After a wonderful nights stay in the hotel, we checked out and headed the short distance over the courtyard to the spa. You can’t miss the spa – SPA in huge letters above the door is a slight giveaway, plus there’s an old bell outside, perhaps the original ‘Ye Olde Bell’.
The spa oozes relaxing vibes as soon as you walk through the door. A plush bar area with comfortable seating and butler service is the perfect place to chill and go through the days itinerary. Michelle was looking after us on the day and took us through the lunch menus (where you can pre-order your food if desired) and the general timetable of the day.
As with most spa’s there is a medical form to fill out but that aside, there’s nothing really left to do other than head to the changing room and grab your robe and comfy flip-flops. The corridor to the changing area reminded me of a top London restaurant, a really great example of top design work.
Walking out into the main spa area makes an incredible first impression. The pool is divided into two sections with a door that you push a button to access the outside area. Serious money has gone into this spa and it shows, the choice of treatments is the best we have come across – a salt room, a sauna, a stone room sauna, herbal sauna, steam room, shower walk, snow walk all with butler service, wow.
We headed outside while the sun was shining. There’s a choice of stone loungers, sun loungers, a snug area and alpine lodge seating complete with a firepit. Honestly, we didn’t know where to start, it all looked so good. Approaching Ye Olde Bell, you would have no clue that something like this exists right behind it.
The snug was the first of our chillout zones. A huge pod with cushions and a view out onto the pool, you could easily be on holiday. The spa butlers came around every now and then to offer drinks or fruit which was much appreciated. So much thought and effort has gone into this spa experience.
After a dip in the pool, where there are hydrojets that massage your body along with jacuzzi zones scattered around, we headed to lunch. Many people decided to get changed in order to eat but some take the more relaxed approach and stay in their robes. We headed over to the Herb Garden Brasserie for our two-course meal.
The brasserie is beautiful, a chilled out, modern affair with an open kitchen so that you can watch your food prepared. We had some foccacia to begin with which was excellent along with fresh butter and sea salt. The brasserie was certainly more popular than the St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar but maybe due to catering more for the spa crowd.
Sicilian lemonades were also fresh and tasty, many people opted for the wine list with a good selection to choose from. Cocktails are also a very good option. Our food arrived looking somewhere between fine dining and Yorkshire portion – a good place to be. We both had the duck breast with sweet potato, broccoli, pomme dauphine and duck jus.
The duck was advertised as pink, however it came a little over that. However, it was still juicy and a perfect match with the sweet potato puree. The pomme dauphine were like little potato croquettes, very good indeed. The star however was the confit duck croquette, melt in the mouth stuff. We really enjoyed this dish.
We loved watching the chef behind the pass putting dishes together with artistic flair, it really does bring another dimension to the experience. We decided to go opposing ways on dessert – a Strawberry Macaron with Strawberry Mousse, White Chocolate Truffle, roasted White Chocolate and Strawberry Sorbet plus a Malt Parfait, baked Chocolate Ganache, Almond Soil and Coffee.
The strawberry dish arrived looking very dainty. Small basil leaves had been carefully placed around the dish but, when trying everything together, they just didn’t work for me. The macaron though was superb, as was the sorbet. The chocolate truffles were a revelation too – another enjoyable plate of food.
The parfait arrived sandwiched between two chocolate brownies, an indulgent plate for sure. The coffee came in the form of jellies which gave a variance of texture to the dish, very rich and also very naughty – we loved it.
After lunch it was back to relaxation, it’s a hard life isn’t it? We headed for the treatment area just beside the indoor pool. The salt room was our first port of call. It’s an odd place really as total silence is observed while people inhale from a huge block of salt. The benefits of this include improvements to your respiratory system, works for me!
The steam room wasn’t quite as vicious as one’s that we have previously encountered and we actually did a solid 10 minutes in there. Onwards from there we braved the ‘snow walk’. Imagine someone chucking a slush puppy over your head from a great height, that’s pretty much what you’re getting. You do have an option of ‘snowfall’ or, if you’re feeling brave, ‘snowstorm’.
The alpine sauna was actually really well thought out as there’s two-way glass giving you a view of the alpine huts outside. You could be in Switzerland instead of Retford.
The stone room though is next level, my backside nearly fell out of my shorts as the giant stone lever lifts up the hot coals and dumps them into the water to create steam – terrifying! Although it will get you losing weight, one way or the other.
We really enjoyed the herbal sauna out of all of them. It seeks to aid skin vitality through the essence of herbs which is quite cool. Although the temperature really does creep up on you. Out of all three saunas, this one made me sweat the most, hands down.
Time to cool off, what better way than to walk under a row of showers with alternating temperatures? The shower walk is exactly that, weirdly it works. Only the brave go for the bucket shower at the end, pull on the rope and get soaked by a giant barrel of cold water – I actually enjoyed it.
Right in the centre of the spa there’s an area to sit down and plant your feet into the foot massagers – a mini jacuzzi for feet. They really have thought of everything here.
Massages were our chosen treatment. We headed upstairs to the tranquil dark room where two people can enjoy a massage, although single rooms are also available. I’ve never been elbow-dropped by a Yorkshire lass before but today the day finally arrived. I mean that in jest of course, the massage really did get into my shoulders using unusual techniques.
We felt suitably refreshed after a great experience with the therapists, I would highly recommend a massage. You can pretty much choose your rating from soft and relaxing through to borderline assault. The choice, as they say, is yours.
It was such a shame to say goodbye to Ye Olde Bell and in particular, the spa. For £95 ($123 US) per person for a full day, inclusive of food, there’s not many better deals around than that. As previously stated, the thought and effort that has been put in to making this spa a perfect day is just incredible. We really can’t wait to do it all over again.
Nearest Train Station: Retford