Taking the Waters of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds

Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham, Cotswolds
Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham, Cotswolds. Photo by Jame Phillips, licensed under CC BY 2.0
After the excesses of feasting and over indulgence at Christmas and New Year, most of us are frantically making resolutions to lose a few pounds, take up exercise, or live more healthily. Of course looking back to the heyday of the famous spa towns of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, “taking the waters” was a popular pursuit of society for the purported health benefits received from drinking and bathing in this natural source of water. It has to be said it does sound like something that could help us all to revive our sluggish systems after this time of the year and what better place to start your spa journey than from Cooks Green Holiday Cottage.

Taking the Waters

This phrase sounds mysterious and feels as though it is part of ritualistic processes from ancient times. Like modern hydrotherapy, taking the waters is a journey into cleansing, healing, and rejuvenation. The whole spa experience enjoyed at the peak of spa towns was an integration of spa experience, art, music, discussion, and socialisation. Taking the waters was an important part of the social scene of the day and was popular with royalty and where royalty led, the world would follow.

Waters were taken in temple baths or natural springs with the application of the water directly to the body with different drinking and bathing treatments during the stay in the spa town, which refreshed the body for the social events of the visit such as visiting the art galleries, theatres, gentle walks, and relaxation.

Some British spa towns have the word spa in their names. Take Cheltenham correctly known as Cheltenham Spa owing to the numerous natural mineral springs where the town developed. Other towns have the word bath or wells in them and others are endorsed with a royal title such as Royal Leamington Spa.

Water is Life

Evidence exists that taking the waters stems back to ancient history when healing waters were also used. Many ancient civilisations believed water was healing and beneficial for cleansing the body, refreshing the mind, relaxing the heart and purifying the soul. There is no doubt that spa treatments even today give a wonderful feeling of well-being and modern philosophy promotes water as a healing tool for those suffering with disease and illness as well as water therapy as a source of good health and long life. There is no getting away from it, taking the waters in the form of drinking, bathing with cold, hot, warm and tepid water, immersion in mineral, seaweed, salty and fresh water serves to give a sense of well being to anyone.

The meaning of Spa

The word “spa” has strong symbolic impact. There is no certain origin of the word but there are several theories. One reasonable explanation is the word is derived from three letters “S”, “P”, “A” which were often written as graffiti on the walls of ancient Roman thermae – the public baths. Translated from Latin these letters mean Salude per Aqua, which means health or healing through water.


In Cheltenham, the waters can be taken at the famous Pittville Pump Room a beautiful, elegant Grade 1 Regency building that in its heyday had a menagerie and all forms of entertainment for the patrons who came to take the waters. Today you can drink the water, which is the only alkaline spa water in the UK.

The only hot mineral waters in the Cotswolds are at Bath. Rainwater falling high in the Mendip Hills filters through underground layers of limestone, travelling down through the earth to 14,000 feet deep. Due to the wonder of nature, the water is pushed through fissures in the rock where it erupts to the surface in three springs at 115 degrees. The bathhouses are built over the springs where a quarter of a million gallons flow every day. The water has an earthy, mineral taste and is reputedly very therapeutic.

Taking the Waters in the Cotswolds Today

The most important part of taking the waters is time so that you can de-stress and wind down. Many of the spa experiences available at modern spas in the Cotswolds encourage a day programme to enjoy the benefits of the treatments on offer. Typically, there are a number of hot and cold bathing experiences and light and dark relaxation rooms to help you chill out. The treatments like those of yesteryear are to tone skin and texture, detoxify the body, and improve circulation. Many treatments use mud, minerals, and seaweed to work their magic with the therapeutic thermal baths.

It is definitely worth considering a day taking the waters at bath, exploring the beauty of the Pittville Pump House and drinking a glass or two of the efficacious nectar during your stay with us.

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