Ye Olde Bell in Retford, Nottinghamshire dates back to the 17th century and over the years has attracted a cavalcade of celebrity guests including Bing Crosby and Joan Crawford. However, rather than resting on its storied history and individual charm, complete with antiques, gilded mirrors and velvet cushions, the coaching inn is home to one of the country’s finest and most cutting-edge spas. If the tail end of winter, residual sniffles and boredom with resolutions is starting to grate, the Spa at Ye Olde Bell is the ideal healthy and luxurious weekend escape, especially as it’s just an hour and a half on the train from the city, or a three-hour drive.
The spa is best known for its exciting collection of thermal rooms to explore, ranging from the Herbal Laconium, with a light steamy humidity, infused with herbs and at a fairly gentle heat of 40-60°C, to the Stonebath with a steampunk-esque central heating mechanism that creates a satisfying and dramatic amount of steam on each rotation, which is a lot more humid and considerably hotter at 50-70°C. There’s also an Alpine Sauna, at 80-95°C, and a 100% humidity Steam Bath of 42-45°C. Each room is beautifully decorated and many have a view out of huge picture windows to the pretty courtyard outside, complete with Alpine huts, blankets and open fires.
The Spa at Ye Olde Bell also features what is perhaps the most relaxing room in Britain – the permanently 25°C Salt Inhalation Room with huge soft cushions to lie (and nap) on and a huge salt wall to help improve respiration and sinus problems – ideal if you still have the January lurgy. For an invigorating wake-up after any of the warm or hot rooms, the Spa at Ye Olde Bell has a unique Snow Storm Walk through which a blizzard of snowflakes is directed at you – it’s a lot of fun as well as claiming to help boost the immune system and flush out toxins.
At the centre of the spa is the half-inside, half-outside Vitality Pool, complete with hydrotherapy features including massaging water jets, a reflexology station and air recliners. One could easily linger in the spa for an entire day, especially given the welcoming, plush loungers and gorgeous outside relaxation pods. Plus the spa’s Herb Garden Brasserie serves delicious wholesome lunches that range from the healthy to indulgent, including lamb in a pea crumb with fondant potato, beetroot, redcurrant jelly and a pea garden; or grilled cod with spring onion mash, poached hen’s egg and vanilla and olive sauce.
Treatments at the Spa at Ye Olde Bell are definitely worth adding to a spa break and are indulgently and sensitively administered by the welcoming and expert staff. Traditional massages and facials are available alongside a collection of more unusual treatments from around the world, including a 60-min Turkish Ritual Massage using a divine saffron massage balm and a 120-minute Japanese Hydrating Water Therapy that includes an exfoliating back scrub, back massage using a floral oil and then an Intense Hydration facial, using Japanese spring water. The spa offers a collection of fantastic day or weekend packages too, including a stay at Ye Olde Bell and dinner in lauded hotel eatery, Restaurant Bar 1650. The coaching inn and spa offers a compelling combination of history, great food, comfort, indulgence and wellness that makes it a fantastic location for a healthy new start to the year, Valentine’s break or a ‘just because’ weekend escape at any time.
Ye Olde Bell & Spa, Barnby Moor, Retford, Nottinghamshire, DN22 8QS, yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk