Ye Olde Bell, Retford – Spa Review
Ye Olde Bell, Retford
by Helen Johnston
The weather gods were smiling the day we visited Ye Olde Bell, laying on warm spring sunshine and blue skies for the first day of British Summer Time, after a seemingly interminable winter.
After shedding several layers of clothing we emerged blinking into the brightness of the courtyard, as though coming out of hibernation, exposing our pasty limbs to the warmth of the sun’s rays as we relaxed back on the mosaic-tiled loungers.
It seemed almost impossible that we should be sunbathing in March in Nottinghamshire, and yet, cocooned in this suntrap, it was easy to imagine we had fast-forwarded to summer.
The spa building is tucked behind the hotel, positioned at the halfway point between Edinburgh and London on the Great North Road. A light and airy reception with crushed velvet seating and a bar leads into the changing areas where lockers contain a robe, towels and flip-flops.
“Age-old hypnotic trance”
There is a cleverly-designed indoor/outdoor pool which has a button-operated sliding door allowing easy movement from one side to the other. It has a variety of massage facilities which are also button-operated, so you can switch them on as required. The water was bath-hot and was perfectly pleasant outdoors as well as in. There are plenty of loungers and a divan to relax on after being gently pummelled by the water jets, and a friendly ‘butler’ is always on hand to provide complimentary drinks.
There are eight hot and cold thermal experiences, which are nicely lined up in order of intensity. First is the herbal laconium at a bearable 40-60c and designed to get you started by warming up muscles while the herbs clear the mind. Tinted windows allow users to look out to the courtyard, pool and a cluster of alpine chalets gathered around fire pits. Later on we sat on furs by the fire, enjoying the age-old hypnotic trance induced by gazing into dancing flames.
But first we continued with our exploration of the spa. Next was the stone bath steam room where a bucket of hot coals is periodically dipped into water, creating a slightly humid atmosphere. After that was the freezing cold snow storm walk, designed to reinvigorate the senses before heading into the challenging 80-95c heat of the Alpine sauna.
A shower walk followed, with alternating warm and cold sprays, and you can also pull a rope to have a bucket of cold water emptied on to your head. I decided that was an experience I didn’t need to have, unlike my teenage daughter who, with the bravery of youth, gave it a go and said it was great.
The steam bath beckoned then, with 100% humidity and soft lighting giving a boost to the metabolism, and then finally we headed for the silent salt inhalation room. You can spend as much time as you like in here – compared to the other rooms which have recommended time limits – and there are soft cushioned loungers and seating to get comfy on. A wall of salt, illuminated in soft shades of colour, mimics a marine climate, aiding respiration and clearing sinuses.
The spa also offers a range of treatments and I had the Sperience Elements Massage, which is inspired by feng shui. It started with the therapist asking me which year I was born in, so she could choose the corresponding essential oil based on the Chinese zodiac. The massage was concentrated on shoulders and back and did the job, easing out a couple of stubborn tension knots in my shoulders and very nearly putting me to sleep. There is a softly-lit relaxation room to recline in afterwards, which was perfect to enjoy the effects of the massage a while longer and come back to life slowly.
Lunch in the lovely Herb Garden Brasserie was a gastronomic delight. Our order had been taken earlier when we arrived so there was no waiting time and we feasted on three light courses, each presented beautifully on the plate, and washed down with a cheeky Prosecco.
At the end of our visit I felt as though I’d been on a mini holiday, so relaxed and rejuvenated was I after escaping normal life for a day. And as we headed out to the car park, the gods were still smiling and the sun continued to shine.
Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa, Barnby Moor, Retford, Notts, DN22 8QS
Full day spa from £95. Morning from £65. Afternoon from £50. Twilight from £55. Overnight stay from £149.50
Tel: 01777 705121