WHEN you go to a Spa you want to be enveloped by warmth, calmness, luxury and peace. This is “me time” writ large and it’s a treat in which you should be able to lose yourself in the moment, shutting out the outside world and all its cares for a few blissful few hours.
That cinnamon warmth envelops you the second you walk into the brand-new spa next to Ye Olde Bell Hotel.
There’s a very warm welcome, attentive staff and some notable attention to detail in the design and running of this carefully balanced facility.There’s everything the experienced Spa-goer would expect, with some quirky new twists on familiar themes - like Feng Shui inspired massages, a sunlight treatment on a beach and an icy snowstorm to walk through.
The spa is not a place for keeping fit - there’s no pool to plough up and down or gym to distract you from the business of indulging yourself. There are all the things you’d expect - a range of rooms in the thermal area from foot spas to an Alpine Sauna and Salt inhalation room. The treatment area has six rooms (including two doubles) a post-treatment relaxation area (we were so chilled we completely lost track of the time and missed our next appointment time).
But then there's the extras, like Mo, your “butler” for the day. He's a lovely helpful chap who looks after the guest. For some reason he didn't come and remind us it was time for our next treatment but other than that he was bang on with his attentive water-fetching and keeping the spa absolutely sparklingly gleaming.
And those little twists. The all-over body massage I had in one of the stylish treatment rooms (singles and doubles are available) uses massage oil blends based on your Chinese Zodiac sign. Gimmick or not it was the best therapeutic massage I’ve had (those muscles knew about it) and this particular “goat” was happy.
Like most ancient civilisations the Chinese also knew a thing or two about therapies, including the benefits of hydrotherapy. The mix of heat and cold is the basic recipe for any water treatment and again the spa has taken this to some innovative extremes.
You can steam in the various sauna rooms (the water on hot coals is brought to you in one of the rooms by a medieval-looking iron bucket which automatically cranks round with some satisfying clunks). It all gets very Game of Thrones.
There’s a delightful warm vitality pool with a number of different hydrotherapy massage points which leads through sliding glass to a beautiful outside courtyard area. The sauna and steam rooms of the thermal area all look out onto the courtyard, giving an airy and open feel.
The mosaic tiled beds outside are heated but on the (very) cold day we visited they seemed reluctant to share their warmth. We could have wrapped ourselves in the faux fur wraps and snuggled down in the Alpine outside cabins next to open fires which were blazing away (more Game of Thrones!)- but there was too much to see and too many warm rooms were calling.
To cool off you could take the Ice Bucket challenge or (for wimps like me) stick to the Snowstorm experience - a walk-through “treat” in which you are blasted by snow, ice or sleet.For me this was the least impressive part of the thermal area - perhaps because on the day I went you could have got a similar experience in the car park such was the weather. Overall it’s stunning from the foot spas to the relaxing salt inhalation room.
On the heat side, alongside those open fires, the Sabbia Med treatment is a real antidote to winter darkness. It should give you all the benefits of a full day in the sun with none of the harmful rays.You enter a room with a real sand floor, deck chairs, and a vista of St Tropez. Settle back and relax as the therapy begins - dawn breaks and the "sun" rises to full strength then gently sets, all in a 30 minute cycle. Low levels of UV are emitted to release Vitamin D whilst specialised lamps are used to alleviate SAD.
There is cold water available everywhere in stylish (reusable) perspex glasses rather than tacky throwaway plastic, and free teas (with various health benefits) on demand. In the shower and changing rooms the lockers are spacious and include a bag in which to keep your jewellery - again that attention to detail. Funky flip-flops replace the usual shuffly towelling spa slip-ons.
There is little wonder the multi million-pound spa, which opened this summer, is already winning friends in high places - The Good Spa guide named it one of the top three in the UK with a top rating of five “bubbles”. That’s not bad for the new kid on the block in such a competitive and packed marketplace.
The purpose-built facility sits in all its modernity next to a hotel which packs in more history and famous guests than a copy of Who’s Who in a stately home.
But the cosiness, warmth and air of comfort, friendliness and relaxation which gives the historic 59-bedroomed hotel its reputation as a welcoming place have been carried across the car park to the spa.
Oak panelling, lush soft furnishings and roaring dog-grate fires in Ye Olde Bell are echoed by plush velvet chairs in rich plums and golds, subdued lighting and subtle hues and a state-of-the-art open fire in the centre of the spa reception area, where guests are greeted with a choice of free teas (available throughout the day) coffees or something more celebratory.
You can get your hair and make up done here (Ye Olde Bell is understandably a popular wedding venue) and a range of other beauty treatments. My Sperience Elements Massage cost £75 for the full hour (£40 for 30 minutes) and my guest had a Hydracure Intense Hydration facial (same prices). The Sabbia Med treatment is £20 per person.
Lunch was an absolute delight - local food, locally sourced products perfectly cooked. It’s a simple menu of three courses with three choices - healthy, medium healthy, and full-on go-for-it treats. Drinks are reasonably priced (our sparkling English wine was delicious). You can mix and match on the menus and as a full-day spa (£95) includes a two-course lunch that’s not bad value.
Smart owners of the building have, over the years, capitialised on its location. In the 17th century it was a farmhouse - one of such importance it had its own chapel as there was no place of worship in the village of Barnby Moor. Little will have changed in the landscape immediately around the building. It is in a little rural oasis, but with the A1 charging past just out of sight and earshot and lying as it does on the borders of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire it can list accessibility as one of its many positives.
With the introduction of the postal service in 1635 it became an important stop between London and Edinburgh for the coaches, horses and post boys who carried the mail.
Bedrooms for weary stagecoach travellers have seen some famous heads lay down to sleep- including Queen Victoria, Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Oliver Reed, Joan Crawford, Sir Harold and Lady Wilson - even One Direction.
These days the function rooms - including the gorgeous panelled Nielsen Suite with its glorious fireplaces- provide the backdrop to weddings and other events and the 59 rooms, suites and lodges have been beautifully restored and individually styled by the current owners with period furniture, luxurious fabrics and contemporary bathrooms.
You can eat from the AA Rosette menu in Restaurant Bar 1650, or more casually from the creative traditional menu in the St Leger Bistro-by-the-bar. In warmer weather there are options for al fresco dining on the terraces and in the extensive gardens.
Paul and Hilary Levack, longstanding residents of Barnby Moor village, bought the freehold in 2002 and say it’s been a labour of love to restore, modernise and improve the hotel - and you can certainly see the pride that has gone into making a place where people really feel at home, but pampered.
There are lots of spa packages to chose from - a Morning Spa costs from £65 including a two-course lunch, whilst an overnight package starts at £149.50 per person.
The Spa is hosting a Wellness Workshop on January 24 aimed at guests who might be looking for some motivation to get more active, eat better, alleviate aches and pains or improve their flexibility? The workshop will include a light lunch followed by a discussion panel followed by one on one advice session with industry experts, comprising of a Personal Trainer, Physio therapist, Chef and Spa therapists. It costs £35 per person including a two course lunch.
For more details on all that the hotel and spa can offer visit www.yeoldebell.