Nestled in the charming market town of Helmsley, the former coaching inn was re-built in the mid-19th century by the Earl of Feversham. In the 1970s three cottages were purchased to extend the hotel and add a swimming pool and gardens. Today the Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa is a stylish country retreat, for relaxation and rejuvenation.
My friend, Suzanne, and I enjoyed a girls’ overnight spa package. The ‘You and Me Time’ package includes a 60-minute spa treatment, or two mini treatments, use of Verbena Spa facilities, three-course dinner and breakfast.
We began with the Heat Experience – “a journey to soothe mind, body and spirit” – making our way through the tranquil indoor spa area, with saunarium (gentler than a regular sauna, less intense heat) aromatherapy room, steam room, monsoon shower and foot spas. Outside on the elegant terrace is a hot tub and the heated pool.
Spa options include body wraps and exfoliations, among them Outer Glow and Glorious Mud, and a Rocks of the Mediterranean massage. A bespoke approach means each treatment is tailored to the individual.
Verbena Spa pamper experiences are a range of restorative spa days, including the signature Verbena Spa Sacred Space, a two-hour immersion which includes a full body massage, using aromatic herbs from Helmsley Walled Gardens and Himalayan sea salt. With all day spa experiences – including detox, mum-to-be and de-stress – the focus is on indulgence and ‘me time’.
I love a facial and, with winter taking its toll, I opted for the ‘My Kinda Skin’ treatment. Friendly spa therapist Christina talked me though the Temple Spa products she used for the facial, including In the Beginning, a gorgeous balm cleanser that I’ve used before, which leaves the skin feeling nourished and glowing; Becalm soothing face mask, to “calm, smooth, firm and plump”; Breakfast Smoothie exfoliator, a brightening and smoothing scrub and mask; Be Still ‘settling moisturiser’ to soothe, calm and restore, and Eye Truffle, to tighten and tone those pesky fine lines and dark circles.
It was a blissful, relaxing hour-long treatment, with Christina also massaging my neck, shoulders and scalp. Afterwards I floated out, feeling radiant and revived, with a healthy-looking glow.
Suzanne went for the full body massage, which she said was heavenly. We reclined in the Relaxation Lounge, served with a lovely fruit smoothie. With its dimmed lighting, sink-into sofas, soft cushions, scented candles and magazines, it’s an oasis of calm where you can take all the time in the world to unwind. The focus is on wellbeing here – you really feel looked after.
The hotel, blending boutique chic with historic features, has 33 individually designed bedrooms. Five new poolside suites were completed last summer by local interior designer Philippa Martin. Our suite, in the spa wing, was a lovely, spacious bedroom and adjoining lounge, with a walk-in shower and deep bathtub in the en-suite, with Temple Spa products, and a balcony overlooking the pool and terrace.
Feversham Arms has also launched a new penthouse-style poolside suite to add to its newly renovated suites. Two are located on upper floors, each with access to the pool terrace via a private staircase, and four are at ground floor level, with private pool terraces.
The cosy, intimate penthouse suite nestles into the hotel’s eaves. Shades of dark grey and teal dominate the suite’s signature palette and the décor features mango wood furniture, pale gold soft furnishings and Velux skylights enhancing the rich colour scheme. With painted oak beams, nooks and crannies, the suite has an open fireplace, a walk-in dressing room and two bathrooms – one with a double-ended bath and walk-in monsoon shower.
We dined in the stylish Weathervane Restaurant on site. I had melt-in-the-mouth goats cheese terrine to start, from the excellent vegetarian menu, while Suzanne went for butternut squash veloute, with mini Gruyere and pickled onion toastie. Other starters, on both veggie and main menus, included walnut salad, partridge breast and east coast mackerel.
My main course, also from the vegetarian menu, was delicious roast red pepper and sweet potato Wellington, beautifully presented with pommes puree and charred broccoli in a rich tomato sauce. Other veggie options included roast cep mushroom risotto and open butternut and sage lasagne. Suzanne tucked into fillet of Yorkshire beef with cream cheese and chive hasselback potatoes, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and baby carrots. Other choices included oven-baked North Sea halibut and rump of Yorkshire Lamb. We couldn’t resist the fabulous dessert menu – fruit sorbet selection and warm peanut and chocolate brownie.
The hotel is well placed for exploring the town and surrounding attractions, not least the North York Moors. Helmsley Castle, dating back to the 12th century, has an interactive exhibition and tour revealing how the site evolved from medieval fortress to Tudor mansion, Civil War stronghold and Victorian ruin. Nearby is Helmsley Walled Garden, more than five acres of vibrant borders, glasshouses, kitchen gardens and orchards. Built in 1758 to supply fruit and vegetables to the Feversham family at Duncombe Park, it was resurrected in the 1990s by a local nurse who saw theraputic potential in the healing power of horticulture. At Rievaulx Abbey you can explore the dramatic rise and fall of the North’s first Cistercian monastery and the lives of monks who lived there.
Helmsley itself is a picture postcard country town, with a bustling market square, cosy tea-rooms and vibrant independent shops. After a hearty cooked breakfast, we had a good browse, before heading back – refreshed and revitalised from our North Yorkshire sanctuary.
* The Feversham Arms & Verbena Spa, Helmsley. Tel. (01439) 770766 or, for the spa, (01439) 772930. Visit fevershamarmshotel.com or verbenaspa.com