It’s a long running joke here at Brides Up North HQ that my birthday celebrations last longer than most *holds hands up with guilt*. Despite sailing past 30, I don’t dread the December date coming around at all, but instead embrace the ‘it’s my birthday’ limelight for at least a full week.
And so, when an invitation for a complimentary overnight spa break at a quaint Nottinghamshire countryside hotel landed, it provided a timely excuse to eke out the celebrations for another couple of days (at least!).
Our destination? Ye Olde Bell nestled in the quiet village of Barnby Moor, which has much more to it than first meets the eye. On the approach you could be forgiven for mistaking the Tudor-style hotel as a typical country inn, when in fact carefully concealed within its grounds is a multi-million-pound spa, opened in 2016 to bring fresh appeal to its already tempting offering.
A winning combination indeed, the original hotel, which has served as a welcoming haven for travellers since the 17th century, offers all the character and comforts one would expect from a homely rural inn through its sympathetically renovated bedrooms and suites, roaring log fires, oak-panelled interiors and freshly cooked food. Meanwhile the modern spa takes the ‘escape to the country’ experience up a notch, inviting guests to indulge its first-class facilities, heavenly treatments and exquisite brasserie dining.
Images supplied by Ye Olde Bell.
Arriving on the evening of my birthday, the hotel’s warm interiors provided instant shelter and relief from the cold winter weather. Ye Olde Bell comprises 59 rooms in total – a mix of bedrooms and suites combining original period features and contemporary design located within the main building, and a collection of luxurious two-storey lodges situated in The Courtyard. We were checked into one of the hotel’s spacious doubles boasting elegant design and impressive bathroom complete with roll top bath.
After a quick freshen up, we gravitated to the friendly bar area for a few glasses of prosecco next to an open fire ahead of dinner. Ye Olde Bell guests can opt to dine in the decadent Restaurant Bar 1650 boasting a focal art deco style bar or alternatively in the St Ledger Bistro-by-the-Bar. As we were enjoying the festive bustle in this area of the hotel we chose to stay put and perused the more than adequate fish, meat and vegetarian options on the menu and specials board.
Executive Head Chef Keith Firth, and his team, pride themselves on using the finest local ingredients for their enticing menus, featuring both classics and seasonal delights, which had us spoilt for choice. Craving something on the lighter side, I chose the pan baked fillet of stone bass with pesto risotto, broad bean, red pepper coulis and crisp monk fish cheek, while Andy gave into his temptation for the fillet steak with black pepper sauce and all the trimmings. Both were satisfying portions, well presented and delivered on taste, as did our desserts of tiramisu mousse with chocolate ice cream.
Keen to awake refreshed ahead of our spa visit that was lined up for the following day we headed to bed at a respectable hour after polishing off a bottle of Spanish red.
Starting the day with a full English breakfast (for him) and Eggs Royale (for me) we skipped across the grounds to the beautiful red brick building that houses Spa at Ye Olde Bell. Instantly wowed by the reception area alone, the impressive space as been designed to perfection; light and bright with just the right level of opulence to uplift but not overpower.
Given a run trough of the facilities, our treatment times and lunch options, we changed into our swimwear, robes and flip flops and began by exploring the spa’s ten hot and cold thermal experience, designed to relax, cleanse and rejuvenate. The rooms varied from the likes of the hot Stonebath, Alpine Sauna and Steam Bath to the icy Snow Storm Walk which helps to boost the immune system and eliminate toxins and is said to even improve the appearance of cellulite – if you can withstand its Baltic showers that is!
Next a dip in the Vitality Pool, which stretches from the indoors out with powerful water massage jets and fabulous air recliners.
Treatment wise, spa-goers can choose from a host of massages, facials and wraps as well as bespoke experiences, ranging from traditional techniques to and more unusual ritualistic therapies. A first for us, our treatment – a 30-minute Sperience Elements Massage – was carried out in a double treatment room, so Andy and I laid opposite one another as our therapists set to work. Based on traditional Chinese philosophy, the massage was tailored by matching our zodiac sign to one of their active oils, then used to relieve tension and negative energy throughout the body. Both tigers, we were matched to a revitalising minty scent, which instantly boosted the spirits though the relaxing massage techniques (during which it felt like my therapist had about ten hands rather than just the two!) swept us away to a place of pure tranquillity.
Ahead of lunch we were also treated to use of the Sabbia Med; a specially designed treatment room to mimic a trip to the beach with low levels of UV emitted during the 30-minute cycle to release much-needed Vitamin D that we Brits crave, particularly during the colder months of the year.
Lunch was served in spa’s Herb Garden Brasserie with choices varying from healthy and balanced to wholesome and indulgent, accommodating a range of tastes and dietary requirements. We were totally blown away by our two-courses which were easily up there with the best food I’ve witnessed served at a spa. Beautifully presented and big on texture, colour and flavour, the dishes were as pleasing to look at as they were to devour. Andy’s chicken ballotine with seasonal vegetables in particular looked nothing short of a Master Chef standard and, on a similar note, my dessert of warm carrot cake with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce would have easily caused Greg Wallace to go weak at the knees!
The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around the spa and wrapped-up in the open-air relaxation areas complete with big fluffy throws and fire pits, which meant we left Ye Olde Bell feeling fully cared for and wonderfully revitalised.
And so, whether looking for a pre-wedding escape to recharge the batteries, an ultimate hen do location or indulgent minimoon, I can safely say that this fine Nottinghamshire hotel and spa can deliver on all, with a range of spa day and overnight packages available. These also include morning and twilight options, which would make ideal Christmas gifts for those who are short on time but in need of some all-out relaxation.
And Ye Olde Bell’s offering for you brides-to-be doesn’t stop there, as it’s also makes for a romantic country wedding venue – and is incidentally where my parents hosted their big day reception some 37 years ago! Today the hotel boasts a choice of six licensed suites, varying from its opulent oak-panelled rooms with statement fireplaces to its magical outdoor Oak Pavilion, enabling it to cater for a range of themes, styles and preferences.
Furthermore, in addition to hotel accommodation, wedding parties and guests can make use of the spa pre and post wedding, with bridal and occasion makeup and beauty treatments available to book plus there’s even a hair salon there too!
Ye Olde Bell Suggests
For a sophisticated hen do nothing beats chill out time with your nearest and dearest. At Ye Olde Bell we have plenty of places to collectively lounge, our giant apple or bamboo beds are the perfect place for groups to relax.
Our recommendations for a group spa get together is the Eternal Sunshine package, which includes full day spa, two course lunch, Sabbia Med for up to ten guests. Priced at £125pp.
If you want more of a hen party, then one of the selected themed party spas, hosted on selected dates throughout the year are ideal. The events feature poolside DJ playing dance tunes, the bar creates cocktails to drink in the pool and there is a themed buffet. Priced at £79pp.
Our Relax and Rejuvenate package is the perfect minimoon experience, couples can enjoy the full spa experience in addition to a stay and dinner at the hotel.
It includes: Full day spa, two course lunch in the Herb Garden Brasserie, Sabbia Med for two, one-hour treatment, overnight stay with candle-lit dinner, breakfast, with a late check out. From £265pp.
For more information on Ye Olde Bell, visit the website.