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In your element

Words by Hannah Tapping

Experiencing the elemental atop a north Cornwall cliffside, with hot and cold therapies designed to soothe mind, body and soul.

The St Moritz Hotel is an iconic landmark with a distinct Miami Beach vibe, its whitewashed tiered façade reflecting the sun back across the bay above which it sits. You approach the hotel through the small village of Trebetherick, between Rock and Polzeath, on Cornwall’s north coast. While the village may be small and the setting rural, this area of Cornwall exudes opulence and adventure, in no small part due to it being the home of St Moritz Hotel.


The hotel overlooks Greenaway beach and Daymer Bay, and has a venerable history dating back to the 1930s, hosting its fair share of the rich and famous over the years. Today, the hotel’s appeal is much broader, welcoming couples, families and locals alike, although guests are no less discerning or venerable. The hotel itself has a varied array of accommodation with a combination of hotel rooms, large suites, coastal villas and apartments, all of which welcome guests in style. However, it’s not the stay proposition (as luxurious as it is) that has drawn me to wax lyrical about St Moritz, rather its new Wild Spa which has become the talk of the town.

 For those who have visited St Moritz, they will know that it is home to the only Cowshed spa you’ll find outside of the luxury Soho House properties. Adopting the beauty philosophy of Babington House in Somerset, products are based on English country garden botanicals to nourish body and soul. However, not one to rest on its laurels, a large investment is being made at St Moritz into its leisure facilities which will incorporate an immersive experience as an extension of the spa. “When we built St Moritz almost 15 years ago, we dedicated ourselves to being at the forefront of the needs and wants of 21st century Cornish holidaymakers and short-breakers,” says Hugh Ridgway, Founder of St Moritz Hotel. “For 2024, we’re undertaking a £2+ million rebuild of our indoor swimming pool as an extension of our extremely popular coastal Cowshed spa and in doing so, are stepping further into the luxury wellness landscape. Our new wellness area will reimagine the immersive spa experience, with an outdoor hydro pool, a new steam room and sauna alongside ice fountains and sensory showers.” Rather than leave guests and visitors without a spa, an innovative and exciting solution was found, as Hugh explains: “We dreamt up an interim measure – our outdoor Wild Spa. Knowing the phenomenal interest in both cold-water swimming and hot and cold ‘plunging’, we knew this would take off.  The initial interest has immediately been through the roof – so much so that we’re already considering how this new experience could become a long-term fixture here on the north Cornish coast.”

As a cold-water convert myself, I am intrigued as to what the offering looks like and how it could have been achieved while maintaining the level of luxury guests have come to expect from St Moritz. Arriving at the hotel, Wild Spa visitors follow a meandering path towards the clifftops. The day couldn’t be more crisp and cold, with an endless blue sky and bright sunshine. As we take the short stroll towards the spa, our breath creating chilly plumes on the air and the sweet wafts of wood smoke filling our nostrils, it’s reminiscent of a ‘bluebird’ day at the hotel’s Swiss namesake. While mountains are replaced with clifftops, the setting is no less spectacular nor glamorous. As we round the final bend, with a wide ocean vista beyond, a vast tipi and a set of cosy changing huts herald our arrival. Steam from the hot tubs and smoke from an outdoor fire pit creat ethereal wisps in the air, drifting past a twinkle of fairy lights adorning the perimeter. We are shown to our changing hut by a delightful host, whose job it also is to keep the fires burning in the wood-fired hot tubs, ensuring they are always at optimum temperature. We change, donning the deep-pile towelling robes and flip flops provided, before beginning our Wild Spa journey.


Sinking into the all-encompassing heated waters of the cedar tub, our bodies relax to the soundtrack of a cry from a passing seagull and the gentle murmur of guests relaxing in the nearby tipi. While it would be easy to simply soak all day, we are here to experience all of the elements and so our first foray away from the womb-like warmth of the hot tub is the ice-cold plunge. The first dip of the toe takes my breath away, but by adopting some deep nose breathing and turning my face to the sun, I’m able to gradually lower myself into the cold water. My hands and shoulders are the hardest to submerge, but I find that faltering makes the matters worse, so I continue to lower, embracing the tingling sensation that is all-consuming. Once my shoulders are under I continue to breathe deeply, finding an invigorating pleasure as my skin becomes used to the cold shock. More deep nose breaths continue to regulate the experience, but I’m aware that I shouldn’t linger too long to avoid the ‘drop’; thankfully the heat of the hot tub beckons once more.

The Wild Spa is an exciting collaboration with Cornwall-based Water and Stone, who are the leading experts in hot and cold contrast therapy in the south west. Together the team has designed this original Nordic outdoor spa, all within the beautifully landscaped gardens at the hotel. A full experience programme of special events and workshops, with leading experts and additional wellness elements, is set to run throughout the winter and spring, a key part of which will be a Lithuanian style of sauna – a Pirtis – an option that has rarely been available in the UK.  

Wild Spa guests are able to book a Pirtis as part of the experience and as we enter the sauna cabin, under the tutelage of sauna expert and Founder of Wild and Stone Spa Ross Eliot, the sense of anticipation is palpable. Pointed, felt sauna hats are provided, which are used to keep the intense heat away from our heads allowing longer tolerance time. The sauna is filled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus, coming from large bunches of forest fronds. We begin by making our intentions for the year ahead, dipping fingertips into the proffered ladle of water as we begin the ritual. As the heat rises, our sauna master uses the bunches to ‘whisk’ the body creating a connection with nature. Using breathwork, alongside the intention setting, ensures guests feel aligned as they drift towards a state of tranquillity. When the heat becomes too intense, guests can step outside for an ice-bucket drench to cool off. 


Hotel and day-guests alike can choose a two-hour elemental spa, experiencing the energising benefits of cold water exposure alongside the restorative, warming effects of heat therapy;  there’s perhaps no better way to embrace the elements. For those wanting to rest a while longer, the indulgent Cloud Gazer or Star Gazer package includes the Wild Spa experience followed by a welcome Pentire and tonic or a glass of bubbles to accompany an elemental lunch or dinner. Or, for the ultimate pamper, there is the option to add in a stay with either the Elemental, Winter Escape or Wild Sun-Daze packages, the latter two of which include a one-hour Cowshed treatment and a leisurely check out.

Ross Eliot comments: “We’re delighted to be bringing this creative new mix of global therapies to the north Cornish coast with the St Moritz Wild Spa. We’re providing not just the experiences themselves, but the opportunity for people to learn about, and embrace, the proven, invigorating, boosting mental and physical effects that controlled exposure to alternate hot and cold conditions can have.” The experience is truly invigorating and once changed, we head to the tipi for lunch. Prepared by the hotel’s chefs, the array of fresh salads and Moroccan-inspired dishes are intended to nourish just as much as the spa experience itself. The ambience in the tipi is one of cosy warmth as we sink into deep leather armchairs and relish the delicious food while our bodies enjoy that wonderful feeling that comes from post-elemental exposure. 

To book your Wild Spa visit and use code ‘DRIFT10’ for 10% off any Wild Spa bookings until June 2024. St Moritz Hotel also runs Solid As Rock, an exclusive VIP membership set up for locals. Those who live in a PL, TR or EX postcode are eligible to receive exclusive discounts, points and access to other offers


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