Ste. Anne's Country Inn & Spa: A Castle in the Country

Lynn Burshtein

 Ste Annes_Summer

Those seeking to escape the hectic pace of city life in favour of peace and tranquility need look no further than Ste. Anne’s Country Inn & Spa. Situated in a 19th Century fieldstone castle among the gentle rolling hills of Northumberland County (a mere 90-minutes outside of Toronto, accessible by car or Via Rail), guests might feel as though they’ve been transported to another time.

But once the concierge greets you with your customized itinerary and takes you on a tour of the property, you realize the serene, dream-like surroundings still leave room for modern efficiency and 5-star treatment. It soon becomes clear why Ste. Anne’s has been voted among the Top 100 spas in the world by readers of Spa Finder Magazine, several years running.

The castle, which houses the main inn, dining room and the majority of the fitness and treatment rooms, also includes a spectacular view of the property’s lush meadows and gardens. The main building has fifteen individually decorated rooms to choose from (about fourteen others are located in six unique spa cottages elsewhere on the property). Each suite features a fireplace and a modernized bathroom stocked with Aveda products and a whirlpool tub. Suites do not have TVs or telephones, however, in order to encourage guests to focus on the selection of activities or spa treatments available, or to simply lounge on one of the garden chairs or hammocks outside and breathe in the fresh country air.

The wide array of spa services available at the spa is designed to rejuvenate both the inner and outer self. There are a number of body, heat and hydrotherapy treatments which incorporate natural ingredients with specific healing and hydrating properties. The seasonal “Citrus Sun” treatment (available during the summer) features a foot soak using a mixture of citrus essential oils and fresh orange and grapefruit slices. A full body exfoliation using a half grapefruit and sugar is followed with a hydrotherapy bath and finally a relaxing, light pressure citrus oil massage. During the fall, the “Coconut Breeze” exfoliation treatment combines essential oil of lime (known for its ability to rejuvenate the skin and protect it from infection) and coconut (which has soothing properties and promotes the healing and repair of damaged cells and tissues). Other specialty treatments include Aveda Caribbean exfoliation treatments, hot stone or Thai massages, and notably, Canada’s only full-immersion Mud Bath, in which the client is suspended in a bath tub filled with “moor mud”, a blend of Saskatchewan clay known to promote improved circulation and detoxification. Nearby, guests can also be spotted in the Fieldstone grotto, the spa’s year-round, outdoor hydrotherapy facility which houses a tile and stone hot tub, a plunge pool and a small lap pool, or in the indoor Eucalyptus steam room. These facilities are perfect for couples or friends who want to meet up after their treatments and compare notes.

While other, larger destination health spas offer a flurry of high-impact fitness classes, Ste. Anne’s maintains its low-key appeal with gentle stretch or yoga classes or guided hikes on the trails around the property (snow-shoeing is the winter alternative). Lounging by the outdoor pool during the summer is also a popular past-time here. Guests who want to fit in a rigorous workout during their stay will find elliptical machines; tread mills and free weights in the main building workout room. There is also an 18-hole golf course at Timber Ridge Golf Club, located 20 minutes from Ste. Anne’s Spa or a 9-hole course at Shelter Valley Pines Golf Course – just 5 minutes from the property (these options are often popular with the spa’s male clientele and guests attending on a corporate retreat).


For a journey into personal development and self-awareness, the spa’s unique “Horse-2-Heart” equine therapy program is eye-opening and educational (there are one-, two- and three-day programs available). Working with horse trainer Esther Johnson of the nearby Valley View Stables, clients become closely acquainted with a designated horse through a lengthy grooming session, then by leading and ultimately riding their horse. At various intervals during the session, Esther checks in with the clients to gauge their comfort levels. We are taught the degree to which horses are in tune with a range of human emotions and how easily they respond to our moods. At one point during our session, Esther encourages me to breathe in unison with the horse, by placing my head close to its chest. Any fear I initially felt has vanished. (I become so relaxed, I wonder if I might fall asleep, perhaps standing up!)  

The laid-back atmosphere at Ste. Anne’s is also felt in the dining room. Meals are meant to be enjoyed in a leisurely fashion. Ste. Anne’s culinary team is led by award-winning Chef Christopher Ennew who uses fresh ingredients and flavours the meals with simple herbs and reductions instead of overly rich sauces. Lunches might include a daily salad bar stocked with healthy items, a choice of grilled fish, chicken or sandwich plus a small-sized desert; dinner will include soup, salad, and mains such as tandoori tofu, baked stuffed chicken or grilled beef, plus your choice of vegetable and starch (best bet is the barley and squash risotto style) and desert. Though not licensed, guests are welcome to bring their own wine and have it served during dinner. Meal times are set up in advance so activities can be scheduled around them. Depending on your time of arrival, lunch or afternoon tea is likely to be scheduled soon after you have settled in. Afternoon tea features an impressive choice of Ste. Anne’s own specialty teas, along with cream-cheese and cucumber sandwiches, fresh scones with jam and small pastries. Indeed, even with calorie-conscious portions, this longstanding tradition is honoured.

Ste. Anne’s offers guests a unique blend of old world charm and modern amenities, making it perfect for romantic getaways, group celebrations, and of course, for individuals looking to unwind from the daily grind.


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