Talking about weed with my dad… that’s a conversation I thought I’d left behind in my teenage years along with the Hollyoaks omnibus and infuriating curfews.
Fast forward a couple of decades – long after the tears and tantrums of adolescence had disappeared with most of my embarrassing CD collection – and there we both were, lounging at the edge of Rudding Park spa’s infinity hydrotherapy pool talking about the botanical’s rising popularity in health and wellness treatments.
Only this time, instead of a few hormonal quips and an instinctive desire to rebel, I was teaching him about the plant’s proclaimed benefits. He was trying to understand why ‘on earth’ I was about to have a massage infused with CBD oil (cannabidiol), the non-toxic part of a cannabis plant’s bud, and I was trying to convince him that it was harmless (“everyone’s doing it daaad, God you’re so not cool”).
Cannabidiol is legal in the UK because it’s taken from the leaves, flowers and stems rather than the seeds and should contain less than 0.2 per cent of the active compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – so no psychoactive elements. This is what I was trying to convey, though he quite rightly argued that we still don’t really know enough.
Among many common acclamations CBD is said to reduce anxiety, relieve chronic pain and promote sleep. Rudding Park uses products by MariPharm, a well-established Dutch ‘phyto-pharmaceutical’ company who create CBD-infused oil among other cannabis-derived products. Since the oil’s popularity has grown exponentially (the hemp wellness market is worth £300 million), especially in the US where big names like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow are advocates, it was only a matter of time before it hit spas across the pond. It was already prominent in shampoo adverts splashed across huge billboards, cocktails marketed at Millennials, and supplements from Holland & Barrett.
The oleaginous craze to sweep the wellness world off its slippered feet hit UK hotels last summer, with Rudding Park blazing the trail and more recently Carden Park in Cheshire. I know this because I had been eagerly awaiting its debut, so I headed up to Harrogate, home to Rudding Park’s award-winning rooftop spa, and took my dad for company.
After a dip in the hydrotherapy pool – where our aforementioned weed chat took place – I headed to the treatment rooms where my therapist, Lauren, emphasised the anti inflammatory and sleep enhancing benefits. For a £15 supplement, drops of the CBD oil is added to existing massage or facial ointment along with a few sprays of the oil under the tongue (gets into the system quicker, apparently) and on the collar of the spa robe.
In truth, it tasted planty, nutty and bitter like those wheat grass shots you might find on a stall in Borough Market and smelt like a Shoreditch beer garden on a Friday night. I had opted for the Elemis Garden of England whole body massage with, thanks to a nine-to-five desk job, a focus on my neck and shoulders, and settled down to a piano version of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ as CBD-infused Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil was used to soothe my muscle aches and pains.
Once the 50-minute session had ended I was brought my dry bikini (if your swimwear is damp the spa will dry it while you have your treatment) and some frozen grapes for refreshment – a nice touch. Though the addition of a 25-minute bath with lavender oil infused with CBD oil was tempting, I left this experience to couples on the Time for Two package, not family members.
What I’ve always really liked here are the relaxation rooms – a dark sleep room, a mindful room with colouring books, a screen room depicting scenes of dramatic landscapes, and an audio room with meditative soundtracks. I met dad in the mindful room and as we sat surrounded by paper and pencils I was offered ‘CBD’ tea, water and chocolate, which is optional.
What I don’t like is how expensive the rooftop spa is for hotel guests (£50 for residents; £60 for non-residents), how busy it gets with big groups, especially at weekends, and how the post-treatment CBD refreshments felt faddy. The tea was labelled ‘Cannabis Tea’ but tasted like stale peppermint, the plastic bottled water was by ‘Love Hemp’, and the chocolates, a bit like maltesers, were also straight from a packet.
That’s such a shame when the hotel’s restaurant, Horto, which serves exquisite farm to fork tasting menus in the evenings and light lunches during the day, couldn’t provide a themed patisserie instead. Whilst the CBD treatments are bang on trend and very popular, I’ve visited Rudding Park many times before and a treatment is just as good without the £15 extra CBD infusion. I suspect my dad was quite relieved. The saving grace? A donation of £2 is donated to the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre in Harrogate.
• Read the full review: Rudding Park Hotel & Spa