I’D only ever seen the Eden Valley from the window of a passing train, but it left a lasting impression.

There’s something very tranquil, peaceful and almost other-worldly about the lush green meadows and sandstone villages tucked along the riverside, where the Pennines meet the Lake District.

In the heart of the valley lies Appleby Manor Hotel where I happily lost myself in the ‘Garden of Eden’.

The hotel’s Garden Spa is an oasis of calm and wellbeing. A salt inhalation room and an infinity hydrotherapy pool feature in the Aqua Thermal Spa experience, created with renowned architect and interior designer Duncan Mackenzie, whose projects include Champneys Springs in Leicestershire and the Saratoga Hotel, Cuba.

I spent several blissful hours cocooned in heat, steam and water, taking the Aqua Thermal journey which can be enjoyed as a day or weekend spa package, with optional treatments. The spa comprises a series of heat experiences, each taken in turn, to slowly raise the body temperature while reaping the holistic and theraputic benefits of water and heat.

I started off in the Salt Inhalation Room, filled with a warm, gentle heat which works wonders for the respiratory system. Reclining on warm, tiled seating, I took in lungfuls of air and could taste the salt on my lips. Next I indulged in a foot spa, my feet soaking in bubbly water in the Pedidarium, then came the steam room, followed by the invigorating Rain, Sky and Monsoon shower which felt like being engulfed in balmy rainfall - in a good way. After sweating it out in the sauna I plunged into the hydro pool, laying on a ‘massage lounger’ as the water worked its magic. With powerful jets of water - ‘volcano pads and shoulder cannons’ - shooting from underneath and overhead, it felt like having a vigorous aqua massage. Fabulous!

The infinity pool overlooks a walled garden, accessible through large glass doors. With sink-into sofas around a fire pit, it’s the perfect place to soak up the Cumbrian air. Other guests included couples on a romantic break and a party of young women cracking open the bubbly in the outdoor hot tub. Another one is nestled between the hydro pool and sauna. Delightfully indulgent, especially with a glass of fizz!

Back inside the spa, my friend and I did a second lap of the Aqua Thermal experience then chilled out in our fluffy robes before heading off for dinner. We ate in the AA-rosetted Gourmet restaurant, an elegant dining area overlooking the valley, with Appleby Castle rising in the distance and the Lake District fells beyond. The a la carte menu offers a twist to British classics, with chef Chris Thompson making use of fresh seasonal and regional produce.I started with a tasty roulade of Scottish sea trout and cod with pickled vegetables, followed by a delicious, spicy vegetable tagine, and my friend had breast of Cumbrian pigeon and a main course of monkfish tail with smoked haddock scotch egg. We both ended with a selection of local cheeses. Other options included ‘Rabbit Three Ways’, roast Lupton partridge, and an impressive vegetarian menu, featuring caramelised onion bread and butter pudding and double-baked Appleby cheese souffle. We were very impressed with the restaurant and hotel staff, who were friendly and attentive throughout our stay. They're a credit to Cumbria.

In the more informal 1871 bistro, which has a rustic, New England kind of charm, you’ll find Appleby Manor Fisherman’s Board - pickled herring and oak-smoked salmon with fresh prawns and smoked mackerel fillet - and Lakeland Beef Bourguignon.

The 30-room hotel, which has a stylish conservatory-style bar and relaxing areas with sofas and open fires, also offers afternoon tea; scones with Appleby clotted cream, double chocolate brownies and Eton Mess.

After a comfortable night’s sleep we headed to the treatment rooms. I had a soothing anti-ageing facial, including a relaxing neck, shoulder and scalp massage. My therapist used Elemis products; cellular recover skin capsules, a papaya enzyme peel, a chamomile cleanser and an apricot toner. My friend felt as through she was walking on air after her back massage.

We ended our weekend with a trip to the pretty town of Appleby, a short walk from the hotel. With the glorious Settle to Carlisle railway running through, and nearby attractions including Howgill Fells, the Pennine Way, the Ullswater steamer, Penrith and England’s highest waterfall, High Cup, Appleby Manor is perfectly placed for a relaxing rural break.

* Appleby Manor Hotel and Spa is on Roman Road, Appleby. Room rates (dinner, bed and breakfast) start from £210 including a four-course dinner (excluding wine), based on two people sharing.

Call 017683 51571, visit applebymanor.co.uk or email reception@applebymanor.co.uk

For information about the spa go to applebymanor.co.uk/images/applebymanor/PDFs/Appleby-Manor-Spa-Brochure.pdf