Review: My Bannatyne Spa Day Experience

May 9, 2013

The rigors of daily life can take it’s toll on our bodies especially when combined with stress and aches and pains of illness.  Sometimes a hot bubbly bath doesn’t cut it and as much as I love my relaxing baths by music and candlelight, a day of indulgent, selfish pampering is always up there on my ‘do to’ list.  I’m a big fan of spa days and even though I’ve had the odd massage here and there, it had been a few years since I’d last had a proper body MOT.  

Spas come in various forms: spa centres in their own right, in leisure centres and within leading and boutique hotels.  Four years ago I used the facilities of Hilton Metropole in Birmingham when I was away filming for Brides on a Bus and I remember looking up at the amazing glass roof above the swimming pool as I sat in the bubbling jacuzzi.  I also remember that I wore my Panache Quayside bikini… The point is this: a good spa experience is based upon quality and surpassing of expectation.  

Bannatyne Darlington
Image copyright – Bannatyne

So, today Mr BB and I went for our ‘Look Good, Feel Great’ spa day package – including 1hr full body lava shell massage and 30 min facial – costing £99pp at Bannatyne Health Club & Spa in Darlington.  If you’re interested, I wore my blue Freya Fever bikini.  🙂

Wearing my Freya Fever Bikini

The Spa Day

As we had our treatments booked for 12:30pm we arrived a little while before to check in at reception where we were both given consent forms to fill in and paid £6 for two Bannatyne Spa bags containing slippers and a dressing gown which we’d later return.  They only had medium size gowns behind the desk so the receptionist went to retrieve a large gown for Sean while we completed the forms.  I felt it was a bit cheap asking for a non refundable deposit since we’d already paid so much in advance.  If our package had been a gift to someone, how embarrassing would that be if the giftee found they had to pay out a hidden extra? Once the forms were handed in and we had all we needed we were directed to the spa reception which was just off the main corridor.

Approaching the small spa reception we were provided with another health/consent sheet, the same as before.  Before going in for our treatments I asked if there was a toilet and was told I’d had to go back through to the foyer near the main entrance.  I thought that was a bit silly, if this was a separate division why did the spa not have toilet facilities?  Mr BB and I were asked if we were okay in the same room, which we were, and we were directed into the top room which had the twin treatment beds.  Putting our bags down by the two chairs at the foot of the beds, one of the therapists talked us through the treatments, explaining how the lava shells will feel hot and checking our skin types.

We were left alone to undress to our ‘lower clothing’ and get ourselves on the beds.  We had a giggle figuring out which towels we were supposed to be laying on and which were meant to be over us.  We did notice the poor condition of the beds; the plastic covering was cracked and quite badly worn, especially around the head placement hole.  It was hardly surprising they were covered inches deep in towels!  When the therapists came in and asked us how we were Mr BB joked about getting stressed with the towels which was a funny moment.  

The Treatments
The lava shell massage was an amazing treatment.  The therapist smoothed oil onto an area of the body to be worked and then deeply glided the shells around in therapeutic motions.  The first sensation of the shells was a surprise as the heat was initially very hot, though I quickly acclimatized to the temperature.  Starting on my back the therapist worked the shells into my muscles, easing out aches and knots right down to my toes.  I felt the pressure was really good, considering I have fibromyalgia and can be sensitive to certain touches and I felt incredibly relaxed.  This doesn’t mean that the experience was a peaceful one, because that it so was not.  I think the therapist was being over zealous with the oil on Mr BB which at times had me stifling the urge to laugh over the squelching, almost sexual sounds.   She dropped the shells a few times too which made me wonder, did she clean them before applying them to Mr BB’s body again?  It would also have been impossible to fall asleep in any state of relaxation because of the drone of cars and lorries passing by outside, and then there was the shrill police car flying by.  Ah, the peace and tranquility of being in the middle of town.

Lava Shell Massage
Image copyright – Bannatyne
When our treatments came to an end (heralded by the ‘ting’ of little cymbals) we felt relaxed albeit greasy and peaved by the traffic noises.  The therapists told us about the products they used, obviously in the hope of an up sell.  I wasn’t particularly interested in the products, let alone the deals, and it wasn’t the best selling tactic to diss Nivea who are ‘only a basic brand’ by the therapist’s opinion.  We were asked if we’d like to some water and were given small glasses, and then led out from ‘the spa’ and pointed to the relaxation room and changing rooms.  As we were loaded with our bags we decided to lock up our belongings in the changing rooms (which need a £1 – thank goodness for trolley tokens in my bag) before heading upstairs to the relaxation room.  

The Relaxation Room
Told there would be beds and fruit, I was keen to chill out and recover with a few refreshing nibbles, so I was sooo disappointed when I saw the measly fruit bowl that contained about five forlorn apples accompanied by a small, half demolished vine of grapes.   I took three grapes and hoped they would last.  It was now that I realised my jaw was really hurting and I struggled to open my mouth properly.  I couldn’t figure out why this was until later when I remembered the poorly maintained massage table: it was the worn away hole that my face was pressed into that had put pressure on my jaw.  Y’ouch.  

There were two beds in the relaxtion room, one at either end, which contained a sprawled out woman on each.  I didn’t know what surprised me more, that they strangely looked half dead or that they could actually relax in that noise!  The traffic we heard here was even louder than in our treatment room, it was ridiculous, a complete oxymoron.  We laid down on our heated stone loungers – the heat was goood – and took in the sounds of groaning lorry engines…

The Wet Facilities
We decided it was time to check out the wet facilities so we got changed in our respective changing rooms and met up on the other side by the pools.  The main pool wasn’t anything exciting, just your general 25m swimming pool with lanes cordoned off for hardcore swimmers.  Thankfully the depth was a flat 4m – as I hate deep ends.  I’m the most unconfident swimmer who can’t tread water for the life of me – so that was a huge relief.  Mr BB encouraged me to swim little bits and I eventually felt more confident in the water.  I was surprised I was even able to swim what I did.  Oddly, the pool wasn’t supervised by a lifeguard although there was a camera, not that that could save a life…

The Pool
Image copyright – Bannatyne

The jacuzzi wasn’t overly big but was sufficient size for us and a few others to sit in.  It was gorgeously warm and cosy when the bubbles came on.  I didn’t last long in the steam room.   The heat was overwhelming and combined with the therapeutic scents made my eyes burn so I gave up on that one.  The sauna was much more bearable so we sat in there for a few minutes before going in for a final swim.

The Conclusion
Having arrived at Bannatyne for 12:30, out from our treatments at 2 and left before 4, we didn’t really spend much time there which was disappointing.  It didn’t feel like there was anything to stay for especially since more people starting to enter the pools coming from the gym.  That was the underlining feeling of the whole supposed spa day, it wasn’t a spa day because it wasn’t exclusive.  You knew that because you were using what was really an extension of the gym, you’d paid a premium for the ‘spa’ while the person sat next to you in the sauna was a gym member who’d only turned up five minutes earlier for a quick pump of the iron and a sweat out.  It didn’t feel especially pampering and special because the health club is effectively one big free for all in exchange for a gym pass.  In my opinion, spas are not in the same league as gyms because they’re not for your every day visit, they’re treats and that’s where we both feel let down by Bannatyne’s spa pretense.

Mr Duncan Bannatyne, there is nothing luxurious about a fraying, over washed dressing gown and nothing as cheap so as to charge for its loan.  There’s also nothing relaxing about the sound of passing traffic, whilst I receive a treatment or attempt to relax following it.   Then there’s the recovery refreshments – remember the anorexic fruit bowl?  And there certainly wasn’t anyone serving me a drink as I relaxed (as implied by one of your website photos.)  That’s not a way to make a person feel pampered.

We loved our treatments but the whole experience didn’t feel quality.  The rooms were fairly bare – there certainly were no candles as per website imagery –  and the fact that the walls aren’t properly sound proofed spoils the whole effect. Then your therapist creates a racket by dropping your lava shells.  Twice.  You just can not have noise – traffic or other – in a spa.  Would I go back to Bannatyne?  Most likely not.  The lack of an inclusive lunch and the extras to pay for isn’t particularly pampering.  Also, the facilities don’t compete with rivals at all, where additional therapy rooms, pools and facilities are commonplace.  The value is only in the treatment you’re paying for and sadly the attention to detail in this respect lets the spa down.

Have you been to a Bannatyne Spa?  Noticed a difference between the health club spas and the stand alone spas?  Do you have a favourite go-to spa?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Becky x


  1. The Style Khaleesi

    May 10, 2013 at 2:13 am

    How disappointing! I wanted to book a spa day as a treat for finishing uni but I think I’ll stay clear of my nearest Bannatyne Spa! xxx

  2. Becky Boudoir

    May 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    You should definitely still go for a spa somewhere. If you’re treating yourself you need it to be perfect. I bet you’ll need a good relax after uni life!

    Becky x

  3. Lilia Valle

    November 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    It’s sad to hear that you left the spa unhappy instead of relaxed and pampered. But I still commend you for coming up with a fair review about this spa. Certainly, people go to spas to feel pampered and achieve that much-deserved relaxation from everyday tiring and stressing activities. Well, it’s still great to hear that the treatment itself has been fine.
    Lilia @ LaFleur de Beaute

  4. Adel

    February 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    The bit that bothered me the most is having to pay the non refundable deposit. So many spa days are bought as gifts for other people and it wouldn’t look great if they had to pay for things like that when they arrived.
    My wife and her friends have been to several spas and all really enjoy Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire.

  5. Becky Boudoir

    February 18, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Adel, yes, that deposit was possibly the worst part. The whole idea of spa days, especially like these ones, as made to be given as gifts, and I agree it’s just not right to expect a recipient to pay anything to accept a gift. I’ve heard of Ragdale Hall’s spa so it’s interesting you have a good experience with them also.

    Becky x

  6. Miss Stacey Plumb

    February 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Just goes to show how different some people’s opinions are. My mum and me have just come back from the Chafford Hundred branch and we had an amazing time. Girls were lovely, hot rocks were perfect, facial was amazing and we left a fairly large tip because we enjoyed ourselves so much. As for the “cheap” comments… All I’m going to say is if someone doesn’t want to spend a lousy £6 to hire out robes, I don’t think it’s Mr Bannatyne that is the cheap one here. And I’m not being funny, a lot of people who go to gyms and spa’s are people who like to take care of their bodies and will more than likely be the ones who eat fruit and such things. If you’re not happy about the “serving of drinks”, “the anorexic fruit” and “the people who have come from the gym” (who probably have amazing bodies and deserve to have a relaxation period that they can fit into amongst all the fatties moaning about “being served” and “the fruit”), before moaning about these three stupid things… Number 1: Get up off your lazy arse and get the drinks yourself, Number 2: make a packed lunch full of chocolate, crisps, chips & a kebab so you don’t have to eat the “anorexic fruit” and Number 3: if you don’t want to sit in the sauna with healthy, fit people, march (or drive would probably be the better option for lazy people) over to your nearest MacDonalds where you’ll fit in a treat…

    On the whole Mr Bannatyne, your spas and gyms are amazing, it’s only the fatties that give them bad reviews as they EXPECT more than they ACTUALLY deserve. Lol

    1. @stronglizziemills

      April 15, 2017 at 8:11 am

      Wow, that’s a little rude!
      I know I’m a few years late to the party here, but I just got back from a day at the Bannatyne Spa and really echo Becky’s thoughts! And for the record, I’m an ex anorexic and now I’m a super fit powerlifter with harder abs than anyone else you probably know. I do agree that the hidden charges are a bit of a con, and if I wanted to pay all the money I ended up forking out I could’ve gone to a way better spa! But my friend and I giggled throughout and made the best of every situation! And in regards to the ‘gyms’, they’re average at best.

      As my mum used to say, if you have nothing nice or constructive to say, don’t say anything at all.

  7. Mrs annon

    November 10, 2023 at 9:01 am

    I feel for you Becky, sadly, I think most Bannatyne’s ‘Luxury Spa deals’ are just a rip off! I must say though, in your pictures it doesn’t look half as bad as the solihull branch. Here is my experience:

    I was bought a really thoughtful gift by my daughter for my 60th birthday of a Luxury Spa Day with 3 treatments, a £10.00 voucher and £15.00 retail voucher also a pamper eye massage to take home. Sounded perfect.

    I contacted the Spa a couple of days prior to my arrival to ask what the treatments would be as I would not be able to have any facial treatments due to the fact that I had undergone a procedure on my face to remove a cancerous growth just a few days previously, I was not aware I would be called in for this at the time of booking as I was contacted last minute by the hospital as they had a cancellation which I could not turn down as it would have meant going back onto the waiting list. The person I spoke to told me he couldn’t tell me what the treatments would be as he didn’t know, he said it would be whatever the Wowcher deal included (not very helpful but I thought all the treatments would be good so wasn’t too concerned as a proper spa would have been able to offer me many other treatments). I was told a note would be made of my call and I would be offered appropriate treatment on the day. I was not advised to re-book and was given the impression that the date could not be cancelled at this short notice.

    I was really looking forward to a nice relaxing pamper day, sitting in lovely surroundings, possibly with a nice drink in hand, nice relaxing treatments in wonderful surroundings, stress free and to coming out totally chilled. Unfortunately, the reality was nowhere near the expectation, in fact, the complete and total opposite. I should have realised this on arrival where you are greeted with an abrupt threatening sign warning that no glass and no phones allowed and that they would fine you £1,000.00 if found with one anywhere near pool, not a good first impression.

    When my friend and I turned up on the day the immediate reaction was not a good one, it did not remotely look like a Spa location but more like a gym. The reception area was a desk just inside the door cramped into a small space next to a small café off which there were a couple of tired looking sofas, this was the ‘waiting area’ everyone sitting in robes in plain view of the car park. The seating was very limited and very packed. The receptionist did not explain anything to us about our treatments or anything about the facilities, she was very flustered due to the volume of customers. I once again asked what the treatments were and was told it was a facial, head massage and neck and shoulder massage. I once again explained the I couldn’t have a facial (it was quite obvious as I still had dressing on my face) and asked what alternatives I could have, she looked blankly at me and then said ‘I suppose you could have an arm or leg rub’ my reaction was WHAT!!!!! SERIOUSLY!!!! I then asked if I could have pedicure, she thought about it for a while and then said I suppose so to which I said so could I get a manicure and another treatment to make my three treatments? The answer she gave was a categorical NO! my reply was that surely just a pedicure didn’t constitute 3 treatments? She said the 3 treatments were only mini treatments (is there such a thing as a luxury mini treatment? Definitely did not state this on Wowcher) not sure what her reasoning was as to how a pedicure was the value of 3 treatments – mini or not but I had lost the will to live by then and thought at least my feet would get pampered, I had already lost all the joy and expectation of a wonderful day by this point. So; my friend and myself changed into our swimming suits and dressing gowns and we were told to go and wait by manicure room. After sitting in a draughty corridor for 20 minutes right outside a noisy class, a girl arrived and took me into a dingy room and asked to pick a nail colour (I was not allowed the gel ones, only the cheap bog standard stuff) I was looking around for the nice comfortable chair with foot soak/massage bath but all that was in the room was an old treatment bed so high you needed to be a pole vaulter just to get on it! To my disbelief she asked me to lie back on the bed and pull my legs up so my feet were flat on the bed (not a comfortable position, bit like going for gynaecological examination ) she then just proceeded to just paint my nails (not looking at me or even making any polite conversation) then said I was finished, must have taken all of 10 mins, was I missing something? Did that constitute a Pedicure? Did my daughter really pay £64.00 just for me to have my nails painted with a cheap nail varnish?? I was then told to wait in ‘relaxation room’ and she just went to walk out (leaving me still on bed with wet nails) I had to tell her I didn’t know where the relaxation room was so she said I am going upstairs follow me, I had to try and jump off the bed and scramble to put my flip flops on as she was not waiting. I got to the relaxation room which turned out to be a small room with tired old wicker beds, one of which was broken in the middle, there were no refreshments in the room apart from a small jug of water which looked like it had been sitting there a long time and some used paper cups. Needless to say, I did not relax in this room. I went downstairs to the toilets (again, definitely not luxurious to say the least) and just hung around for 5 minutes until my friend was finished with her ‘treatments’ which consisted of a bit of oil on her face and hair line. During her treatment she was actually ‘advised’ not to try and sit by the pool as the locals were ‘very clicky’ and would not make us welcome. We were so disappointed and disheartened by then that we just decided to leave as there was no-where to sit and relax which was the whole point of the day. All in all, we spent a total of under an hour there, mainly sitting waiting for someone to come and collect us, there is absolutely no way you could spend any longer there. Not so much for Luxury Pamper Day as nightmare 50 minutes.

    I got changed and waited for my friend to shower before we left as her ‘treatment’ had left her with oil in her hair, this was yet another show of how absolutely shockingly bad the facilities at Bannatyne’s are. The showers had plastic curtains (this can’t be hygienic as they must be a breeding ground in warm damp areas for mould) and the water stopped every couple of minutes meaning you had to continually press the button, obviously to make showering as unpleasant as possible to ensure you don’t stay in too long. Oh how different this was to my last spa day (not Bannatyne’s!) where the showers had a whole host of rainforest showers where you could even have thunder and lightning if you so wished. Even my local council gym has better facilities than this. We stopped at reception to hand my friends hire robe back in, having to wait as another group of unsuspecting victims, oops! I mean Spa Day guests, were waiting to book in. When I eventually got to speak to the receptionist I asked her if she thought slapping a bit of polish on my toe nails was value for money to which she just kept on about mini treatments, no concept of what I was saying, even if I had had 3 mini treatments it would not have been a good value and definitely not a spa experience. I asked about the promised £10.00 voucher which apparently you had to spend on another treatment (joke, couldn’t even get the ones that were paid for) and about the £15.00 retail voucher which apparently was to spend in the Spa (nothing to buy! I did see some random Elemis boxes lying around. Also worth noting – you would think because you see Elemis boxes that this is what will be used with your treatments but in small print it says you may not! This has got to be false advertising.) and then I asked about the eye mask which she pulled from under the desk and begrudgingly gave me, I certainly wouldn’t been given it if I hadn’t asked, again, this just turned out to be a cheap looking packet mask which you could get from any retailer. After coming to a stale mate where I could tell no refund or even partial refund would be offered, or even an apology for our experience, the receptionist said if I wasn’t happy I could e-mail the manageress and gave me a generic e-mail address to write to.

    To add insult to injury, when I looked at my voucher again it actually stated that this experience should have cost £175.20 (not sure what the 20p is for) Not sure how they came to that specific figure but £0.20p is more like what the value should be. I think Bannatyne’s should be renamed Turpin’s – as it is absolute daylight robbery! Saying you are going to Bannatyne’s for a Luxury Spa is like saying you are going to a Michelin star restaurant and ending up down your local greasy spoon. Save yourself the time, money and hassle and do not buy this voucher. Bannatyne’s – know your limitations and stop offering these ‘Luxury Pamper Days’ when you are quite clearly just a budget gym.

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