Escape the madding crowd and make the most of your precious days off at one of the country’s most high-tech spas.
Sometimes we all need to pause, take stock and recharge – to escape the stresses of modern living. Which is why I find myself booking a few days at Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa, in Nottinghamshire, where quality rest and relaxation at the multi-million pound spa, fine dining and total peace and quiet are promised. And, located as it is on the borders of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, the hotel is perfect for those wishing to explore. Just a short train ride from central London, it feels a world away; tucked within the rural village of Barnby Moor, it’s moments away from the A1 but is set in over an acre of picturesque gardens.
Steeped in history, Ye Olde Bell has a long history of hospitality, having been built as a coaching inn in the late 17th century. Following sensitive modernisation by the owners, local couple Paul and Hilary Levack, it now holds four AA Rosettes. There are 59 individually styled boutique rooms and suites, but despite its size the hotel feels cosy and intimate. Oak panelling, leaded windows, antique furniture and velvet draped curtains and bed canopies lend it the air of a Tudor manor house – albeit one that caters to every modern whim, naturally.
We dine in on our first evening at Restaurant Bar 1650, where the creative menu focuses on fresh local produce. The setting is pretty special – beautifully elegant with original oak panelling and sparkling antique chandeliers. And a striking Art Deco bar takes centre stage. Having been awarded a coveted AA Rosette, it is no surprise that the food is gourmet and full of flavour. I tuck into steamed mussels, crisp pork belly and tarte tatin with rhubarb custard ice cream, and everything is excellent. Afterwards, we retreat to the drawing room with an after dinner drink and settle into a comfy sofa in front of the roaring fire, feeling very much like lord and lady of the manor.
While the food is good, it is the spa that has brought us – and most of the other guests – here. Spread across two floors, it was built a few years ago to provide the ultimate state of the art thermal spa retreat, and it has been awarded five bubbles by the Good Spa Guide. There’s a Turkish Rasul, a soul-soothing Sabbia Med sunshine therapy beach (where a vista of Cannes is painted on the walls and warm sun drenched sand covers the floor) as well as a 10m indoor-outdoor vitality pool. The six treatment rooms offer a menu of all the old favourites – super-soothing massages, age-defying facials, hydrating body wraps, manicures, pedicures and so much more. It really is a one-stop, fix-all retreat – just right for putting us weary city folk to rights. Swimsuits on and robed up, we are soon in total relaxation mode, thanks in no small part to the dedicated team of spa butlers who are on hand to cater to our every whim. With 10 different hot and cold experiences to explore, the Herbal Laconium is where the fun starts. Warmed to a comfortable 40-60°C it has been designed to gently relax the muscles and mind. Next, we step into the Stonebath room, one of only three in the country, where theatrical clouds of hydrating steam are released as hot mineral coals hit a bubbling cauldron of cold water. The slightly humid atmosphere is said to promote better breathing, flush out toxins and increase blood flow. We take our time working our way through the various areas: from the Arctic snow storm, into the Alpine sauna and on through the shower experience (which offers both warm tropical storm and cold mist functions), finishing with an ice bucket shower (which we are not quite brave enough to see through). A Turkish-style steam bath and a salt inhalation all add to this once in a lifetime experience.
We check out at the end of our stay feeling utterly relaxed and rejuvenated, wishing that work and real life were not calling…