I’m smitten with Blythswood Square’s spa menu at first sight. Signature Turus treatments with “indigenous Scottish ingredients”? Sign me up. I suddenly see my skin buffed to a Tilda Swinton shine with a highland heather scrub. Better yet, I’m soaking in Glenlivet next to Ewan McGregor. Maybe there’ll be shortbread involved. After a wee tutorial with spirited spa staff, I learn that Turus means “journey” in Gaelic and that the most clucked-about treatment here is the Turus Seaweed Bath.
This revitalized Glasgow landmark is now one of the best new city hotel spas in Britain, offering a sensory experience with a muted, monochromatic palette of natural stone, regal Calacatta marble and dark oak. Scotland’s rich textile heritage is celebrated with creative use of Harris tweed on accents ranging from luxurious floor-length curtains to bespoke lampshades, chairs and ottomans.
A stylishly uniformed attendant leads me to a private bathing suite and invites me to relax in fresh seaweed from the Hebridean coast. Submerged, with just my wee nose hovering over the waterline, I’m pleased by the smell of fresh salt air, rather than the brine-soaked slaw I’d feared. The hot bath is infused with mineral sea salts and Scottish seaweed.
The Scots have enjoyed the benefits of seaweed from the Scottish islands for hundreds of years. Naturally moisturizing and anti-aging, it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-cellulite properties.
Blythswood is spread over two floors, covering an impressive 10,000 square feet. Amenities include nine luxury treatment rooms, an extensive thermal suite, two relaxation pools, a relaxing lounge and café.
A must-try prelude to your treatment? The Blythswood Thermal Experience, a seven-stage journey of alternating temperature experiences to sooth, relax and detoxify the body prior to spa treatments or as a restorative therapy. The menu also features Britain’s first indigenous Scottish treatments designed in conjunction with luxury organic skin-care house, Ila. The hotel is the grandest anchor in a large square lined with Georgian townhouses built for shipping magnates at the turn of the 19th century. Much later, the area became known as a base for the city’s sex trade.
Now, Glasgow’s newest five-star hotel (which was the headquarters for the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in 1910 and a starting point for the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally) is as prim and well-dressed as it gets, though the hotel’s designers donned a discreet red-shaded light into each front window, a cheeky nod to the square’s colourful past. The marble-clad reception leads to a grand staircase, while old lift shafts have been converted into canoodling corners – padded in plush red velvet, creating sensual spots for lingering couples. I admire how the hotel is designed to feel essentially Scottish, celebrating the creativity of contemporary Scotland without verging on biscuit-tin tartanalia.
The Spa at Blythswood Square Hotel at 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow; 44-141-240-1666; www.townhousecompany.com; $40 for 30 minutes.
Special to The Globe and Mail