Dorset Manor does luxury right


A luxury spa one hour from Toronto, Dorset Manor provides sanctuary and refinement. (Sherel Purcell/

Story by Sherel Purcell Senior Writer


Dorset Manor is a beauty in summer and fall. (Sherel Purcell/

PORT HOPE, ONTARIO — “No one understands relaxation like Jim Corcoran,” says Carol Perehudoff, one of Canada’s leading spa experts and a travel writer. Corcoran, the owner of the venerable Ste. Anne’s Spa, has re-acquired sister property, the Dorset Manor Spa offering similar all-inclusive overnight packages popular at the larger Ste. Anne’s Spa that is 15 minutes away in Grafton.

A visit to The Dorset Manor Spa in historic Port Hope ideally begins with a relaxing train trip. Working closely with Via Rail, Dorset Spa staff will arrange all travel including pick-up and return to the Port Hope or Cobourg stations (three hours from Ottawa or a little more than one hour from Toronto) so guests can avoid the stresses of driving.

Alighting from the van in front of the large Victorian mansion dating from 1874, visitors are immediately swept up by the tranquility of the property that sits on four wooded acres above Lake Ontario. The white wicker furniture on the sprawling red-brick verandah adorned with white columns and surrounded by flower gardens invites relaxation. Inside, scents of eucalyptus oil and the soft sound of wind chimes permeate the air.

Ultimate Relaxation — and a Relaxed Attitude

The first thing guests notice about the Dorset is how peaceful and exclusive it feels with a welcoming silence that encourages hushed conversations. With only nine guest rooms and no day spa visitors, guests will have the facilities to themselves. Or so it will seem that way. Swim solo in the outdoor saltwater pool, soak in the adjoining hot tub open year round or relax in the hammock on the trail overlooking the lake to the sounds of cicadas and lake breezes. Inside, visitors will find a solarium, a eucalyptus steam room and a dry sauna. Bicycles are available to explore the town, which can also be visited on foot.

In keeping with the “serenity now” philosophy of the spa, televisions and in-room telephones are absent, though free WiFi is available throughout the manor. Guests should bring plenty of reading material to enjoy in the four common lounge areas or the large bedrooms. All of the unique guest rooms include a Jacuzzi, deep soaking or claw-foot bathtub, Aveda toiletries, antique furniture, king-size feather top beds, a balcony and central air conditioning.

While the Dorset Manor is very private and luxurious, it’s remarkably casual. Guests wear swimsuits, robes and slippers throughout the property — even to dinner and no one is expected to be “made up” for breakfast — a sure sign of true luxury. All meals, including afternoon tea are taken in the dining room that offers excellent views of the lake. In-room dining with prior arrangement is always an option.

Tasty meals served promptly and professionally emphasize both nutrition and imagination with minimal use of salt, fat and sugar. Beef and fish are always available along with vegetarian options. Most food products are obtained locally and from the spa gardens, which visitors are invited to explore. Guests are encouraged to bring their own wine, as alcohol is not served on the premises.

Unless your spa treatment requires the services of a registered massage therapist, no paper work is required; guests simply relay their preferences to the very knowledgeable masseuse. Aveda products figure prominently in the spa treatments along with custom mixtures of herbal formulas, including shitake mushrooms, clay sage and bamboo. Clients can choose from an array of essential oils, including bergamot orange, eucalyptus and lavender.

Seasonal treatments make use of chocolate preparations for Valentine’s Day while spring and maple syrup season is celebrated with maple Vichy showers and a sugar scrub to rid the body of dead winter skin. Coffee fans will love the Mocha Fusion aromatherapy available in early fall.

A wide range of thermal treatments for the body are available. You’ll find stone wraps employing mud, buttermilk and sesame, along with exfoliations and seaweed body masques. Traditional Swedish and deep-tissue massage appear on the spa menu as well as esthetic treatments including resurfacing facials, hand therapies and plant peels.

Excellent deals can be found on all-inclusive packages on the “Spa Lotto” page of the Dorset website, located in the footer section of the home page. SpaLotto is an auction website like eBay, except it is just for spa getaways. The “Last Minute Getaways” page is another source of great deals. You can find one for late August 2012 for $199 per person per night, which includes dinner, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

While the Dorset Manor Inn is perfect for singles, couples, mothers and daughters and girlfriend getaways, it is also a fine venue for a small wedding. Those considering that option can book a visit to the Dorset to view the facilities and discuss what services, if any, are required of the manor.

More About Dorset Manor Spa

Location: 175 Dorset Street West, Port Hope, Ontario (see map below)
Rates: Standard nightly room rates that include dinner, lunch, breakfast and afternoon tea, $100 spa allowance and wellness classes start at $535. Visit the website for full details.
Contact: Telephone: 888-346-6772; email:

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