Winter is a good time to spa. My skin is a shade of inexplicable grey, hair is dull and no amount of lavender tea lifts the mood. So it was with relish that on a cold, crisp day in January I packed a case and accepted an invitation to experience Bicester Hotel Golf and Spa; a four star resort set against the backdrop of the Oxfordshire countryside.
Bicester is now renowned for luxury outlet shopping thanks to the retail park which has made the once quiet town its home since 1995. This has also made Bicester effortlessly accessible. Trains from Marylebone, London to Bicester North run on the hour each day. By car, from London, it’s a journey time of around 90 minutes or less.
As the name Bicester Hotel Golf and Spa suggests there is both an 18-hole golf course and a magnificent spa on the resort. Other facilities include a health club with gym, tennis courts, water spa and a 20-metre heated indoor pool perfect for families with young children.
My Saturday morning however, was spent at the Forest of Wellbeing Spa which has six treatment rooms. There are a variety of holistic treatments including full body massage therapies. Beauty treatments and facials using Elemis products have been designed to compliment the wellness offering. The 60-minute Jessica Deluxe Pedicure (£47), I opted for, included a soak, scrub and massage; a relaxing experience which made my toes sparkle. If visiting on weekends I recommend reserving early. The treatment rooms were busy throughout the weekend.
There are 52 rooms and suites at the family-owned Bicester Hotel Golf and Spa. The vast double room I occupied was spacious with a queen-size bed and soft sheets worthy of five stars. The twee soft yellow and grey decor was relaxing and fitting given the surroundings. It balanced the sense of country living with a modern space. Of course the testament to any hotel room is how well you sleep in it. I’m happy to add that my night here was perfectly restful and the service impeccable.
Eating and Drinking
Grays is the in-house restaurant which has spectacular lakeside views through floor to ceiling windows. Incidentally, you do not need to be a patron of the resort to eat here. The à la carte menu, created by Executive Chef Alan Paton, is a celebration of local food. Fish is sourced from a single sustainable, traceable supplier and local farms supply meat and fresh produce. This low-impact dining however makes no compromises on taste.
Starter of purple broccoli, Oxford blue cheese and blood orange wild rice (£7.50) was exceptional. The same was true of the pan-fried salmon with orzo pasta, kale and wild mushroom broth (£18.75). The standout dish for me was dessert; bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream (£7).
Before my departure on Sunday I enjoyed brunch at the Portrait Lounge; a more casual dining space. The menu here is best enjoyed with friends in small dishes as you might order tapas. I shared a tremendous butternut squash soup with bread (£5) with a companion. The vegetable burger (£13) and sweet potato fries were a notable winning combination.
Things to do
If golfing and pampering is not all you demand from a hotel stay there’s still plenty more to do. Afternoon Tea (£18 and £22 with a glass of Prosecco) is served at Grays Restaurant between 12 to 5pm from Monday to Friday and starts a little later at 12.30pm at weekends. From savoury salmon, cucumber and ham sandwiches to wonderfully light scones and cakes this was an absolute treat.
Bicester Village retail outlet is certainly worth a visit if you wish to break up your stay. It’s only a five minute journey and taxis can be arranged at the reception. Hotel guests enjoy an additional 10% off at Bicester Village via a QR code added to your smart phone wallets. Alternatively you can also access a link from the hotel booking confirmation which offers the same discount.
Do you really need any more reasons to visit Bicester Hotel Golf and Spa? Well, here’s another: Use code BHSPA10 and receive 10% off Spa Breaks when you book direct.