Escape From the City: A Day at St. Anne’s Spa
It seems fitting to travel by train to the spa. The chug-chug-chugging of the wheels beneath one’s feet has a time-honoured way of lulling the body from its city-inspired neurosis to a much calmer state of being. Then again, if your destination is St. Anne’s Spa, three hours outside of Toronto in Ontario’s verdant Northumberland Hills, you’ll achieve that state soon enough – no matter which getaway vehicle you choose.
As we embarked at Via’s Cobourg Station and descended into our waiting stretch van, I felt like a character in a romantic comedy. You know the type: somewhat unhinged, harried and forlorn, she escapes the city bustle for some much-needed respite and country air. She then finds true love, trades in her Bay Street office to run a burrito truck and lives happily ever after. But I digress.
One thing’s for sure: boasting 500 acres of pure escapism, St. Anne’s is the destination of choice for those looking to catch one’s breath. Aside from its extensive spa facilities, the property includes an outdoor hydrotherapy facility, a pool, walking trails, even a small farm and stables, where guests can help care for the resident equine family.
The Main Inn offers 16 lovely rooms—many with their own fireplace – while five uniquely designed cottages are spread out across the property for those looking for more privacy. Beautifully appointed, the spa’s historic look and feel is a constant and conscious reminder of its historic beginnings, right down to the restoration of the original stone house built in 1858 by Samuel Massey, the grandson of Canadian pioneers.
|The Frances Anne Hopkins Heritage Suite, meanwhile, where I lay my weary head, was named after an artist who married into Canada’s iconic Hudson Bay Company. Overlooking the grotto below, this third floor suite—with its private staircase, slate flooring, south-facing French balcony, gas fireplace and whirlpool tub—was designed by none other than HBC, an inspiration that explains a dated photograph of the company clan hanging on the stairs’ landing.|
Lest you feel Canada’s top-rated spa is all about over-the-top extravagance, think again. The decor is eclectic, at-times rustic, some may even call it shabby chic. Thing is, St. Anne’s true indulgence lies in its overarching focus on rejuvenation and comfort. And its acclaim—here and across the globe—has as much to do with its approach as its 35-plus spa treatments, a smorgasbord of pampering delights sure to satisfy any day or night patron.
My personal road to rejuvenation came in the form of an aroma hot stone massage and traditional mud wrap, 75 and 90 minutes of pure bliss respectively. A stretching class helped too. When I first signed up, I admit I was hesitant, thinking a 45-minute wellness session a bit much for this Type-A-plus. But somewhere along the way, between rotating my hip and pulling my arm over my head at an angle I hadn’t attempted since grade school, I found myself exhaling as though for the first time in months.
As I boarded the train back home, my breathing significantly deeper than when I first arrived, the chug felt more defined, the lull more pronounced. I lay my head back against my chair, closed my eyes and dreamed of burritos.
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