What they say
‘Step inside Ye Olde Bell Hotel and experience a world away from the everyday. Artfully combining striking contemporary interiors and luxurious modern comforts with all the history and character you’d expect from the remarkable building, to offer a calming retreat from the stresses of daily life. Situated at the midway point between London and Edinburgh on the Great North Road, Ye Olde Bell boasts individually designed rooms, with rich fabrics, opulent furnishings and indulgent bathrooms. Sip a refreshing gin and tonic from the vibrant art deco bar, relax with afternoon tea on the terrace or by a roaring log fire, or immerse yourself in a world of personalised treatments and laid-back indulgence in the luxury spa.’
So, let’s get this out of the way: the exterior and main space of the venue present exactly what you’d expect from a local inn, in a small Nottinghamshire village; you certainly wouldn’t do a double-take when driving past. But once you’re inside the spa it’s like you’ve entered a completely different world. When you look out of the sauna windows onto the outdoor terrace – with its stag decor and great wooden nooks – you don’t feel as though you’re on the border of South Yorkshire’s flat moors, but that you’re in a log cabin in the California mountains, with nothing but forest and alpine trees in-between you and the rest of the world.
The spa has a selection of rooms, not overwhelming, but enough to keep you entertained for a full day. There are 11 thermal experiences as well as foot baths, Jacuzzi and pool. The rooms go from dry to warm heat, including an alpine sauna, steam bath and salt inhalation room. For those who appreciate an opportunity to cool off, there is a shower walk that ends with a bucket shower.
You can then grab some herbal tea or lemon water and make your way onto the decking for some Californian festival vibes, with open fires and guests snuggling inside giant orbs. This was my favourite part of the space, and I could have spent a full afternoon in the sun enjoying the splendour of it. The drinks menu is also on hand for anyone looking for a delicious mocktail or glass of something stronger.
There are a number of treatments on offer. My guest opted for a back and shoulder massage, whilst I went for the facial (which included a shoulder massage – why not?) The treatments were incredibly reviving. I left with glowing skin and two fewer knots in my shoulder and neck. There is also a relaxation room, complete with a balcony, where you can bask in post-massage bliss for as long as you like.
The hotel boasts a selection of rooms that are spread out across the grounds, from single rooms to country lodges. We stayed in a superior room, which was on the ground floor in The Courtyard. The hedge outside and the bare wood front door gave the impression of a country cottage, giving absolute privacy. Inside it was stylish and modern and kitted out with an enormous bed, shower and a roll-top bath. The blackout curtains made for a gorgeous lie in after our spa adventure.
When you arrive at the spa you’re given the option to pre-order lunch, to maximise your spa time. We glided from the spa into the luxurious restaurant area, still in our dressing gowns. Our food arrived almost immediately.
We sampled the mackerel pate on bruschetta with pickled cucumber. I find that mackerel can sometimes be overbearing, but this was not. The dish was tasty and wholesome, presented beautifully with garden flowers. We also tried the heritage tomato bruschetta, which came with roquette and goats cheese and was balanced by the sharp sweetness of the tomatoes.
For mains, my guest had the lamb brisket, which came in the form of cakes. They were crispy and full flavoured without being overwhelming. I had the pan-fried sea bass, which came with a saffron potato confit, flavoursome butter beans, chorizo and a sweet tomato jam. Everything here was delicious and filled me right up, but not so much that I wasn’t ready to head straight back into the spa afterwards.
There is also the option to eat at the Ye Olde Bell restaurant for dinner. Upon entering the main building, which is separate from the spa, you may be expecting traditional pub grub but don’t let appearances fool you.
In the evening, we enjoyed an asparagus and truffle risotto, which was rich, creamy and filling, and a tender duck steak on a bed of kale, very creamy sweet potato puree and a tasty jus. The addition of black cherries gave this dish a perfect lift. We also tried their chocolate torte, which was aptly rich and came with the most delicious white chocolate ice cream, which was an absolute treat for my tastebuds.
Locals, weddings and events mixed with staycation goers.
Out & About
This is a perfect pitstop if you’re headed for the Peak District or driving further north. It is within driving distance of Matlock, Bakewell and many notable stately homes and landmarks. For families with small children, Sundown Adventureland and Yorkshire Wildlife Park are nearby.
The Best Thing
The Spa, and everything about the spa.
The Worst Thing
Not necessarily a bad thing at all, but the hotel currently has a different vibe from the new spa and bedrooms, and is casual and hearty in its appeal.
Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa, Barnby Moor, Retford, Nottinghamshire DN22 8QS
01777 705121 firstname.lastname@example.org