Clarendon now converted, courtesy of Fox Linton Associates (the designers who fixed up One Aldwych), into a hotel that claims to offer tradition with a twist ... expect sexy red and plum bedrooms, views of formal gardens unfolding beyond floor-to-ceiling windows and modern furniture flirting with antiques.

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