Trying out the UK's first swim-up bar - and it's not too far away either
Swim-up bars may seem mutually exclusive with the UK, giving Britain's inclement weather and propensity for sudden showers.
You might associate them more with the Caribbean or the Costa del Sol, or the extravagant cruise ships that sail around the world.
And yet Alsager in east Cheshire, a charming little town reminiscent of Kate Winslet's in The Holiday, is the home of the UK's first swim-up spa bar.
Independent family-owned hotel, the Manor House, has undergone a 12-month redevelopment and emerged with a whole new luxury indoor spa and outdoor spa garden, boasting a unique array of spa experiences.
The outdoor vitality pool complete with swim-up bar is the jewel in the sparkling crown of the new facilities. Step into its perfectly heated water while admiring the picturesque country garden around you and the whirls of mist dancing in the winter air.
The pool is lined with underwater benches, meaning you can sit or lie all day in the bubbling water, admiring the view, and just a few paddles takes you to the bar where you can order whichever cocktail, hot or soft drink which takes your fancy.
It means the pool is the perfect place to relax, unwinding on its luminous rainbow-coloured tiles. There's no need to cling to the edge of the pool or perch on the edge.
However, if you do want a break from the pool, the spa is dotted with gorgeous hanging beds, so you can swing to your heart's content while sipping on a cocktail or reading your favourite book.
Inside the complex, there's an ever bigger indoor pool which is perfect for swimming, overlooked by large skylights which flood the Pool House with natural light. I lay on my back, staring up through the roof as snowflakes curled towards me, all while submerged in beautifully warm water.
My favourite part of the spa, however, was its Table Top Hydrotherapy Tub - an effortlessly chic circular jacuzzi embedded into the ground, which produced an almost absurd mountain of frothy bubbles.
Kicking my legs out, I felt effortlessly relaxed and happy as the bubbles foamed around me, while admiring the beautiful country garden spa. Sipping at my drink, I couldn't bear to drag myself out of the water, even though it had begun to snow.
Another great aspect of the Manor House spa is that it has an array of different saunas and experiences to try, meaning you're not resigned to the same pool or sauna for the entirety of your day. There's a thrum of excitement threaded throughout the day as you try to decide what to do next.
Guests get their own thirty minute Salt Shed Experience, entering a chamber infused with salt and essential oils to benefit the respiratory system, skin, and mind.
A guided meditation plays while you and your guests lie back on the benches, and both my mom and I were so relaxed we quickly fell asleep. After reading other reviews of the experience online, I know we're not alone.
There's also a herbal sauna heated to 70°s, which claims to be perfect for deep muscle relaxation. Meanwhile, the Salt Steam Chamber, a humid cabin filled with billowing steam infused with salt and essential oils, is said to have health benefits for the respiratory system and the skin.
My mum in particular loved the Salt Steam Chamber, despite being hesitant to go in because of her asthma. However, she was thrilled to find herself able to breathe more easily in the chamber, which had a lasting benefit in the days after we left the spa.
She also noticed a remarkable change in her ability to smell, leading her to believe the chamber helped to clean out her system. Surely there's no higher praise than that?
For adrenaline-seekers, there's a test of endurance in the form of an icy plunge bath. It looked deceptively inviting and I was tempted to take the plunge, but as the temperature spiralled towards zero, I settled at just grazing the icy surface with my fingers. Another time, I vowed. Another time.
After a perfect day of enjoying the spa facilities, we were then treated to a facial. I chose the My Kinda Skin facial, where the spa therapist tailors a treatment specifically to your skin, while my mom decided on the All About The Glow - Vitamin C Radiance Workout.
This was a glorious way to finish the day, peaceful, relaxing, and utterly indulgent. I never wanted that precious hour to end. However, the promise of food was on the horizon, and we eagerly headed off to dinner.
The Manor has its own AA Rosette restaurant in the form of The Stables Bar and Grill. Set in a 17th-century farmhouse, the restaurant is divided over two floors, meaning in the day there is a floor for spa guests in their robes, and a floor for guests just visiting the restaurant or hotel.
For lunch, I'd enjoyed a sweet potato and sage risotto, which was succulent and rich in flavour, before treating myself to a chocolate brownie and a glass of Prosecco. Meanwhile, my mom loved the Chicken Supreme before finishing off a sprinkle-topped Boozy Trifle.
For dinner, she went for the salmon gravlax to start, which came in a delicious blood orange and sloe gin dressing. She then had the traditional roast turkey for lunch, accompanied by sage and onion stuffing, thyme roast potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, sprouts, pigs in blankets, and pan gravy.
I went for the wild mushrooms and spinach to start, served on a toasted brioche with tarragon cream sauce and parmesan - and it was divine. I cannot stress enough that this starter was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.
For main, I enjoyed a cheese and onion pie, alongside one of my all-time favourite foods: truffle and parmesan fries, before finishing up with decadent chocolate profiteroles for dessert.
Every dish we had was exquisite and I was incredibly tempted to ask for the wild mushrooms twice over. We finished off the trip with an overnight stay in one of the hotel's stylish four poster rooms - the perfect end to a perfect day.
The facilities here at the Manor House are quite simply, stunning. Everything is classy and chic, seemingly designed with the Instagram generation in mind. While having the time of your life, you also want to make sure you've taken pictures of everything so you have a reminder of how gorgeous everything looks.
It's also the perfect place to block out the rest of the world and simply enjoy spending time with your loved ones. This is an experience worth sharing that left us with incredible memories.
The Manor House Hotel is located in the tranquil village of Alsager in East Cheshire, close to the M6 and within driving distance of Stoke-on-Trent. Spa day prices start from £95. For more information, go to manorhousealsager.com.