From the outside, St Brides Spa Hotel looks a modern and fairly unremarkable building. Step inside, however, and it quickly becomes apparent that St Brides is a very special and stylish place. Uncluttered and flooded with light, the colours throughout are muted and the décor simple; glass jars of shells are dotted around the hotel.
The Gallery Bar has sea-inspired art on the walls by local and national artists, all of which is for sale. The real appeal is the spectacular sea views from the Cliff Restaurant, the spa, and, if you are lucky enough to have one, the sea-facing rooms with balconies. From each, you can gaze at miles of beaches below and the seaside town of Saundersfoot.
What's on offer?
The thermal experiences at St Brides are a suite of small rooms. A very hot sauna has a stone wall on one side. Two steam rooms: one has sea salt and the other is scented with lemongrass and helpfully colour-coded with green lighting. Both have iridescent tiles and individual seating for five people. An experience shower and ice fountain allow you to cool down between heat experiences.
The jewel in the crown at St Brides is the outdoor vitality pool. Bathe in the salt water heated to a delicious 30 degrees and enjoy perhaps the best views of any spa in the UK: miles of pristine Pembrokeshire coastline. At high tide, an optical illusion makes it seem that nothing separates your pool from the sea below. A year-round experience, magical in all weathers.
You activate the hydrotherapy jets by a button on the side of the pool; I spent at least half an hour lost in a daydream as I bubbled and gazed at the sea. Spa heaven.
The thermal experience is free to hotel guests and bookable for all in 90-minute slots, for a maximum of 12 people to avoid overcrowding. Don't wait to arrive at the hotel to book the spa, though; it may well be fully booked by the time you check in.
There are two relaxation rooms at St Brides. The "wet" relaxation room next to the thermal suite is for thermal spa users. Lying on the comfortable loungers, you can enjoy the same stunning views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. There are magazines, too, in the unlikely event that you want more visual stimulation. Just outside the room you can help yourself to teas and coffees.
The low-lit "dry" relaxation room is where your therapist will take you after your treatment. Snuggle under the blankets on the beds and help yourself to more hot drinks.
St Brides has five treatment rooms including one very spacious double with the house speciality of drop-dead gorgeous coastal views.
The men and women's changing rooms are tiny with two showers each. Hotel guests are encouraged to come to the spa wearing their robes. Non-residents change in the robing room near reception and leave their clothes and bags in lockers.
A fitness suite for hotel guests only lives in a separate building across the car park. Ask for an electronic entrance card at reception. The suite is small but has all the essential equipment for a workout.
Tell us about the treatments
We had two Voya treatments; the first was the Salty Fucus Luscious Body Scrub and Massage (85 minutes, £80).
Sara collected me from the relaxation room and explained the various stages of the treatment. I changed into paper underwear and lay on my back to start. Sara rubbed essential oils of basil, lime and lemongrass on her hands and asked me to inhale the scent with three deep breaths. Sara then cleansed my feet, wiped them with hot mitts, and covered them with towels.
She then rubbed a warm mixture of sea salt, seaweed and oil into my skin. The salt is coarse and the feeling was more abrasive than any other body scrub I have had. But I loved it. My skin could surely no longer harbour a single dead cell!
Sara turned on the shower in the corner of the room, where I rinsed off the salt. I changed into clean paper underwear and lay back on the bed, face down.
Sara again asked me to inhale the same essential oils from her hands. She then began a wonderful rhythmical body massage, where she worked into the tight muscles in my neck and shoulder blades. When I turned over, she placed a mask over my eyes then worked on my legs and arms.
Afterwards, the skin on my body was soft and moisturised and I was very deeply relaxed.
Sara was also the therapist for my Marine Radiance Facial (55 minutes, £65). Lucky me, she has magic hands! Sara again cleansed my feet and wiped them with hot mitts.
The facial began with a cleanser for dry and dehydrated skin. For the second cleanse, Sara used a wax-based product for mature skin. After toning my skin, she exfoliated using a Voya product with crushed sea shells, which felt perfectly gentle.
Sara toned my skin again before applying a massage serum. She used a freestyle technique, stroking and massaging my face in a way that I never wanted to end.
Next, a gel mask for dry skin. Voya is a brand that uses Irish marine products, so what better to cover the face than thick strips of Irish seaweed? The seaweed's high concentration of minerals enhances the benefits of the mask. Sara had checked that I was not claustrophobic as the dark strips are placed across your face and block the light. They also smell very pungently – of seaweed! – making for an authentic marine experience. While the gel mask and seaweed worked their magic, Sara massaged my scalp with slow, strong movements which was deeply relaxing.
Sara toned my skin once more before applying eye cream and moisturiser. I vaguely heard her tell me that the treatment was finished but I couldn't move a muscle. I had completely drifted away.
The Marine Radiance Facial promises "instantly firmed and tightened skin with a natural radiant glow" and my skin had a lovely fresh glow afterwards.
The treatment menu continues the marine theme with the totally indulgent two-hour Ocean Breeze top-to-toe treatment. You can try a variety of massages, wraps, scrubs, manicures and pedicures, as well as complementary therapies such as reflexology. There are specific treatments for mums-to-be or new mums, too.
St Brides is a spa hotel and guests can wander from spa to restaurant in their robes quite happily. If you are visiting for a spa day, you eat at the Gallery Restaurant where you can gaze from the floor-to-ceiling windows over the bay and harbour below. On warmer days, you can eat outside on the terrace. Lunch is included in some spa-day packages but, if not, the menu is reasonably priced. Choose from smoked chicken or salmon salads, or more substantial choices such as forest mushroom risotto or eggs benedict.
Dinner options include the same stunning views from the Cliff Restaurant with a menu that changes daily to showcase the freshest local produce. The buffet breakfast is in the Gallery restaurant, where you can once again feast your eyes on the on the views.
We loved / We didn't loveWe loved
Who do you think would like it?
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
We gave St Brides Spa a Good Spa Guide rating of 5 bubbles. St Brides is a unique spa which has embraced all things marine. The spa delivers a very intimate, friendly and stylish spa experience. If you love the sea, you will love St Brides.
Source: Good Spa Guide, February 2015
St Brides Hill, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire SA69 9NH