Last Saturday it was finally time for a day I'd been waiting for for months - my gran and I were booked in to the Macdonald Marine Hotel and Spa in North Berwick for an afternoon of spa treatments and afternoon tea. When the lovely PR had got in touch - an age ago - it had been one thing after another with trying to get a time that we could both go together, and I was more than ready for a massage to make me stop walking about with my shoulders at my ears.
Being from Glasgow, we had to take two trains over to North Berwick - a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh and one from Edinburgh over to North Berwick. To allow for anything going wrong we arrived really early but we needn't have, as the hotel is less than 10 minutes from North Berwick station. There's also no need to worry about looking for it - it's a very straight forward case of walking down one road till you come to it. We're planning to go back and book in for a weekend stay, and even with luggage I think it'll be a really easy walk.
It's also a really lovely walk - everything in North Berwick looks like it's straight out of an Enid Blyton book. The hotel manager told us a little bit of history about the place, and how back in the day you'd get academics and business people from the city coming out to North Berwick to take the sea air - and the place still seems like that. It seems locked in a place in history that it's never moved from - in the best and most charming of ways.
We settled ourselves in the bar with a drink and enjoyed the pretty spectacular view for a while. There was a menu with a couple of different food options on, all of which sounded lovely, but we were saving ourselves for our afternoon tea so we resisted - something for next time, after all. I definitely recommend a little drink in the bar pre-treatment though, it's the perfect way to slip into the tranquility of the place and get you in that relaxed state before you make your way downstairs.
Soon enough it was time to leave the views behind and go down the sacred stairs to the blissful hallow that is the spa. The upstairs of the hotel is totally tranquil, but the spa really takes that to a whole new level. All underground and with flickering low lighting (not real candles, so no need to worry about fires!) and the most wonderful, relaxing smell (we were hoping they'd sell their scented candles, but when we asked about it that's how we found out that the lighting wasn't actually real candlelight!) when you step through into the spa corridor you are truly transported somewhere else entirely - physically and mentally.
I had opted for a massage and was asked to fill out a form first of all, which included questions about how I like the pressure of my massage. I like a firm massage, not so I'm in pain but so that I leave feeling like the tension and knots have been worked through, and Eilidh totally delivered that. If you wanted something lighter and more relaxing you can totally ask for that, but something firmer is my personal preference. Eilidh also asked if there were any areas I wanted to concentrate on, so you can definitely tailor it to mainly have attention paid to one place if you've got a specific ache or pain. For me, I had a good old fashioned, cliched, sore back permanently. (And feet, but there's another post coming soon about a little feet treatment I went for recently.) After it I was left feeling like all my tension had really been worked out, and I'm going to make sure to go back for another visit soon for another massage and potentially a facial too - because my gran had the facial and loved it.
As a general rule I don't do facials in spas. I just kind of feel like I own all the skincare products at home and there's enough info on the old YouTubes to tell me who to massage my face for drainage or whatever if I really can be bothered making the effort (it hasn't happened yet, but one day I'll make it and become One Of Those People) so if I'm going for a facial I want to really feel like something has been done to my face. Whilst my gran and I may have different standards of what we expect from facials, and just to be clear I am reporting up on this based on her experience as I didn't have one myself, she did say she felt like she really had had something done to her skin - and I can confirm she was pretty radiant and glow-y afterwards.
What really hooked me in though was that she mentioned that her therapist had been able to correct a blockage in her ear through placing pressure on different areas of her nose and face. That to me, is when you know you're dealing with someone who knows what they're doing - this isn't just someone who can slap on a facemask you can buy to use at home and rub your shoulders a bit, this is someone who knows the anatomy of the face, who knows how the face and the ears connect and how to fix a blockage in an ear by applying pressure to particular areas of the face. Yes, I'm sure I could also probably learn that from YouTube too, but, let's be honest, I'm not going to. I might one day learn about facial massage for making my face look less puffy and encouraging radiance, but I'm probably never going to get all involved in the anatomy of pressure points and stuff. Quite frankly, if I was going to do that, I'd be wanting to learn about reflexology!
After our treatments we were given a tour of the spa facilities (indoor and outdoor pools, outdoor jacuzzi and multiple steam rooms, saunas and ice rooms - I'll tell you more about that on my next visit because neither of us took swimming costumes and made use of the facilities this time!) and then it was time to head up to our afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea was served in the restaurant which boasted some of the same views as the bar earlier - although slightly further along. We were treated to a window seat, but they're more limited in the restaurant so the bar give you more choice and gives you better odds of a ringside look at the view.
The afternoon tea was lovely, kicked off with a glass of champagne each and, just as our stand with our sandwiches and treats arrived, so did a wedding party who were out to get their pictures taken in the gardens below. To have this place as the backdrop to your wedding pictures would be amazing, the views really are breathtaking and everything about North Berwick as a town was so adorable - it's definitely somewhere I'd consider for the big day.
I was trying not to seem too much like I was taking pictures of the wedding, so I snapped the photos of the afternoon tea as quickly as possible, but I needn't have bothered. There restaurant was mainly perpetuated by spa day-ers like ourselves and as soon as there was a mention of a wedding outside flocks of women in bathrobes emerged to take a peek at the beautiful bride - so I don't think I'd have got that much attention snapping away with my camera if they'd looked up!
The afternoon tea itself was lovely - but so filling! We were really glad we hadn't decided to have something earlier before our treatments as we couldn't even finish everything that was on the stand. There were some lovely sandwiches with the usual traditional fillings (you can't improve on the classics!) and FOUR scones. FOUR. That was a whole two scones with jam and cream each, which neither of us needed obviously, but you can bet we had them! Sorry Slimming World!
In addition to the sandwiches and scones there was also a selection of cakes on the top tier. By this time I really was feeling quite defeated so I only had half of each of the cakes (just in the scientific interest of being able to write about them for you guys, obviously!) but they were all very nice. The lemon one went down particularly well with my grandmother and the chocolate one was my favourite - totally rich and half of one was definitely enough, but if you like something indulgent then this one ticks all the boxes.
After that, we sadly left the sanctuary of the hotel and wandered down to the local shops before heading for the train back to Edinburgh to begin the journey home - feeling thoroughly more relaxed and at least a dress size bigger than we had on arrival!
What we had was the Escape Afternoon Tea Spa Day Package which includes the use of the spa facilities, a treatment and an afternoon tea, but you can of course book in for just a treatment or just an afternoon tea! If you're going to make the trip though I'd 100% recommend the package - as I've already said we'll certainly be going back and, next time, we'll be booking in to stay for a few nights to get the complete benefit, like those before us, of going to North Berwick to 'take the sea air'.