Last year, I compiled the Ultimate 100 British Hotels for The Sunday Times and am currently busy researching places for this year’s supplement. If you have any tips for hotels, B&Bs, pubs and spas, please do let me know. Here’s an extract from the 2013 guide

Our winner: The Scarlet 
A spa that feels sincere about saving the planet, but is not the slightest bit worthy is a rare and wonderful thing. There’s a lot to love about this place at Mawgan Porth: its extravagant use of space (most hoteliers would have doubled the bed count), the floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic, cutting-edge design, eye-catching fabrics and seasonal menus. The spa offers organic treatments, chillout pods, clifftop hot tubs and leftfield activities such as singing lessons and transformational dance. Don’t knock them till you’ve tried them.
Doubles from £195, B&B, scarlethotel.co.uk

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No pain, all gain

Clearly, security chiefs have no time for R&R or else they would have noticed that there’s no need to employ controversial tactics such as waterboarding, they could slyly placate all us pacifists and get loads of information from prisoners simply by offering them a daily massage. Seriously, one in every 10 or so treatments I have are torture and have me slapping the bed like Giant Haystacks has just splatted me on the canvas. I had a treatment in Cornwall last summer that was nothing short of agony… for 90-minutes, with the therapist insisting that her celebrity clients love her technique. They’d be the celebrities who had lost all sense and feeling through drug abuse and reality TV appearances, I imagine.

In the past I have been torn, sometimes quite literally, on the question of precisely how much pain is necessary. Now I know for sure, the answer is none. All you need is a properly trained therapist such as Sabah at The Berkeley in London who understands how and when to apply pressure effectively rather than merely for effect. That’s partly because she is naturally intuitive and partly because the hotel is funding her ongoing education. She’s been a therapist for more than 10 years and yet The Berkeley is still paying for her to take a course with Mel Cash. There’s no good reason why you should know who he is but in the massage world he is God, Angelina Jolie and David Beckham rolled into one and dressed by Armani – ie un-bloody-touchable. If you train with him, you know your stuff. Book a massage with Sabah at The Berkeley’s fabulous new Bamford Haybarn spa and you will not be disappointed or feel compelled to reveal any state secrets.

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Rohan Quarry Day is a straight-talking Aussie who is – take a deep breath – a personal trainer, a physiotherapist, a psychoanalyst, an intuitive counsellor, a masseur, a breathing specialist and a COMO Hotels Master who travels around the group’s uber-cool properties worldwide training spa staff. He’s also COMO owner Christina Ong’s personal back fixer and has worked with several Olympians. Imagine how you’d regret asking him what he does for a living at a dinner party? It’d practically be home time before he’d finished rattling off that list.

I mean, seriously, can you be just one qualification off from finding a cure for cancer and not do some good? Of course not. Rohan soon sussed out that I am more of a Before than an After photograph where posture is concerned. Essentially that boils down to the fact that – like any half-decent hack – I stick my neck out; amusingly, this throws the rest of my body out of alignment and contributes to my shoulder and neck pain. Fortunately, Rohan told me an incredibly easy way to rectify the problem. Don’t think about pulling your shoulders back – this will just result in you looking like Ken Dodd’s shoved his tickling stick somewhere inappropriate. Instead, think about your hand placement.

If I stand “normally” ie without thinking about it, my hands rest on the front of my thighs… they shouldn’t. Rohan told me to move them to my sides, with the palms turned slightly out. This pulls my shoulders back into the correct position in a way that looks and, crucially, feels natural and brings my head back into line with my spine. Then I just have to tuck my tailbone under slightly and suddenly my posture is not only much improved,  but standing correctly makes me look slimmer too. What’s not to like?

If you have back issues, aches and pains or any sort of energy problems, well, other than how to pay your gas or electricity bills, Rohan can probably sort them out for you in an hour or two. He is genuinely inspiring, reassuringly knowledgable and very likeable. After one session, I  felt invigorated and determined to practice the simple exercises he set me as homework on a daily basis (yep, of course I haven’t). He’s based at The Metropolitan on Park Lane until November 30,  a one-hour treatment costs £130 and a block of three is a bargain (sort of) at £300. By the way, Rohan calls himself a musculoskeletal therapist for short – still a bit of a mouthful, granted, but not an entire meal’s worth.


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