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Harrogate Baths Review

Paul Clarke sweats it out at a Turkish Baths

Written by . Published on August 12th 2011.


Harrogate Baths Review

WALKING into Harrogate’s Turkish Baths is like stepping back into the Victorian age when this genteel North Yorkshire town was Britain’s most popular spa.
 
The baths is the only one from that golden age still in full working order, and is certainly the most gloriously relaxing, with its gorgeous Moorish design. Everywhere you look there are soaring Islamic arches, painted ceilings, stunning glazed brickwork and terrazzo floors laid by Italian artisans more than a century ago.

"For the first time in ages I cleared my mind of modern day stresses, and just focused on the waves of pleasures coursing through my body." 

I was in town for a short break and it looked like the perfect way to drive the toxins from my weary bones.
 
Even the wooden changing rooms and toilets are original, as I disrobed to join one of the regular mixed sessions. It’s worth noting the baths has mixed and single-sex sessions, so it's best to check the timetable before you book.
 
The first step is a short session in the Tepidarium – or warm room – to allow your body to acclimatise to the dry heat and prepare for the hotter chambers to come. Then it’s time to brave the Calidarium – or warmer room – which really ramps up the heat to a new levels as beads of sweat broke out across my whole body.
 
Then it’s the moment to step into the Laconium – or hottest room - which does what it says on the tin with an almost unbearable 75 degrees of heat which somehow is less intense than modern saunas. On your first round, a few minutes of this sort of heat is all you can stand as you sweat out of every pore.
 
The final stage of the ritual is the ice cold plunge pool which is supposed to be invigorating, and the huge change in body temperature is designed to drive more toxins out of your body. I have to confess, the first time I dipped my feet in I literally ran out bitching about how cold it was.
 
But if you stop being a wuss and get in, it's absolutely one of the most life affirming experiences you can have. It is totally invigorating, and I even ended up sticking my head under the icy surface to blast the cobwebs away.
 
Strangely, once you've been in the plunge pool you can then stay much longer in the hot rooms lounging on the marble beds with their Victorian wooden headrests. It’s blissful as you can feel your toxic body purifying itself.
 
It’s also worth taking a few minutes to try out the wet heat in the beautifully tiled steam room that is a lovely contrast to the dry heat. It is important you shower between each session to wash away the toxins, and you need get plenty of water on board.
 
The final stage is to spend a minutes in the frigidarium to cool off, but I bypassed that as I had a massage booked in the upmarket health spa on site.  
 
The spa offers a range of treatments including facials, complementary therapies and massages. I’d opted for the Relax massage (£33), which promised a soothing 30 minutes of calming lavender, sandalwood and ylang-ylanf to calm the mind and soul.
 
I’m not sure about the spiritual element, but the half hour passed in what seemed like a heartbeat as I completely zoned out under my expert hands of my masseur. For the first time in ages I cleared my mind of modern day stresses, and just focused on the waves of pleasures coursing through my body.
 
Then it was a half dip in the spa’s jacuzzi to wind down and reflect on what had been a hugely relaxing couple of hours. The Victorians weren’t right about much but they were spot on when they extolled the restorative virtues of a Turkish Bath.
 
Paul's session at the Turkish baths cost £16 and a 90 minute stay is recommended. For details of sessions and spa treatments go to www.harrogate.gov.uk/turkishbaths

 

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