REVIEW: FISHMORE HALL SPA, LUDLOW
Guest contributor Rose trekked up the M40 (yes, sometimes we talk about things outside London) to review the new spa at Fishmore Hall in Ludlow, Shropshire. Her humorous review will make you wish you were there:
My friendship with Sticky (not her actual name, but genuinely what I call her) is older than Gigi Hadid. With a long friendship, there are frequently revisited stories; one of ours is the time I booked the accommodation in Amsterdam. 16 years ago, we were sophisticated millennial women, having a Euro city break.
Amsterdam was great, but my centrally located budget accommodation, was incompatible with Sticky’s ‘never knowingly downgraded’ expectations; no lift, £5 for a towel and hard, narrow beds; turns out this was no time for a hostel experience.
Since then, there have been weddings, children and many sophisticated mini-breaks, but my hotel suggestions are always met with ‘will it be like Amsterdam?’ So when I got the chance to review a hotel with the words ‘luxury’ ‘boutique’ and ‘spa’ attached, I hoped there could be accommodation redemption.
Fishmore Hall is an independent hotel, near the Shropshire town of Ludlow. It is surrounded by dramatic countryside which is visible from every window. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a mega trip from London; 3 hours plus on a train from Paddington to Ludlow and over 2 hours (at least) up the M40, but worth the effort.
On our visit, Google maps sent us literally round the houses, meaning we arrived at the hotel late and in darkness. A ‘how to find us’ section on the hotel website, detailing routes from motorways and taxi contacts to pick up from the station would be really helpful for disorientated non-locals.
After the epic trip, first impressions were good; the entrance on the ground floor feels cozy but is quite spacious. In addition to a small reception desk, there’s a bar, lounge area and a dining room with a conservatory. After check in, we were shown to room 21 (in a lift! Sticky was impressed), a large twin/double on the top floor. I’d heard the receptionist explain to a phone enquiry that standard rooms have a shower only, so I guess ours wasn’t standard, as we had a bath and walk in shower.
The absence of a large chrome showerhead was noticeable but more for aesthetic, than functional reasons. We were offered a wakeup call and asked if we’d like papers in the morning. Other lovely touches included in room Wi-Fi, a Nespresso type coffee machine, good selection of teas and instructions to call 0 for homemade biscuits and hot milk, with fresh milk in the fridge. On the bed were slippers and a waffle dressing gown for each of us and after the mammoth drive, it was tempting to put them on & chill. But we had the spa to experience so grabbed caffeine based Mum Fuel and headed over.
The spa is a newly built, separate, modern, wooden space, which feels relaxing as soon as you walk in. As it was dark, we didn’t get to appreciate the serene surroundings but went back in the morning to check them out - they were pretty impressive.
Our therapists, Charlotte and Sophie, showed us to changing rooms with lockers – think high end gym over municipal swimming pool, containing a fluffy robe and toweling flip flops for each of us. Our 1-hour treatment of a back massage and Elemis facial was in one of the two couple’s rooms available.
Sticky was particularly pleased that the circular rest where you park your face during the massage, was well padded with an additional towel for comfort. We were fully relaxed and appreciated that the spa music didn’t involve any panpipes or plinky piano.
Rousing ourselves from a post treatment stupor, we were shown the rest of the spa facilities; hot tub, steam room, sauna and left alone to experience them. For women who spent two hours one Christmas Eve, waiting for a taxi outside a cliff top pub wearing baby doll nighties, the bikini clad scamper to the outdoor hot tub was no problem.
On a clear night, the lack of local light pollution means a dark, alfresco hot tub visit is truly amazing and in the summer, I’m sure, equally so. Sadly, the evening was overcast, but in the deep dark, we happily enjoyed the warm bubbling water, discussing future plans, pelvic floor integrity and when in year 9, we fancied the same boy.
From the hot tub, we made a wet dash inside for the sauna. Sticky tried the different settings to adjust the light, music and temperature, with ‘Excite’ mode being our favourite. We went in the steam room to complete the experience, before heading back to our room to get ready for dinner.
Due to our epic journey, we were starving when we arrived downstairs for dinner, but this didn’t prevent us deciding to have a pre-dinner glass of prosecco at the bar and meant the surprise olives and nuts which appeared, were gratefully consumed. We’d advised in the booking that I eat gluten free and Sticky is pescatarian, so when we were shown the menu the friendly and helpful waiter was able to explain what was available to us. Sticky was impressed with the variety of vegetarian options and I was pleased that a number of dishes were suitable or could be adapted for me.
We ordered food while at the bar and Sticky brought out actual physical non-digital photos of us, dating from the mid to late 90s, prompting laughter at the state of our hair and eyebrows.
Our table was near a window in the conservatory, we ordered a bottle of Rose Sancerre and were brought some warm bread, followed by a canapé each. Sticky’s was a savoury profiterole, while mine was salmon and caviar tartar, both delicious. I’d order a spiced scallop, with cauliflower puree starter and Sticky had a pan fried pear with blue cheese and spiced nuts. For once, we stopped talking.
We were equally speechless when an amuse bouche of quinoa with aubergine and smoked yoghurt was presented and consumed. My venison main course was pink, buttery and amazing, while Sticky’s halibut met her high standards. Dessert wasn’t necessary, but we’d both spied delicious sounding items on the menu earlier, so a Salted Caramel pudding with cider sorbet was ordered, along with ewe’s curd, each with the dessert wine specified on the menu.
In the interim, a lemon posset, with lemon curd, a jelly layer and perfect palate cleansing sharpness arrived and was appreciated. My ewes curd pudding came with toasted oats, drizzled honey which tasted of flowers and a unifying lemon granita: the dessert wine paired with it was just perfection, while the salted caramel sauce filled cake Sticky ate, hit the right spot for her.
We were offered coffee (served with petit fours) but were just too full, so Sticky’s final glass of prosecco was brought to us in the lounge, where we descended into the giggling bonhomie of relaxed and well-fed friendship.
After the experience of dinner, breakfast expectations were high. It was a little disappointing that the conservatory area was closed off, so the views couldn’t be appreciated in daylight, but the buffet of juice, cereal, pastries, fresh fruit and an indulgent yoghurt were all good. I was pleased to learn that gluten free sausages, bread and hollandaise were available, so chose poached haddock & poached eggs with hollandaise and a round of gluten free toast.
As can occur the morning after the night before, the experience wasn’t quite as good; a solid poached egg and cold toast. This was really noticeable because standards so far had been so high.
Fishmore Hall and its new spa are wonderful. The hotel is dog friendly, has disabled access, incredible food and enthusiastic staff. With packages for dining, afternoon tea, exclusive use, hen/baby shower dos, weddings and anniversaries, it’s definitely worth venturing outside the M25 for a special occasion or to take a break with someone that matters.
For a couple of friends who’ve seen each other through teenage angst to upcoming milestone birthdays, it was the perfect time together and, I’m assured, has permanently banished memories of the hostel in Amsterdam. See Fishmore Hall in all its glory here:
*Brought to you in association with Fishmore Hall*
Fishmore Road, Ludlow
Shropshire, SY8 3DP