Visit the UK’s natural hot springs this winter

Days out, Fall into Winter, Seasonal

Posted by Kate Atkin on 24th November 2023

The original outdoor thermal bath at the Roman Baths museum in Bath, Somerset

Enjoying a steamy soak in hot water is one of life’s little luxuries, but there’s nothing quite like the restorative buzz from a dip in a natural thermal pool. For centuries, bubbling hot springs fresh from the depths of the earth have been revered for their therapeutic, mineral-rich waters.

From nourishing your skin and relaxing your body and soul to improving your immune system and reducing pain and inflammation, the benefits of natural thermal springs are simply endless – and some are much closer to home than you might think …

There are, in fact, several natural hot springs in the UK. Some are within museums, while others have been tapped to deliver the prized water to indulgent spa complexes. So, if you fancy the ultimate wellness experience combined with a big splash of history, then read on to discover the UK’s best natural hot springs to visit this winter.

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Frequently asked questions about natural hot springs in the UK

Natural hot springs occur when hot water from deep in the ground rises to the surface. As the temperature of the earth increases with depth, so too does the temperature of the groundwater. When it reaches the earth’s surface, the water gathers naturally into lake-like pools or is channelled into manmade spas.

Although hot springs are normally associated with far-flung destinations, such as Iceland’s Blue Lagoon or Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado, we have a few natural thermal springs in the UK too. While there may not be many, those that we do have are pretty remarkable. Some of the most well-known examples include those in Bath, Buxton and Harrogate.

Packed with minerals that contain hydrating and healing properties like calcium, sodium, magnesium, sulfate, potassium and iron, the UK’s natural hot springs are believed to cure many ailments.

The warm waters boast antifungal and antibacterial properties that can soothe the skin and reduce stress levels, particularly for bathers experiencing psoriasis, arthritis, sore muscles, and rheumatism. They are even known to help with circulation and boost metabolism.

Swimming in natural hot springs is a centuries-old tradition. The Romans were famous for their bathhouses using thermal and mineral springs, promoting good hygiene and creating a place to socialise. It was also a popular activity in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it was considered beneficial to health.

Today, some of the ancient hot springs in the UK have been channelled into luxury spas where you can bathe in specially-made swimming pools and hot tubs. We have included some of the best in this guide.

The city of Bath dusted in snow

Natural hot springs in Bath, Somerset

On a chilly winter’s day, head for the Georgian city of Bath in Somerset and soak up a piece of British history as you bathe in the UK’s most famous natural thermal springs. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this elegant city draws in millions of visitors a year to experience its naturally warm, mineral-rich waters that first soothed the Romans.

The Romans called the city Aquae Sulis, meaning “waters of Sulis”, an ancient god of healing springs, while the Anglo-Saxons referred to it as Acemannesceastre, “aching man’s city” because they too believed the springs had curative powers. So, it’s no wonder that people still flock here to seek a relaxing and restorative escape, 2,000 years later.

An aerial view of the thermal waters of the Roman Baths

Roman Baths

There are three natural thermal springs in Bath which feed the original Roman Baths, now a museum: the King’s Spring, the Cross Bath, and the Hetling Spring. Constructed in around 70AD, these baths are one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, where 1,170,000 litres of steaming spring water, reaching 46°C, still fills the ancient bathing site every single day. 

The interactive museum will transport you back in time: follow in the footsteps of the Romans and walk on ancient pavements, see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva, and explore fascinating chambers that once housed changing rooms and tepid plunge pools. The museum visit ends with the chance to drink the spa waters.

Price: Please check the website as the prices vary throughout the year (there is a reduced price if you visit on a weekday)

Opening hours: Please check the website as they vary throughout the year

Facilities: Restaurant, shop, audio guides, WCs

Address: Abbey Churchyard, Bath, BA1 1LZ

Stay nearby: Number Ten At Herschel | Sleeps 3 guests

A person dipping their toes in the warm water and a lady floating in the pool

Thermae Bath Spa

Though you can no longer swim in the waters of the Roman Baths Museum above, you can still soak in the natural spa water at the Thermae Bath Spa, just around the corner. Bubble away in the steaming, open-air rooftop pool with 360-degree city skyline views or sink your shoulders into the calming 35°C waters of the basement Minerva Bath with its invigorating whirlpool.

Just across the road (but still part of the spa) is the smaller Cross Bath, which sits in its own historic Georgian building and can be hired for private bathing sessions for the ultimate indulgence.

Price: A 2-hour spa session is £40 per person Monday to Friday and £45 Saturday to Sunday (the entrance fee also includes access to the rooftop and Minerva pools and the experiences in the Wellness Suite). Please contact the spa directly for prices for the Cross Bath.

Opening hours: 9am-9.30pm daily

Facilities: Café, Wellness Suite with spa treatments and packages, changing facilities, WCs

Address: The Hetling Pump Room, Hot Bath St, Bath, BA1 1SJ

Stay nearby: Laundry Cottage Combe Hay | Sleeps 6 guests

Cottages in Bath

An aerial view of a Derbyshire village coated in snow

Natural hot springs in Derbyshire

The only other place where you can find natural hot springs in the UK is Derbyshire. Here, there are three historic sites open to the public, two of which flaunt bathing pools.

The magnificent Georgian facade of Buxton Crescent

Buxton Crescent, Buxton

In the 19th century, Buxton in the Peak District was the second most important spa town in the UK. Like Bath, the town was built by the Romans who wanted to harness the powers of its natural hot spring. Today, the warm waters can be enjoyed from Buxton Crescent Spa, one of England’s finest Georgian buildings.

The spa’s natural mineral baths are fed with water from the ancient St Ann’s Well, emerging deep from the earth at a constant temperature of 28°C. And because the spring isn’t chemically treated, the water is rich in magnesium so you can enjoy its pure benefits during a restorative dip. You can also experience a range of traditional beauty therapies and holistic treatments in between soaks and make the most of the salt cave (good for respiration), three saunas, and two steam rooms.

Price: Spa experiences start from £75 per person

Opening hours: 10am-8pm on weekdays and 9am-6pm at the weekends

Facilities: Thermal pool, bio-thermal sauna, COmineral bath, infra-red sauna, aroma steam room, indoor-to-outside rooftop pool with two integrated Jacuzzi zones, Finnish sauna, steam room, relaxation pool, fitness studio and gym, ice fountain, salt cave, spa treatments, cafe

Address: The Crescent, Buxton, SK17 6BH

Stay nearby: Apartment 1, The Old Post Office | Sleeps 4 guests

Cottages in Buxton

A woman taking a dip in an outdoor thermal pool

New Bath Hotel and Spa, Matlock Bath

Also found among the verdant rolling hills of Derbyshire is the picture-postcard village of Matlock Bath. Here, you can settle into the thermal waters of the New Bath Hotel and Spa’s two 18th-century pools, one indoor, and one outdoor.

More pleasingly warm than piping hot, the natural geothermal spring feed enters the shallow end of the outdoor pool at a constant 19.8°C. Because the feed is a continuous flow, it holds a good temperature throughout the pool but due to exposure to air temperature, the main body of water varies between 15°C in the depths of winter and 23°C on a hot summer’s day.

If that’s a little too chilly for you, then you can also head indoors for the enticing offerings of their spa and feel your worries melt away as you indulge in the steamy goodness of the thermal hot tub and sauna; designed to decompress your mind and soothe your body.

Price: You can purchase pay-as-you-go swimming passes for £10 per person per hour, or spa days start from £60 per person

Opening hours: Please check the website for outdoor pool opening hours as these vary throughout the year, the spa is open 10am-6pm daily

Facilities: Outdoor thermal pool, indoor thermal hot tub, sauna, steam room, relaxation area, spa treatments, towel and robe hire, restaurant

Address: New Bath Rd, Matlock Dale, Matlock, DE4 3PX

Stay nearby: Croft Cottage | Sleeps 2 guests + 2 dogs

Cottages in Matlock Bath

An external view of Stoney Middleton Bath HouseCopyright Instagram @retsofnosila

Stoney Middleton Bath House, Hope Valley

Unlike the natural hot springs that you can bathe in above, Stoney Middleton Bath House is still awaiting development for public use. Known locally as the Roman Baths, due to the find of Roman coins discovered at the site, this historic Grade II-listed bath house has been saved from ruin with support from the Peak District National Park.

Fed by a local spring, the water runs cooler than those of Bath and Buxton, at just 18°C, and is rich in minerals, chloride, and sulphate. It is believed to have healing powers benefiting sufferers of rheumatism and is treasured by the local community. If you look inside, you will see two baths, one that was for ladies and the other that was for gentlemen.

Price: Free

Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday 11.45am-8pm

Facilities: None

Address: The Nook, Stoney Middleton, Hope Valley, S32 4TZ

Stay nearby: The Old Bull's Head | Sleeps 8 guests + 2 dogs

Cottages in Stoney Middleton

Harrogate on a snowy day in winter

Natural hot springs in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

While Harrogate cannot boast a natural hot spring like the ones found in Bath and Derbyshire, it is unique for the number and variety of its mineral springs. Around 80 to 100 natural springs are thought to run through the Yorkshire spa town, possessing different mineral compositions perfect for treating a range of medical conditions. As such, the town became a fashionable place to bathe from the late 16th century, with public bathing houses offering access to heated spring water.

Today, there are two places in Harrogate where you can sample the warm spring water for yourself, the grand Turkish Baths in the centre of town and Rudding Park Spa a few miles away. It’s one of the top things to do during a winter break in Yorkshire.

A montage featuring two images of things found in a Turkish Bath and an external view of the Turkish Baths Harrogate

Turkish Baths Harrogate

Opulent Moorish arches, elaborately patterned glazed tiles, and vibrant arabesque painted ceilings await in Britain's most fully restored Victorian Turkish Baths. Escape the winter cold and experience a journey of heating, cooling, and cleansing the body – promoting a sense of relaxation and a clear mind.

Along with an extensive menu of contemporary spa treatments and therapies, you can work up a sweat in the steam room, then take a dip in the plunge pool before gradually proceeding through three interconnecting hot chambers and cooling down in the relaxation room.

Price: Sessions start at £25 per person and spa treatments are extra

Opening hours: See the website for opening hours as they vary throughout the year

Facilities: Steam room, plunge pool, spa treatments, guided tours, café, towels provided

Address: Parliament St, Harrogate, HG1 2WH

Stay nearby: Harrogate Muse | Sleeps 4 guests

A couple enjoying a soak in an outdoor thermal bath and two hands holding glasses of fizz

Rudding Park Spa

At Rudding Park Spa, you can bask in thermal experiences which use natural spring water from the grounds. The highlight is the Roof Top Spa with its hydrotherapy infinity pool, panoramic sauna, herbal bath steam room, oxygen pod and experience showers. While enjoying the pool’s warm, calming waters, you can gaze across the gardens by day or bathe beneath the stars at night.

Pair your thermal spa time with two-course meals, glasses of fizz, and pampering treatments such as facials, mud and sauna rituals, body massages, and nail and beauty treatments.

Price: Spa sessions start at £122 per person

Opening hours: 6.30am-9.30pm daily

Facilities: Indoor swimming pool, juniper log sauna, Roof Top Spa with an infinity pool and selection of therapy facilities, spa treatments, café and shop. Lockers, robes, flip-flops and towels are provided

Address: Rudding Ln, Follifoot, Harrogate, HG3 1JH

Stay nearby: Colcote Cottage | Sleeps 4 guests + 2 dogs

Cottages in Harrogate

Map of the UK's natural hot springs

Use this handy map to locate the natural hot springs in the UK mentioned in this guide.

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Enjoy a memorable winter break

Whether you’re looking for a spa day, a wellness weekend or a longer retreat this winter, our holiday cottages offer the perfect bases for relaxation while exploring the natural hot springs of the UK. Click the button below to browse our full collection of self-catering accommodation.

Winter escapes in the UK

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.