Spa review: Ye Olde Bell Spa, Retford

Adam Lowe

Featured image: Ye Olde Bell

Ye Olde Bell is a gorgeous, four-star spa and hotel, which has received accolades from The Times, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, Hello and The Guardian. Located on the cusp of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and sporting a blend of 17th-century charm and contemporary conveniences, Ye Olde Bell is perfect for a weekend getaway as well as a luxurious day trip to the on-site spa.

Ye Olde Bell’s multimillion-pound spa features 11 thermal experiences, an indoor/outdoor vitality pool, treatment rooms, and the gourmet Herb Garden Brasserie. It also sports a number of treatment rooms, where you can enjoy classic massages, as well as the Sabbia Med suite (which we were lucky enough to try out for ourselves).

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

Sabia Med

Sabbia Med is an invigorating vitamin D treatment, designed to help alleviate seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), which is especially common in our wet and dreary British winters. When enjoying the Sabbia Med treatment, you get a full day’s sunshine in just 30 minutes, all from the comfort of a suite painted to look like the Cannes shore (and for only £35 per person).

The room goes from dark, as in the early morning, to dawn, to noon, to dusk, and then dark again. Meanwhile, you can sit back and relax in a deck chair as you hear the calming sound of crashing waves and feel the crunch of sand underfoot.

It may not be your first thought when visiting a spa, but if you find yourself feeling blue in the winter time (or if you simply have low vitamin D levels), this treatment will perk you right back up again.

The lamps themselves are safe, so you won’t need any sunscreen, and they will produce a sunny day’s worth of vitamin D (though don’t expect to get a tan).

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

Vitality pool

The spa’s indoor/outdoor vitality pool is a full 10 metres long and 1.2 metres deep. Of particular interest, though, are the seats dotted around the pool. These are actually air recliners (both indoors and outdoors), water massage jets, a reflexology station and a mini air tub. Make sure to try them all – the reflexology station was my particular favourite.

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Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

The thermal experiences

The spa features a number of thermal experiences to soothe your muscles, calm your mind, and stimulate your immune system. These are freely accessible from the main spa room, and included within the cost of your visit.

Herbal Laconium

This is the best place to start your thermal experiences. With a temperate that can range from 40-60°C, depending on the amount of steam, it can be enjoyed the longest, at up to 30 minutes per session. The air is gently infused with herbs and the steam is subtle and periodic. This room is perfect for relaxing your stiff and cold muscles before moving onto the other thermal experiences described below.

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

Stonebath™

The temperature here is a hot 50-70°C, but this is still the less intense of the two steam rooms, coming closer to a sauna than the steam bath (below). With relative humidity of only 10-40% it’s three to five time mores humid than the alpine sauna, which actually softens the heat somewhat. There’s also an element of theatricality, as the steam is generated by a mechanised bucket which plunges mineral coals into water at regular intervals. Turning the handle on the wall works the fan above, pulling hot air back down into the room, for a subtle blast of extra heat.

This experience is designed to help flush out toxins and increase blood flow to your muscles, and can be enjoyed for up to 25 minutes.

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

Alpine sauna

The traditional alpine sauna is one for the bold. With temperatures of 80-95°C (it was a solid 90°C for us), this one is best enjoyed for no more than 15 minutes. Relative humidity is only 3-8%, so the heat is dry and fairly intense. Constructed of Swiss Stone pine, there is a definite pine smell in the room, the essence of which is supposed to aid wellbeing, relaxation and sleep. (At the end of the day, we slept like babies, so something worked.)

At this level of heat, the reported benefits include improved joint movement, increased circulation, opening up of the pores to aid the skin, and the usual flushing out of toxins through sweat. We only stayed in the sauna for a few minutes, as the herbal laconium seemed to be in our Goldilocks zone for a longer sauna sesh.

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Steam bath

A beloved classic of spas since time immemorial, the steam bath has a very tolerable temperature of 42-45°C, paired with relative humidity of about 100%. A good steam room opens up the pores, gets your sweat out, and invigorates the skin. It’s also supposed to increase your metabolism and strengthen your immune system, so it’s particularly welcome this time of year.

Snowstorm walk

So, we only saw one other person brave the snowstorm walk on our visit. Perhaps it was the icy air outside putting people off, or perhaps this one is more suited to only the most daring, but it’s a unique experience, nonetheless. On one of my visits to Sweden, I went to a bathhouse where people plunged naked into icy waters. The locals attributed their longevity to this practice, and now various forms of cold therapy have begun to increase in popularity over here too.

The snowstorm walk has a couple of options: the milder (relatively speaking) snow shower walk, which basically graces you with gentle snowflakes; and the striking snowstorm, which includes a flurry of snow that builds up at your feet, and provides a much bigger challenge.

Even though I’m not a fan of cold (especially in winter), you can definitely feel the difference after this experience. The snowstorm especially gives you a jolt to the system, designed to boost the immune system, improve the appearance of cellulite, and speed up muscle recovery. It also wakes you up, if all that lounging about has you worried you’re going to nod off too early!

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

Shower walk

This is a rather fun little experience. Essentially, it’s a small shower room that you walk through, experiencing different pressures and temperatures at different stages. It stimulates the senses, clarifying the mind and getting the blood pumping. It ends in the self-activated cold bucket shower – which is exactly as it sounds!

Other experiences

Salt inhalation room

This room has a very pleasant temperature of 25°C. Hotter than your home central heating, but not so hot you’ll be sweating in just your robe and Speedos. You can sit in peace and quiet in this room for any length of time, enjoying the dimmed lighting and freshly salted air. This especially helpful for asthmatics (like me), since it aids respiratory problems, clears the sinuses, and helps dampen allergies.

Foot spas

At the end of our day, we decided the last and only thing left to try out were the foot spas. Arranged in a small circle at the back of the spa, it’s a nice way to soak your feet and take off the stress (particularly if you spend a lot of time on your feet). You can set the temperature yourself, and choose from either a cold or hot experience, slowly filling the foot spas either before or after you pop your feet inside.

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Heated loungers

Even though we visited on a cold December day, you really couldn’t feel it on the heated loungers. Made of tiled mosaic stone, the loungers hold a subtle heat that is barely perceptible at first. But when you take a seat, draping yourself in one of the luxuriously quilted blankets on offer, your own body heat mingles with that of the chair, and you almost immediately feel toasty and snug. It’s rather refreshing with the cool air on your face and your body from neck to toe swaddled in warming comfort. We probably spent a good two hours out of our whole day lounging on these babies – we loved them that much.

And more…

Outside, there are a number of alpine lodges and some cosy pods to climb into.

The spa also offers a reasonably priced rasul, with prices from £40 per person, as well as the Breathe & Detox HaloIR™ Experience, which costs £35 per person.

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

The verdict

Ye Olde Bell Spa is a real treat, whatever you come for. With fabulous service from the spa butlers, and lots of care and attention from the wait staff in the brasserie, you’re able to let all your worried melt away and just enjoy the tranquillity on offer.

Image credit: Ye Olde Bell Spa

More information

Packages

The Ye Olde Bell Spa offers individual treatments, full and half-day spa access, and packages with lunch and treatments included. Half-day spa sessions typically start from £105 per person for a morning or £75 per person for an afternoon. Full day sessions start from £140 per person (or from £160 with a treatment and two-course lunch included).

All packages include a spa butler service, robe, towel, and flip flops. Evening and special occasion packages are also available.

Dining

Check out our review of the Herb Garden Brasserie for a look at the fabulous food on offer at the spa. Note that spa guests should book their lunch before 11am to ensure they can dine in the brasserie.

Hotel

Check out our review of St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar and the hotel itself.

Contact

Ye Olde Bell, Barnby Moor, Retford, DN22 8QS / 01777 705121 / enquiries@yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk / yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk/spa

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.