Is this Georgian former hunting lodge in the racing-mad surrounds of Newmarket the perfect place to warm up with a luxurious overnighter?
If you’re after a treaty break to quaff and massage away the winter blues, the four-star Bedford Lodge Hotel pretty much ticks all the boxes. Set in three acres of beautiful greenery in the racing town of Newmarket, Bedford Lodge is a former Georgian hunting lodge converted into a hotel in the 1940s. Its spa boasts a coveted 5-bubble rating from the Good Spa Guide.
Bedford Lodge was originally built for the sixth Duke of Bedford in 1820 and has been tastefully converted to feel modern, but with comfy old-fashioned flourishes – framed cartoons of notorious local racing characters from the 19th-century in the restaurant, and leather armchairs by the fire in the bar. There are 77 rooms – ours had a bed with the requisite crispy white Egyptian cotton sheets, chartreuse velvet curtains and throws, and Molton Brown products in the bathroom.
It overlooks the prestigious Godolphin training stables – founded by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum – so gazing out of our window in the morning clad in my fluffy robe, I was greeted by the sight of prize-winning horses being groomed and a yard in full swing.
I was almost shamed into going for a run round the grounds – but chose a Tea Pigs cuppa with fresh Cotteswold milk and some home-made lavender shortbread (all provided in the room) instead.
More active types than me are amply catered for at the hotel’s separate gym, The Edge, with its 15-metre pool, sauna and steam room.
In a separate building a short walk through the grounds, Bedford Lodge’s spa is a luxurious oasis of calm. Decorated in soothing slate-grey tones with chic silvery retro tree wallpaper, it has its own sit-down lounge restaurant – all enormous suede armchairs and a chic gold 1950s chandelier. The menu is light and spa-appropriate – I had a Norfolk Crab Salad and my husband tucked into a manly-but-healthy Spanish Serrano Ham & Asparagus Salad. For proper indulgence, there’s also a good selection of cakes, plus a wine and champagne list.
The spa itself is slick and with facilities to rival the best. Set over two levels, there’s a huge hydotherapy pool, experience showers, an ice shower, sauna and a steam room with marble hammam table.
The tiled seating next to the pool is heated, so you’re warm wherever you go, no matter how icy the temperatures outside. My personal highlight was making my way round the five ‘zones’ in the hydrotherapy pool, from relaxing in a lightly-bubbling corner to being nearly knocked off my feet by swanhead fountains gushing down from above – an experience akin to having your shoulders and back pummelled by a Thai masseuse.
Nice touches in the changing room included GHD hair straighteners, eco-friendly wet kit bags and plentiful Espa products in the showers.
Upstairs, there’s an outdoor roof terrace with a hot tub, and a lounge area. One gripe – on a dark afternoon, the low, slightly fluorescent lighting felt more for mood than actual reading. I ended up taking my magazine down to the brighter lights of the poolside.
The extensive spa treatment menu uses Espa products and offers everything from massages to Jessica manicures and pedicures, mud treatments and even a dry flotation room, plus a plumpy relaxation room decorated in deep plum shades to laze around in post-treatment.
There’s a couples’ therapy room where my husband and I enjoyed an hour of blissful massage side by side on heated beds – Lavender Poultice for me and Hot Stones for him. My treatment involved a massage using my chosen Espa oil, administered at the perfect pressure by a very expert therapist, who alternated it with kneading all the knots and stress points of my body with warm poultices (a muslin bag with a handle, tightly packed with lavender – like a large fragrant door knob, for want of a better comparison). Simon’s treatment was a similar full body massage incorporating warmed stones instead. We both managed to fall asleep. 10 out of 10.
The 2 AA Rosette hotel restaurant, Squires, is a total contrast to the modern, light vibe at the spa. The name is an homage to horse trainer George Baird, aka ‘The Squire’, who was a notorious previous owner of Bedford Lodge. He apparently held boxing fights on-site, and had an affair with Lillie Langtry. Would our evening be suitably raucous? The restaurant was renovated last year, but still has a clubby, traditional feel – cosy dim lighting, deep red walls and comfy upholstered chairs.
Food suppliers are sourced from within a 50-mile radius of the hotel for its classic English/French dishes. The Restaurant & Bar menu offers comfort food like Newmarket Chipolatas with honey and mustard to start, and dishes like chargrilled Sirloin Steak or Lemon and Thyme Chicken. The A La Carte menu features grander options like Sea Trout Escabeche and Grilled Asparagus with poached truffled egg to start, and mains like Native Lobster and Reared Castle Lamb. The extensive wine list runs to several pages, but we managed to choose a delightful French rose to go with our meat and fish extravaganza – Moules-Frites for me and Denham Estate Partridge with kale puree for Simon to start, followed by Pan Seared East Coast Cod Fillet with pea puree and (deliciously salty) malt vinegar gel and batter scraps for both of us.
By pudding, we could barely squeeze in another mouthful – but we did try very hard with a 70% Rich Dark Chocolate Ganache with sultana and marmalade ice cream (the rich, bitter chocolate wasn’t an ideal pairing with too-sugary trimmings like orange sherbet, but a small complaint in the grand scheme).
We rolled ourselves through to the adjacent Roxana Bar for a nightcap in front of the roaring log fire. George Baird was probably frowning, but basically the dream for a pair of tired out-of-towners.
While you’re there…
If it’s just overnight, the Bedford Lodge spa facilities are so top-notch that you should spend every waking moment going between hydro pool and steam room. But if you do fancy venturing out, Newmarket Racecourse tops the to-do list, of course. The Guineas Festival in May and Ladies Day in July are both hot tickets, and you can also do a tour round the National Stud and the newly-opened National Horseracing Museum. The location is an hour from the Suffolk coast and the perfect base for exploring the lovely countryside – historic villages like Lavenham, the medieval market town Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge for a spot of punting are close by.
The Couples Retreat, £419, includes a 60 minute massage each in the couples suite, 3-course dinner at Squires Restaurant, bed and breakfast and use of hydrotherapy and heat experiences on the day of treatments. The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel, Bury Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8. 0800 652 2991