Queen of Retreats founder Caroline Sylger Jones and her team explore spas of all kinds around the globe – this week she brings you La Butte aux Bois, a country hotel and spa in Belgium
Nature provides a fantastic workout terrain for visitors to La Butte aux Bois, a Belgian country house hotel and spa which sits on the fringes of a national park and forest, close to the Dutch border and just five kilometres from the cultural capital of Maastricht. Originally built as a home for a Belgian nobleman, it has long been a plush pampering destination and now they’ve added a striking new spa and two new wings of rooms.
Originally built as a home for a Belgian nobleman, it has long been a plush pampering destination
You wouldn’t immediately look at this rustic Relais & Châteaux retreat and think, ‘Ah what we need here is a few imposing brutalist blocks’, but that’s what they’ve done and actually, it really does work, adding an instant ‘wow’ factor in contrast to the original 1924 Manoir. And there are other bold touches with giant Triffid-like tulip lights popping up from the zingy green Astroturf of the central terraces like something from a fantasy fiction novel.
In the 1350 sq metre spa, with its indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, signature treatments using La Forêt by Dr Bullens are grouped around five principles: Reenergising, Reharmonising, Refreshing, Regeneration and Recovering. Don’t miss the La Forêt ‘Dance of Healing and Harmony’ (€149 Euros for 85 mins), where, unusually, the therapist uses her forearms, for a deep sweeping massage, while calming forest music tinkles away in the background. Then the Anti-Ageing facial (€119 for 90mins), by Dr Bullens, using algae, thermal water and hyaluronic acid, leaves skin plump as a baby’s bottom. For those in search of an instant makeover, there are more medical beauty boosts, like Botox, administered by Dr Bullens, who at 50, is an enticingly elegant ad for her products.
‘Breathe’ urge the notices everywhere in the hotel
‘Breathe….’ urge the notices everywhere in the hotel and indeed you come here to switch off but there are also plenty of activities for an action-packed weekend. You can feel the burn on of 160km of mountain bike trails with six different courses in the Hoge Kempen National Park, popular with likes of Tour De France champions. They also offer one-on-one personal training (€40 for 25mins) and private yoga. The Head trainer, Ingmar Harthoorn, a former golf pro, took us for a bootcamp run by the lake, mixing up exercises with intervals of jogging.
Whatever you do you’ll want to build up an appetite so that you can really enjoy the hotel’s Michelin starred La Source restaurant, where the tasting menu – eight courses no less – is an incredible treat. Local Belgian dishes are served in the Le Bistrot and spa cuisine is offered at lunch time (€30 for the set spa menu) though La Butte is geared up for gastronomy rather than weight loss.
We were in one of the new Experience rooms with a sexy double rainforest shower and free standing bed in the middle of the room. It’s all brand spanking new, and at the time of visiting, the landscaping was something of a work in progress, with muddy hillocks blighting an otherwise perfectly nice outlook, although we were assured it will all be green and vibrant very soon.
The new Experience rooms feature a sexy double rainforest shower and a free standing bed in the middle of the room
You’d need to come for a long weekend to really make the most of La Butte, though it’s not hard to get here from London, a short flight from Heathrow, then a one-hour drive from a choice of different airports: Brussels in Belgium, Antwerp in Holland, and Dusseldorf or Cologne in Germany.
20 new La Forêt Rooms from €325 per night based on two sharing on a room only basis, breakfast is €25 per person. Double rooms are also available in the Manoir and the Villa buildings with prices from €218 including breakfast.
The Domaine is a member of Austria’s respected Niche Destinations portfolio (niche-destinations.com).
(labutteauxbois.be / +32 89 739 770)
Caroline Sylger Jones is an author and freelance journalist who travels the world checking out spas, retreats and healthy holidays for international newspapers, glossy magazines and websites. She is the founder and director of wellness travel site Queen of Retreats.
Follow on Twitter: @QueenOfRetreats
Follow on Facebook: @QueenOfRetreats
Follow on Instagram: @QueenOfRetreats
For more wellness travel ideas check out Caroline’s brilliant site Queen of Retreats, a curated collection of retreats brought to you by trusted writers and wellbeing buffs at www.queenofretreats.com.