You know those days when you wish you could just step away from reality. To leave it all behind, forget about work, responsibility, normality and dive headfirst into a world of luxury and relaxation?
I’ve found you the answer. Retford in Nottinghamshire might sound a million miles away but it’s emminently doable from London – three hours on the train but well worth it for what you’ll find when you get there. Ye Olde Belle is an AA 4-star hotel right on the border of four different counties, giving you plenty to explore. Not that you’ll want to, once you set foot in the spa. It’s a new addition to this 17th-century coaching inn in Barnby Moor, Retford, and is already making waves in the spa world, with 5 Bubbles from the Good Spa Guide after only opening in June.
It may have been open a few months, but when we visited recently it still feels absolutely brand spanking new. The reception is a haven of modern elegance, with staff that instantly made us feel calm and relaxed. From there, we were taken on a tour by our own ‘spa butler’ Mo, down a mirrored corridor into the sleek changing rooms and beyond into a luxurious world of Ye Olde Bell Spa’s 10 different hot and cold areas. This is no small-town spa but can easily compete with any of the big-name places elsewhere in the country.
From a indoor-outdoor pool complete with massage stations churning out bubbles to soothe those aching muscles to the Herbal Laconium, Alpine Sauna, Steam Bath or mosaic’d foot baths. And that’s before you get to the hot Stonebath complete with mesmerising mechanical gadget that dips a bucket of hot coals into water, or the Salt Inhalation Room where you can drift away in front of a wall of restorative salt.
For the more adventurous there’s a Snow Storm Experience where you can walk through a snowstorm, as well as the Shower Walk, taking you on a journey from tropical rain through to an ice-cold drenching from a bucket. If you want to take it to a whole new level, they’ve even got some extra experiences, like the Sabbia Med which replicates sunrise to sunset in a 30-minute cycle in a setting that recreates the south of France.
Outside there are heated loungers along with mini Alpine-style chalets complete with fire pits and fluffy blankets, making it a spot for relaxation through winter as well as summer. Tour done, we donned our fluffy robes and flip flops and headed to the Herb Garden Brasserie for a pre-spa lunch. The food at Ye Olde Bell is certainly no after-thought, with the brasserie’s three-level menu, moving from healthy to indulgent, designed to appeal to anyone. So whether you’re after a day of indulgence or a bit of a healthy boost, there will be something for you.
My cold pressed ham hock with pea puree and quail scotch egg was delicate, precise and full of flavour, as were my husband’s crab cakes with sweet chilli and tomato chutney for him. And while my blackened cajun salmon with citrus couscous and basil pesto felt light and virtuous, his pan-fried sea bream with a rich herb risotto, spinach, tomato concasse and saffron sauce was more of a slightly naughty treat. I can thoroughly recommend trying a glass of English bubbles as well – perfect for settling into that chilled-out mood.
After lunch, we spent the next few hours moving from area to area, sweating in saunas, wallowing in water and relaxing on loungers, exhaling the worries of the world out as we absorbed the calm ambience of Ye Olde Bell. The day culminated with a full body massage in a double treatment room upstairs (which is also home to a hair salon if you fancy a bit of extra pampering) where we spent an hour having all our aches and pains eased out.
If you’re going to travel to Retford, the last thing you’ll want to do is hop back on a train to reality at the end of the day. But luckily for you, Ye Olde Bell is a great place for an overnight stay too. The hotel itself is a contrast to the brand new spa, oozing history but offering elegance and a slight olde-worldy charm that’s guaranteed to keep you in that far-distant world of relaxation for just a little bit longer. Our lodge was separate from the main building but offered a cosy bed, elegant decor, walk-in shower a big fat roll-top bath.
For dinner, we had the choice of the restaurant or the bistro and decided to continue the theme of relaxation with the slightly more simple ambience and menu of the latter. We dined like kings, with homemade bread followed by a crispy duck starter for my husband and a rarebit for me, followed by steak for him and duck for me, then a wonderful chocolate and juniper berry fondant, all washed down with a great bottle of wine.
A long, peaceful sleep and it wasn’t long until we were back in the hotel for breakfast, this time in the slightly different setting of the restaurant, where we tucked into the usual assortment of pastries, fruit, yoghurt and cereal along with the obligatory fry-up. We left Ye Olde Bell feeling like we’d been away for days, not just 24 hours. Don’t know about you, but to feel like that is well worth a journey!
- Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa, Barnby Moor, Retford DN22 8QS. Nearest station – Retford. You’ve only got a few days left to take advantage of a special winter offer at Ye Olde Bell Hotel. Until the end of November, they’re offering a full day spa with lunch, Sabbia Med treatment, overnight stay sharing a twin or double Classic room and full English breakfast for £140 pppn. Visit www.yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk and call 01777 705121 to book.
Belle About Town was invited for a complimentary stay at Ye Olde Bell but all opinions are honest reflections of our experience