A Guide to UK Spa Towns
There are few things more quintessentially British than a spa town. Steeped in history, these towns are charming, friendly and bright, with a relaxed atmosphere, reminiscent of the soothing holidays that once took place. They were once a hub of relaxation, but now they're bustling little towns, set to picture-perfect backdrops with fabulous amenities such as boutique shops, bars, restaurants, farmer’s markets, sights to see and things to do. As a result, they’re now in demand for those wanting to escape the big city without losing the convenience they’ve come to expect.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to UK spa towns to help you decide which one is right for you:
Bath has long been considered one of the country’s most stunning towns thanks to its iconic honey-stone Georgian crescents and terraced houses, intertwined with green, open areas.
Discovered by the Romans, its rich history, means it boasts everything culture vultures could want, including small museums, pop-up supper spots and year-round festivals. It’s also awash with high street shops and independent boutiques to satisfy those looking to spend. This pretty appeal means it attracts tourists all year-round so it can get quite busy, especially during peak times, but the influx of visitors simply brings the town to life.
The education system is great in Bath, with two of its state schools, Weston All Saints Church of England Primary School and Beechen Cliff School, being rated among the best in the country by Tatler magazine. The university has a fantastic reputation for both student experience and academia.
The Victorian spa town Harrogate epitomises Englishness. Its main attraction is its quaint centre, alive with stunning colours in spring and summer. What’s more, the stone fronted buildings lining the streets make it feel almost like a Victorian seaside town. The town is known for its fabulous choice of eateries, and there are lots of tucked away delis that are certain to tantalise taste buds.
The famous Turkish baths are the perfect antidote to an afternoon of indulgence. If you fancy something a little more retail-therapy based, Montpellier Quarter is awash with shops and boutiques and is guaranteed to keep keen shoppers busy for hours.
The area boasts a number of great schools, including grammar schools, state and independent, while its close proximity to Leeds, York and Bradford make it the ideal commuter town for jobs in neighbouring cities.
Famous for its Regency architecture and parks, Leamington Spa is reminiscent of the 1920s and undeniably grand. There are plenty of things to do in Leamington Spa, with exciting art galleries, museums and a town library. There’s also the Royal Spa Centre which hosts live shows, including music, theatre and even wrestling.
Thanks to the town being centrally-located, it is popular with UK tourists so can get busy in the summer, but it also means there are plenty of places to escape to easily, thanks to regular trains stopping at the town’s station.
A portion of Leamington Spa schools are rated as some of the best in the UK, with St Anthony's Catholic Primary School achieving an ‘Outstanding’ rating during its last Ofsted inspection. There are also a number of independent schools that have good reputations. It’s also a popular destination with the students of Warwick University. The town is in an ideal location, close to the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham, as well as Coventry and Northampton, so is ideal for commuters.
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Perhaps more famous for being the home of horse racing, Epsom is one of the finest spa towns in the country. Sitting just 15 miles south-west of the capital, it is surrounded by miles of greenbelt so has become a popular destination The town’s shopping is much like you’d expect: a mix of upmarket stores and reasonably priced shops, perfect for an inexpensive treat and weekly essentials.
There are plenty of schools in and around Epsom, as well as nurseries and colleges. Job prospects in the area are good, too – primarily due to its incredible location. Trains from Epsom to Waterloo take around 40 minutes, so commutes are short, making Epsom an attractive, viable alternative to living in the hustle and bustle of London.
Designed as a health resort for wealthy visitors in the 18th century, Cheltenham Spa is today famous for its lively centre. Recently described by the New York Times as a cultural renaissance with many “happening spots”, it has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings.
The town has regular year-round events that attract a whole new generation of visitors, such as the annual Cheltenham Festival series, while art galleries and museums cater for those looking to explore the area’s unique history.
As well as the old, there’s also a wealth of new developments slated to happen over the next few years, with more amenities and houses being built to cope with demand from residents and prospective residents alike. Although many have said it could detract from the historic charm of the town, the new developments will offer even more for the town and create more jobs than ever before.
Malvern's key to its famous lock is its rolling hills that surround the town underneath. The oldest part of Malvern town dates back to 1085. However, it really came into its own when it became a spa town due to the therapeutic qualities attributed to its springs. The pretty town comes to life in the summer, with stunning flowers and plants framing the pretty cottages of the high street. There's plenty to see and do in Malvern, with a local theatre and sports clubs keeping residents interested.
Malvern College is located not far from the town and is one of the leading co-educational independent schools in the country, while a number of academies keep kids engaged from a young age. The town is quite small so most people commute to jobs in Worcester, Cheltenham and Hereford – all of which have good road and rail links.