The Handbook
The Handbook

Tired from a long ol’ week of grafting? Maybe your boss’s on your back about an impending deadline or your kids are driving you up the wall? You know what you need? A week away in the Bahamas! But, because that’s not likely to happen anytime soon (I’ve used up all of my annual leave for the year too, don’t worry), how about a spa break with the girls? Well, I may have found just the spa retreat for you.

If I’m being completely honest, I hadn’t heard of Retford before my trip away and after a quick Google search of the little town, I was a little apprehensive. There’s not a whole lot going on in the little town but that being said, as soon as I stepped off the train, I absorbed the quaint sense of community. It almost felt as if I’d hopped into a time machine and headed back to the 1970’s with the local butchers calling out deals for his cuts of meat on the street, which is always rather entertaining. But, the town had a charm to it, with the Chesterfield Canal running through and dotted with sweet cafés and old-fashioned pubs (including The Brewery Shed which me and my partner enjoyed a tipple or two in their canal side garden).

The Hotel

Locked in the country village of Barnby Moor on the border of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (just a ten minute taxi ride from Retford), Ye Olde Bell is rich in history, dating back to the 17th Century. This little spot first rose to prominence as a primary between point of London and Edinburgh with the inauguration of the postal service in 1635. Fast-forward to today and the hotel is very much a family affair, individually run by longstanding residents of Barnby Moor village, Paul and Hilary Levack, taking over Ye Olde Bell in 2007. The couple spearheaded a full-scale renovation and refurbishment, ushering modern elements into the mix, whilst still championing the building’s heritage and tradition. I mean, when you walk along the original creaky oak floorboards, you’ll see what I mean.

To say Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa is full of character would be an understatement. Again feeling slightly like I’d stepped back in time, I was greeted with oak panelling and antique furniture, leaded windows and dazzling chandeliers, and immediately felt at home.

We soon made our way up the stairs, one creaking step at a time, to our room. Nodding to the history of the property, our bedroom was scattered with its own little trinkets and quirks. A beautiful bay window took centerstage accompanied with a Victorian-style dresser and two plush armchairs, while the oak framed bed filled the majority of the main floor space. The bathroom had been modernised, made chicly stylish and came equipped with the dreamiest of showers.

The Food

Informal bistro dining? Check. Fine dining? Check. Banquet feasting? Oh, go on then! Whatever you fancy, Ye Olde Bell Hotel has you covered.

We took to the floor and led ourselves down to the dining area, being it Thursday evening we were shocked to have the restaurant to ourselves. Aptly named Restaurant Bar 1650 after the year of origin of Ye Olde Bell, is packed out with oak panelling and an Art Deco style bar. As it was just the two of us dining, we picked the perfect spot next to the window, allowing us to admire the glorious golden hour sunset outside. Both being vegan, we went in a little apprehensive of what would be dished up, however we were presented with their specially designed vegan menu.

To start, I enjoyed a white bean and fennel volouté topped with a stuffed courgette flower, while my accompany got his teeth around pan baked polenta with wilted greens, asparagus and olive foam. Both being ravenous we quickly chowed down without any complaints. The star of the show for me was the tomato gnocchi with olive, garlic, courgette, artichoke and fresh basil, maybe it was me being a novice having never had fresh gnocchi before (I grew up on the pack supermarket stuff okay…) but it was so light and fluffy, it felt like I was biting into a cloud. For dessert, we opted for a fresh fruit salad with Champagne sorbet, which refreshed our palette from the rich tomato sauce.

The Spa

Warming music and flowing waters encased the air, cosy corners encouraged cuddling couples to while away the afternoon, and bubbling jacuzzis enticed us into their bubbling lava. The spa is the newest addition to Ye Olde Bell, opening back in 2017, and is equipped with ten spa experiences, an indoor-outdoor vitality pool, an extensive array of treatments and bespoke therapies, Herb Garden Brasserie, outdoor relaxation pods and a hair and beauty salon.

We spent the whole day cycling around each therapy and experience, engulfed in the easing atmosphere and a little giddy from the pampering after a whirlwind of a week in the office. The spa butlers were armed with free fresh herbal tea and exotic fruits on trays, and many a cocktail were consumed while blissfully enjoying the outdoor jacuzzi. One highlight was the snowstorm experience, which paired perfectly after a lengthy period in alpine sauna. You’re essentially cast into a snow blizzard, lined with lightning and gusts of wind, after you’ve sweated out your sins in the three saunas. It’s an, er, experience all right!

We made our way upstairs for our facial, and oh my, it was the dreamiest of facials using the ever so delightful Germaine de Cappuccini products. Think soothing hot towels, sensational shoulder massages and you’ll leave with your face feeling light, fluffy and carefree. Put it this way, until further notice, assume I’m out of the office at the spa…

Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa can be found at Barnby Moor, Retford, Nottinghamshire, DN22 8QS. Depending on your London location but I found the best route was a train direct from Kings Cross (1 hour 40) and hopped in a taxi (10 minutes),