FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Glasgow, The Spa At Blythswood Square

Aug 1, 2014
2014 / July 2014

We were nearing the end of our two weeks in Scotland, which included stays at grand old manor houses, a week on board the Hebridean Princess in the Western Isles, and Michelin-starred dining in Edinburgh. About the only Scottish luxury we had not indulged in was a spa. Our hotel in Glasgow, Blythswood Square, seemed the right place to fill in that blank.

We’d added Glasgow to the itinerary to see the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and chose a hotel five minutes’ walk from the Willow Tea Rooms and Glasgow School of Art, both designed by this architect credited with beginning the Art Nouveau movement. Location, we discovered, wasn’t the hotel’s only charm.

This being cheeky Glasgow, we were not surprised the hotel in its recent remake completely eschewed the cliché Balmoral style and that nary a tartan nor stag antler chandelier was in sight. Instead, the fine marble and oak lobby and public areas feature stylish Moderne furnishings with playful touches — former elevator shafts beside the grand staircase transformed into cozy nooks upholstered in cherry-red velour. It nods to Scottish fiber arts with Harris Tweed in the décor.

On the afternoon of our spa appointments, we returned in time to shower in our room, large and stylish in black and white with dark purple upholstery and bronze silk pillows. Above the headboard of our king-sized bed hung a photo of the start of the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally, which began at the hotel’s front door. The building then housed the Automobile Club of Scotland, whose memorabilia and photos we found throughout the hotel. Donning the soft, cushy robes in our closet, we took the elevator directly to the two-level spa, below the lobby.

Blythswood Square hotel lobby © Blythswood Square

Blythswood Square hotel lobby © Blythswood Square

Like the hotel, the spa, which covers an area of 10,000 square feet, is understated — coolly and comfortably Glasgow. The large lounge with deep chairs for relaxing, subdued music and low lighting gave a sense of privileged intimacy. Instead of sinking into lounge chairs, we splashed for a few minutes in the relaxation pools before our therapists escorted us to treatment rooms. We could have prepared ourselves with the three-hour Thermal Experience — a do-it-yourself hot/ cold/wet/dry journey from a 140-degree laconium through a sauna, an ice fountain and a steam room — but the pools served us fine and took less time away from the city’s attractions.

Because this has been acclaimed as Britain’s best new spa, I knew we shouldn’t wait until we checked in at the hotel to reserve our times. So weeks before we left for Scotland, we shopped through the enticing list of massages (foot, hand, head, full-body), facials, scrubs, wraps and other treatments.

We narrowed the several dozen options to facials and massages, our respective favorite spa indulgences. Even so, we still had at least six to choose from, all using organic ingredients. Facials included, among others, ilā Rainforest Renewal, Elemis Tri-Enzyme or Pro-Collagen; and the range of massages was even wider.

But we both wanted our experiences to have a sense of place, just as we had chosen treatments using grape seeds in wine country and maple sugar in Vermont. Before checking the menu, we tried to think of what Scotland’s signature locavore spa experience would offer: maybe a facial in butter toffee and a body scrub with steel-cut Scottish oats — or shortbread crumbs, my husband suggested.

What we found was an entire menu of ishga treatments, developed on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and based on hand-harvested Scottish seaweed. Rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements and antioxidants that make up its natural nutrients, seaweed has been used for centuries for its healing and therapeutic value and ability to firm and hydrate all skin types. “Useful for repairing and protecting the skin from environmental damage,” it promised. Perfect for my facial.

A seaweed body wrap, scrubs that exfoliate with Hebridean sea salt and a bath in fresh seaweed were other options; but my husband spotted the ishga Hot Stone Massage, a full-body massage incorporating heated basalt stones, seaweed-based oil, lavender and juniper. What could be more iconic to Scotland than native stones and seaweed from the Western Isles?

As my skin soaked up the soothing nutrients and oils like a desiccated sponge, I realized I couldn’t have made a better choice for my travel-weary skin after two weeks of abuse by sun, wind and salt spray on the Hebridean Princess deck; of a sun-drenched day kayaking at Isle of Eriska; and the buffeting of sharp winds in Edinburgh.

The gentle rhythms of creams; scrubs; warm, moist cloths; and massage were not so different from other facials, but these marine algae ingredients seemed to have been especially designed by Neptune himself just to make my face happy. As each layer of skin luxuriated in turn, so did my neck and shoulder muscles as the aches and stiffness from abuse by luggage and an electronics-heavy shoulder bag were gently massaged away. I drifted in and out of dreams of warm beaches and bagpipes for what could have been minutes or hours.

In fact, I was so relaxed and detached from my real world of notebooks and keyboards, it wasn’t until I’d boarded the plane to London the next morning I realized I couldn’t remember the name of the smiling, soft-spoken woman who had given me this new face.

Meanwhile, my husband found his own Scottish nirvana, his camera-weary neck and shoulders being massaged with warm stones worn smooth by the tides on some cove beach in the Hebrides. We compared our respective dreamy experiences afterward over tea in the Salon, a lovely space above the lobby overlooking the 19th-century shipping barons’ mansions around Blythswood Square through an almost solid wall of high windows.

The spa has a café, but I’m sorry, spa food is not on my tea-time menu in the land of cream scones and the world’s best butter shortbread.

Relaxing companionably on a sofa, we ordered a plate of Scottish artisanal cheeses with oatcakes and a cream tea, which featured freshly baked apple and sultana scones served with whole strawberry preserves and Devonshire clotted cream. My skin felt so heavenly I was sure people around us were murmuring, “Look at that gray-haired man holding hands with a 20-year-old!”

The Spa at Blythswood Square

11 Blythswood Square
Glasgow, G2 4AD Scotland
tel 44 141 240 1622
townhousecompany.com/blythswoodsquare

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Jan 21, 2022

Reasons to Visit New Orleans This February and March

New Orleans has a full roster of activities, events and festivals enticing guests throughout February and March.

IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs

IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs for a smarter way to manage travel

Daily
Jan 20, 2022

5 Remarkable South African Women Changing the Travel Industry

With Black History Month and Women’s History Month right around the corner, it’s time to highlight and recognize South African women working hard to make the travel industry better.

eFlyer Reviews
Jan 19, 2022

Cheval Blanc Paris Review

Since Cheval Blanc, an extraordinary, newly designed and refurbished 72-room hotel owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, launched in September 2021, it has been the talk of the town. Le Tout-Paris remarks about its WOW factor … and the hard-to-get reservations for the 30 seats at Plenitude, the intimate, first-floor gastronomic outlet headed by chef Arnaud Donckele, who earned three Michelin stars at Cheval Blanc Saint Tropez. Reservations are also recommended for Limbar, the ground-floor bakery/café/tea shop/bar where we watched Pastry Chef Maxime Frédéric preparing desserts and an absolute must-have for dinner at Le Tout-Paris, the 7th-floor, all-day brasserie. This brightly colored space, with its raised seating and Fauve-like floor tiles and the adjacent Milanese restaurant, Langosteria, both have access to terraces facing the Seine River, with amazing views encompassing Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.

 Reconnect with the world in The Islands of Tahiti

Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are just eight hours by air from California. Surrounded by pristine, crystal-clear blue waters, the 118 islands and atolls offer natural beauty, authentic island culture and unique French Polynesian style. The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons and varied landscapes ranging from coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Privacy comes naturally in The Islands of Tahiti and offers visitors the space to relax and reconnect and to be Embraced By Mana. Mana is the life force and spirit that connects all things in The Islands of Tahiti.

eFlyer News
Jan 19, 2022

New Specials at Well & Beings’ The Spa at Red Rock, The Spa at Green Valley Ranch

Nevada-based The Spa at Green Valley by Well & Being and The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being celebrate the start of 2022 with new health, wellness and spa treatments available through March 31. Both spas offer an array of treatments for guests wanting to relax and unwind before 2022 kicks into full gear.

Daily
Jan 19, 2022

“JEOPARDY!”, Lindblad Expeditions Announce “Explore Alaska Sweepstakes”

Now through Jan. 28, JEOPARDY! and Lindblad Expeditions team up for a viewer promotion, the JEOPARDY! Explore Alaska Sweepstakes. The contest will award 10 winners and their guests with an eight-day, small-ship cruise of Alaska’s coastal wilderness.

Seabourn: It’s Not an Escape, It’s an Arrival

Go ahead, take a nice, deep breath. Because a Seabourn voyage is all about this moment you’ve come so far in life to embrace. It’s not an escape, it’s an arrival.

Daily
Jan 18, 2022

6 Reasons to Put Santorini, Greece, on Your Travel List

It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Santorini, Greece, with us.