Review: MacDonald Old England Hotel & Spa

In the Lake District the weather can change very quickly – when we got up in the morning we were greeted with persistent torrential rain and by the time we got to the MacDonald Old England Hotel & Spa in the afternoon, bright blue skies and strong sunshine greeted us. We’d booked to use the day spa at the hotel for £20 each because it was close to the Royal Oak Inn, and were keen on getting the most from our stay.

The hotel itself is a sprawling stone building with a view of Lake Windermere, and the spa has a lovely deck overlooking the ferries and boat hire places which do such great trade whenever the sun comes out. The spa deck also looks over the lawn area which serves as an outdoor bar area for the bar in the hotel.

The spa is made up of a large indoor pool and a sauna area which in turn consists of a sauna, steam room, ice room and an aromatic shower.

The pool is a great size and although a sign on the wall says its 30C°, it’s certainly hard to believe that when we’re in it. Maybe they mean 30° Fahrenheit I say facetiously. But the fun is actually to be had in the sauna area.

It’s always great when a spa has both a sauna and a steam room so you can select the humidity which you like your heat – although I can never last as long in the steam as I can in the sauna, it’s probably better for the lungs!

Right beside the sauna and steam room is the ice room and, as you may expect, it has ice – a pipe in the ceiling feeds a basin with a slow continuous slurry of ice and beside that is an ice cold shower – allowing you to choose to either take armfuls of ice and rub them into your body or else plunge into the icy water. Invigorating!

Hidden alongside the three rooms described is an alcove, tucked away and quite easy to miss. This is the aromatic shower which I only just glimpse on the way out. This has three buttons and a shower head, producing a cold and two different warm streams of water. I don’t really notice any particular aromas changing with the different selections, but maybe I didn’t leave them on long enough.

The changing rooms are well stocked with lockers and all the mod cons like hair dryers (not needed for me, but for those more blessed), and for me a nice touch was the bathing suit spinner – a centrifuge for getting the water out of your bathing suit. The changing rooms were clean and seemed in good condition.

Online reviews of the place are mixed and we certainly agree that the pool is chillier than we thought it would be. Communication could also be improved as we didn’t know that there was a gym onsite. We didn’t have any of the treatments, so won’t comment on those but the spa side of things was perfectly serviceable.