When you think of a spa, what comes to mind? Ladies lounging in robes sipping herbal tea and getting their nails done? A hushed, feminine world of strewn rose petals and steamy saunas? Ok, so of course there’s an element of all these things in many spa experiences. But, there’s far more to the world of spa than you might think.

Dating back as early as 500BC, spa-ing has long been a popular and effective way of getting clean and getting relaxed. But, traditionally, a spa wasn’t just a place to get a quick wash. For centuries, the communal bath houses of the world have borne witness to the socialisation of all sorts of folks, from paupers to Kings.

In Ancient Greece, social bathing was a popular community pastime, but it wasn’t until the good old Roman Empire that social spa-ing really took off. The Romans took to spa-ing like ducks to water (excuse the pun) and by 25BC, Roman bath houses were the hub of the community. These vast, sprawling buildings often housed gymnasiums, restaurants, theatres, museums and a variety of baths. They provided the common (and noble) Roman with a place to hang out, chat, do business, play sport and get scrubbed up. Even back then, grooming was big business.

Your typical Roman spa experience would usually start with a game of sport, or a work-out in the gym, so was not dissimilar to some contemporary spa trips.

After you’d worked up a bit of a sweat, you’d make your way through a range of thermal experiences. Beginning with a warm room, each subsequent room would increase in temperature. Your journey would finish with a dip in an icy-cold bath, to get your circulation going and cool you down after all that heat. With each room came a different body treatment. You could expect to get bathed, anointed with oils, massaged and exfoliated, and leave cleansed, relaxed and rejuvenated.

In ancient times, all social classes, and both men and women, regularly hung out in spas. At The Good Spa Guide we think that there’s a perfect spa for everyone. Whatever your age, gender or budget, in our experience everyone can enjoy a bit of pampering. The common misconception that the world of spa is one for the ladies is pretty wide of the mark these days. As men are increasingly preoccupied with looking their best (and, believe me gentlemen, us ladies seriously appreciate your efforts) we highly recommend that you lovely chaps get yourselves in on the spa action – if you haven’t already.

We’ve teamed up with the fabulous Gents at Ape to Gentleman to guide you through the wonderful world of spa. There’s nothing we don’t know when it comes to taking to the waters. We’ve tried every pool, bath, treatment and therapy and we like nothing better than waxing lyrical about the good, the bad and the out-of-this-world-amazing.

If you’ve got a question, comment, bugbear or recommendation, we’d love to hear from you. So get involved, get commenting and get on the spa wagon – you’ll be glad you did.

Carrie Barclay
The Good Spa Guide

Location: Thermae Bath Spa
Photos: Matt Cardy & Edmund Sumner