Scottish legend gets spa

Golf, kilts, whisky, golf, bagpipes, haggis….. golf!

This is the agenda that draws thousands of visitors every year to St. Andrews Scotland.

But a stunning addition to the world-renowned home of golf, the St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Conference Centre, has added some new dimensions to the town’s long-loved images. Along with the largest complex of conference facilities of any hotel in Scotland, incorporating state-of the art technology, it has a luxurious European-style spa.

Perched on 520 acres, high atop a spectacular cliff formation, four kilometers from the centre of town, the resort offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the River Tay estuary, the North Sea, the Fife countryside and the town’s mediaeval skyline.

Discovering the rich tapestry of the town is a treat all on its own. A walled city since the 12th century, there are historic buildings to explore, quiet tree-lined streets to walk, charming houses and a plethora of quaint shops to enjoy. There are probably more golf shops here than you’ll find anywhere else – and the British Museum of Golf. Scenes from Chariots of Fire were filmed at one of the town’s two beaches. The town even comes complete with a castle and a resident ghost.

In addition to the 15,000 residents, 6,500 students attend the country’s oldest university founded in 1410. Rumour has it that applications from North American female students have tripled since Prince William enrolled last year.

But let’s get back to the resort and its spa.

The spacious Chateau Élan Spa is divided into four areas. An open reception area features a mini boutique that sells – you guessed it – golf clothes, but also workout wear and the wonderfully scented British aromatherapy Elemis products used in treatments.

Then there’s an 18m-heated indoor pool and children’s splash pool, a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms. Three qualified fitness instructors staff a gym with the obligatory cardiovascular and weight-training equipment. Personal fitness programs can be arranged and nutritional advice is available for calorie counters.

In contrast to the fitness side of things, the treatments areas are tucked away in a haven of tranquility. Body and beauty treatments include deep cleansing facials with Eastern massage, paraffin and aromatherapy wraps and colour therapy massage in a hydrotherapy bath imported from Australia. As underwater jets infused with essential oils massage your entire body, the water changes colour to correspond to one of the body’s seven charkas or energy centres.

Opened in June 2001, the building has been designed with front-facing guest rooms that look out on the town while conference rooms are secluded at the back. Guest rooms contain all the standard amenities one has come to expect from a five star hotel including baby-sitting services and in-room entertainment with CD-rom /DVD movies. Three restaurants offer a range of dining options and there are two championship, links-style golf courses.

No surprise that a customized Golfers Revival is one of the most popular treatments offered. If you are out on the course all day, Claire, the massage therapist will hone in on the inevitable tight spots, then add a relaxing mini facial or the ‘sole delight’ – a gentle foot massage.

“Not everyone wants to come for a facial or treatment,” says spa manager, Mark Perkins. “The trend is beginning to change, but until recently, guys having facials has been unheard of in this country.” So the fitness instructors spend a lot of time in the gym, which serves not only hotel guests, but a private membership of 450 locals.

Wanting to be pampered, Perkins recommended the two and a half hour ‘absolute spa ritual’ which begins with ‘the welcome touch’, a hot lime foot massage. The Japanese Silk Booster Facial followed. The spa brochure promised that it would be ‘a relaxing combination of cleansing, toning, exfoliating along with specialized Eastern massage techniques’ and that it would leave my skin ‘radiant, smooth and bright’. It was and it did! This was followed by a ‘Well-Being Massage’ – an hour and fifteen minutes that was utter bliss. The gentle ting of Tibetan symbols signaled the end of the treatment when it was time to re-enter the real world, relaxed and rejuvenated.

And ready for another round of golf.

Toronto Star November 2, 2002