This paper explores the ambivalent geographical and cultural status of spas in Britain. Some were located in traditional urban centres, others expanded to the point where they became ‘new towns’; all supported in some measure an urbane culture, and were part of a wider process where from the later seventeenth century many towns were becoming centres of up-market health and leisure services. However, most spas were established in rural locations and remained small. Moreover, even those which grew into substantial towns played to a green agenda, cultivating the natural environment within and outside their boundaries as a key recreational resource and aspect of their tourist image. It is argued that spas played to both the urban and rural elements in their make-up, and in so doing were able to develop a marketing strategy that offered their visitors and residents the best of both worlds.