I've just got back from Tresco, a pristine and beautiful island in the Isles of Scilly, which enjoy more sunshine than anywhere else in the UK. Its giant trees, tropical vegetation, ruined castles and piles of colourful, cubist rocks made me feel like I was somewhere a lot more exotic than old Blighty. I was there to check out a small spa which opened earlier this year at the posh and contemporary Flying Boat Club, built on the site of the old air station from which sea planes flew in the First World War.
There's an indoor swimming pool with back jets at one end, a small gym, and a separate area with a Jacuzzi, simple sauna and steam room. It's a calming environment, though the steam room could do with an infusion of something head-clearing such as salt or eucalyptus oil and I can't wait for the day that Jacuzzis around the world all use chemical-free cleaning products. From April to October, an extensive range of relaxing signature facials and massages with the remarkably clean and luscious ila products are on offer at the club. I had an especially good 2-hour-long "ila experience", which treats the whole body to a salt scrub, massage and facial. Ila's creator, Denise Leicester, is exceptional at inventing strokes and techniques to send you into a blissful, dreamlike state.
Hearing her voice on the CD that plays through every ila treatment also helps, and it doesn't feel like an ego-trip because of the calm beauty of each note. I'd really like to meet her. If you're here in the off-season, independent therapist Joan Shiles offers holistic therapies and massage from her home at The Therapy Shed or inside your holiday cottage all year round. We stayed at Fearless, one of the club's 12 uncluttered and colourful beachfront cottages.
Our gorgeous pink and purple double room had buttermilk wood-panelled walls, hand made mirrors and original artwork on the walls. The view across the sea and over to Bryher was exceptional. Bryher is another off-island, and it bears the brunt of the weather so that Tresco can stay green and calm. After it, there's nothing except ocean until you reach New York. Which felt delicious. The cottage sleeps six, and our friends were game enough to use the two small twin rooms at the back of the house, which look over the club house and spa. We played cards and ate out on the sundeck, which has steps down to the beach. Oak flooring, log-burning stoves, and well-equipped kitchens mean you'll be comfy here whatever time of year you visit.
The club has a good restaurant and bar, and tennis and golf facilities, but for us it was the island itself that nourished. It's two miles long by one mile wide, and car-free apart from Tresco Estate vehicles. There's a breathtaking range of light that's inspired many an artist, and a real sense of peace. We found lovely, easy walks from which spectacular views of the sea and off-islands were never far away. The beaches were idyllic, with clear blue waters and the softest white sand.
The island has been leased by the Dorrien-Smith family from the Duchy of Cornwall for years, and the family run almost everything you see. Stay at any of the Tresco Estate properties and you'll have access to the club as well as unlimited entry to the inspirational Abbey Gardens. Options include the Island Hotel, where we enjoyed a good dinner one night, and the more affordable New Inn on the seafront. There's just one shop on the island, which is well stocked with local and organic fare, including Tresco reared grass fed beef and decent wines, though prices are inflated, so bring staples.
I'm already planning my visit back, when for more privacy I intend to rent one of Estates' holiday cottages, many of which are timeshare weeks that the owners can't use. I'll definitely return for lunch to the more contemporary Hell Bay hotel on Bryher, a short boat ride away - if you fancy staying here, there's a wilder feel to this island, and the hotel has its own small outdoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. If you'd like to experience Tresco in a different way, well-run Andalucian Adventures organise an inventive botanical painting holiday here, and Swim Trek do an Isles of Scilly trip which includes a swim to the island. As for me, I'll be returning to do absolutely nothing.
Caroline Sylger-Jones is the author of Body & Soul Escapes, a travel resource book of over 450 places around the globe where you can replenish mind, body and soul. Her second book, Body & Soul Escapes: Britain & Ireland will be published late November. @email:www.carolinesylge.com