Health-Giving Thermal Springs in the UK & France
The next three blogs will kick start your new year by offering some insights into the hugely restorative activity of bathing in natural thermal spring water. Read on for tips on where to find the best thermal baths in the UK and further afield.
Thermal bathing and the drinking of thermal spring water has been used globally for millenia to alleviate and heal all sorts of ailments, physical and mental, including stress, anxiety, digestive disorders, rheumatism, migraines and arthritis. You can see results from scientific studies into the effectiveness of ‘thermal medicine’ carried out in France here.
Thermal waters are special because they contain certain useful minerals that act topically and transdermally, getting into our blood stream though our skin. Examples include the antibiotic sulphur, arthritis-soothing sodium chloride and mood stabilising lithium. The buoyancy given to the body in thermal waters reduces the pull of gravity, which gives space to our bones, joints and connective tissues.
The very act of group bathing can be incredibly uplifting, grounding and liberating all at once. Humans have always enjoyed the ritualistic use of water to purify the body and spirit Giving yourself the space to relax with others in thermal waters seems to tap into a very ancient and grounding sense of group ritual and healing. Furthermore, in certain countries such as Hungary, bathing in the nude is completely normal and accepted, and can be humbling and hugely liberating.
Looking this month at the best thermal spas in the UK and our neighbour France, let’s start with the UK’s very own Bath Spa, the only thermal spa complex in the country. This well known Roman spa was opened to the public in 2006 and is currently undergoing a makeover until Spring. You can still access the spa though, including the 12th Century Cross Bath, the drinking fountain, and the beautiful Rooftop and Minerva pool with massage jets, all of which are fed by Bath’s mineral-rich thermal waters. A day pass costs £35 or if you can’t get enough you can stay at the Gainsborough Hotel for a newly opened spa also fed by the thermal waters.
Now that you are hooked on thermals, head to the Southern reaches of France for some of the best thermal spas in the country. Vichy has been renowned since Roman times for its healing waters and recommends a minimum of 3 days of spa therapy complete with doctors, restaurant, hotel and all the spa treatments you could possibly imagine.
Aix-les-Bains in the Massif national park recommends a minimum of 6 days of spa therapy but also offers a day spa access for 30 euros in February and March, onto which you can add all sorts of skin, hydro and respiratory treatments.
Heading southwest you could stop by the baths at Bagnols-les-Bains that have been used for healing since the 7th Century, before heading further south to the Pyrenees, home to the Bains de Dorres and Amelie-les-Bains. Bains de Dorres is a small, simple complex with entry at just 5 euros that includes access to a museum about the area. Amelie-les-Bains offers various different spa packages from a half-day to 18 days, you need to inquire into pricing before arrival.
Next month we will be traveling East to explore thermal spas in Italy and Hungary.
Guest Blogger: Nina Brown
Nina Brown is the founder of Tandem Collective (www.tandemcollective.org) and editor at InTandem Publications (intandempublications.com). Tandem aims to bring environmental issues to a broader audience through the arts.