checking in | ye old bell hotel & spa

We dial a local taxi number and this is the scene. Us: “Hi, do you have anything available asap?” Them: “I’m booked up for the next hour, try Jim.” We ring Jim, he’s also out of action for a full 45 minutes but advises us to ring Jan. We do it. Jan: “I’ll pop down now and pick you up…it will be me”. Yep, we’re not in London anymore Toto.

In fact, we were 90 minutes out of town, waiting at Retford station for Jan to “pop down” and take us to Ye Old Bell Spa & Hotel right on the border of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The (AA Four-Star Rosette) country hotel, which dates back to the 17th century, now has 53 rooms, four suites and two self-contained lodges, and all the plush fabrics, deep red carpets, elegant wallpaper and pretty grounds you’d imagine an old English hotel to have. It looks the part, old, charming…if those walls could talk ey?

Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Restaurant

We had a standard double (actually two single beds pushed together, and £195 per night too) and it had plenty of old elegance, including a grand chair by the fireplace, and huge thick curtains, with the very modern addition of a plasma TV on the wall. For us, the real beauty was the spa, even though it is a much more modern addition to the estate. Swimsuits on and robed up, we were in total relaxation mode and could feel that London stress melt away as we hit the sun loungers around the heated pool, which goes from indoor to outdoor. A fruit plate does the rounds as part of the poolside service, and with a mini air tub, a reflexology station, massage jets and a water curtain, there’s plenty to dive into. They even have faux fur rugs in their alpine chalets and an open fire to keep any chill at bay.

With ten hot and cold thermal experiences to explore, things just got better from there. We sat in three different saunas, ranging from 40 to 95 degrees; walked through a snowfall complete with thunder rumbles; hit the steam bath room, which was a nice 42-45 degrees; and chilled out in silence in our fave spot, the low-light salt inhalation room.

We stayed in the spa for lunch, eating in their Herb Garden Brasserie. The menu hit all the spots, with enough for those wanting to be good and healthy as well as indulge. We tucked into a tasty butternut squash soup and poached salmon with mash puree, broad beans and asparagus, and then got into the deep end with a rather sizeable and rich chocolate mousse.

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Day two saw us back at the spa for a treatment in between time spent doing absolutely nothing else. It was a feng shui inspired full body massage where the oil is chosen based on Chinese philosophy and your zodiac sign, and boy it did smell good. For 60 minutes we were transported into a world we didn’t want to leave. A hour-long treatment will cost you £75 and most enjoyable it is too.

What’s our verdict then? We loved the spa, but you could tell that right? There were a few gripes with the hotel – the two beds pushed together, the £8 cost for a ham sandwich, harsh lighting in the bar and the noise (congrats to the newly wedded couple by the way) – but every single member of staff was amazing, approachable and great at their job…the place does have charm by the bucket load too.

Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Restaurant, Barnby Moor, Retford, Nottinghamshire, DN22 8QS