Trying to get a firefighter to a spa isn’t the easiest thing. Especially when they’ve been mentally scarred by one.
The last time I took Mr M into a spa, I inadvertently signed us up for some ‘romantic’ experience that involved us having to read poetry to each other and feed each other grapes (I shit you not) before we could even get our massages, by which point he’d pretty much legged it out the door.
That was about seven years ago, but he’s never forgotten – not forgiven. So when I told him we’d been invited to try a new shiny spa and stay over at a hotel he wasn’t exactly the most enthused by the idea. But a few glimpses at the pictures of The Olde Bell and a read-out of the menu and he agreed to give it a go.
Despite his acquiescence, poor old Mr M was blessed with the worst night shift possible the night before we drove up to Barnby Moor. I can only thank sunshine, the cosy look of the hotel, and the warm welcome we received the minute we walked into the hotel’s recently-opened spa for getting us into those robes and set for the most relaxing afternoon we’ve had in a long time, rather than a retreat to our home for him to catch up on some much-needed snooze time.
The spa is a relatively new addition to Ye Olde Bell, and they certainly haven’t done things by half. Now, I’m no spa expert, but since the idea of them is to relax, retreat and recharge, I think they’ve got it bang on here. As alien an environment as it is to us, as soon as we walked in we felt comfortable. From the chic, elegant yet modern reception area, through the spectacular corridors to the changing rooms, we entered a world of calm that is a million miles from the life we usually lead.
Before we got changed, we were led on a tour as if in a dream, eyeing up thermal experiences and relaxation spaces with the same hunger we usually eye up food. Having discussed on the way up whether it’s really possible to spend that many hours doing NOTHING in a spa, we soon became concerned that we just wouldn’t have enough time to embrace the experience.
There’s a pool, heated loungers outside, mini Alpine-style chalets complete with fire pits and furry blankets. There’s saunas (yes, plural), steam rooms, a ‘snowstorm experience’, cold showers. There are foot spas and even a salt inhalation room. If you want to squeeze in a LOT of different relaxation experiences, this is the place to be.
Concerns left at the door, we were in our robes within minutes and ready for pre-spa lunch in the Herb Garden Brasserie adjoined to the spa. Cleverly, the menu has three levels – healthy, less healthy, and indulgent – giving you the chance to soothe your conscience with some virtuous food. Of course, it all looks great but it’s amazing how removing guilt can make something so much more enjoyable.
Eager to get into the spa, we chose quickly, mixing and matching courses from the healthy and less healthy, starting on cold pressed ham hock with pea puree and quail scotch egg for me and crab cakes with sweet chilli and tomato chutney for him. We moved on to blackened cajun salmon which, by the way, was fabulously cooked, with citrus couscous and basil pesto for me, while Mr M had pan-fried sea bream with a stonkingly rich herb risotto, spinach, tomato concasse and saffron sauce.
In hindsight, I wish we’d had longer so we could have appreciated the gorgeousness of this lunch as much as it deserved, rather than rushing, and I’d return for this food alone, even if I couldn’t get into the spa.
Having said that, if I was close enough to this gorgeous place again, whether I’d booked in or not I think you’d find me sneaking in to soak up some of the chilled-out vibes that fill it and you can’t help but allow to seep into you. I’m more than aware that the life Mr M and I lead is pretty chaotic – packed with work, fun, adventure and a fair bit of rushing around. Of course, it’s our choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s always good for us. And if anywhere has made me realised how important it is to stop, take a breath, and just sit quietly for a minute, it’s the spa at Ye Olde Bell.
Bellies full, we spent the next few hours wallowing in the pool, heating ourselves to crazy temperatures in the super stylish and impressive saunas (including the one in the above right pic with the automatic water splashy thing that happens on a timer), shivering through the snowstorm, steaming ourselves beyond all belief and then dousing ourselves in buckets of cold water. We rounded our time in the spa off with a relaxing lie-down in the salt relaxation room doing, and saying, nothing for possibly the longest time in 10 years.
If I thought it couldn’t get any better, we headed off for a full body massage to round off the day, having our aches and pains kneaded out and again, enjoying an hour without texts, emails, time and noise. Perfect.
If I’d had to go home at that point, I think I might have cried. Lucky for us, we had a room reserved, so after floating back to reception we headed to our lodge in a building housed just opposite the main building. Style-wise, it’s a world apart from the modern, sleek spa, but attractive in a completely different way. A cosy bed, elegant decor, and a big fat roll-top bath just waiting to be filled. Continuing our theme of general relaxation we pottered around for a while and got changed before sauntering over to the main building for dinner.
Like lunch, dinner involved a great choice of food, with a more complex menu for the restaurant or something slightly more simple (though not basic by any stretch of the imagination) in the bistro. We opted for simple and were looked after superbly by head of operations Billy Brown.
It’s not often I name check people, but when someone stands out as an ambassador for their industry, it’s impossible not to find their name ingrained in your brain and to catch yourself subconsciously comparing any staff elsewhere to them. Seriously restaurateurs, if you’re looking to show your newbies how it’s done, you could do worse than to take them to Ye Olde Bell and let them watch this man work a room.
After some homemade bread, I started with a kind of deconstructed rarebit that was a great contrast of different elements, served up with a refreshing celeriac slaw, but Mr M won with a crispy duck in a peanut dressing with ribbons of spring onion and fresh, slightly bitter lettuce.
For main course he kept it simple, opting for steak, but won out with the crispiest, lightest chips going, while I had a bit of a way-out-there choice with duck that came with feta and olives. I guess it was a bid for a bit of a Mediterranean feel but for me it didn’t quite work.
We 100% intended to swerve dessert but Billy persuaded us to try the chocolate and juniper berry fondant with spiced plum ice cream and caramelised white chocolate. A winner on all counts though I’m not sure I could have managed a whole one.
Unsurprisingly we fell into bed for what was the deepest sleep I’ve had in quite some time. Word to the wise, if you are having trouble sleeping, a spa followed by dinner and a nice bottle of red will do it for you! We awoke feeling refreshed and revived and like we’d had a lot longer than a few hours away from reality.
A chilled breakfast, including jokes with the ever-cheerful Billy, and we were soon on our way ready to take on the chaos again, with even Mr M saying our stay had reversed his opinions on having a day in a spa. From the impeccable service to the pristine facilities, the fine food and the relaxing room, they’ve got it right at Ye Olde Bell.
And they didn’t even make him read poetry….!
We were invited for a complimentary stay at Ye Olde Bell to check out the new spa and stay over.
Ye Olde Bell Hotel are offering you the chance to kiss goodbye to the winter blues with a special deal until the end of this month (November. You’ll get the chance to try their Sabbia Med therapy, which replicates sunrise to sunset in a 30-minute cycle in a setting that recreates the south of France. You can enjoy a full day spa with lunch, Sabbia Med treatment, overnight stay sharing a twin or double Classic room and full English breakfast for £140 pppn. Visit www.yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk and call 01777 705121 to book.