-Shop the Look-
Spring has sprung and it’s the perfect time to roam around the English countryside. This is one of my favourite seasons, where we get to see all the beauty of the new blooms and it’s a very special sign of new life. I often remind myself that there are so many beautiful places in England and we hardly ever stop to enjoy all the wonderful places on our doorstep – it seems all too easy for us to go for the holiday abroad total package deal. We Brits are pretty bad at exploring our own green and pleasant land, but with everything that’s been going on politically, it seems that staycations are on the rise.
Soon we hop on the train from London King’s Cross station to the idyllic town of Retford. What a difference a journey of 1 hour and 30 mins makes and it seems like you are being transported to a different world in one single journey. Moving on to the next transport, the taxi driver breezes through the countryside with the views of rolling hills and an abundance of trees passing by. The buzz of excitement grows with the hope that my wi-fi will die down a bit so I can enjoy the quiet, peaceful atmosphere around me – just hoping! I wouldn’t want my fans to panic like there’s no tomorrow when it comes to following social media, but please understand that both my hands and mind need the break! The journey is efficient, just a 15-minute ride from Retford station and I find myself on the borders of three shires – Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Close to the National Trust Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest and the market towns of Retford, Bawtry, Newark and the Cathedral City of Lincoln. A great opportunity if you are thinking of driving up, especially when you get a chance to discover the almost secret towns and villages. I’m about to explore the hidden charm of Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Restaurant at Barnby Moor for the next few nights.
Ye Olde Bell is an independently owned 59-room country hotel dating back to the 17th Century and now a prestigious AA Four-Star Rosette hotel. Located in the rural village of Barnby Moor on the borders of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire, it rose to prominence as an important stop between London and Edinburgh with the inauguration of the postal service in 1635. It has had many guises during its history, including stable yard, private home, chapel and even the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Division for a brief time during World War 2. Yet, can you believe this hotel is merely around 500 years old? Still looks so polished! It has an especially fascinating history surrounding the previous owner, Mr. Hans Nielsen in the 1950s, who initially came over from Denmark on the same boat as Lord Charles Forte. He worked in restaurants in France and around the UK before buying the hotel in 1954. He created two large suites at the property, which were used for dining and events. The Wiseton Suite was created when nearby Wiseton Hall was being restored and Nielsen bought the elaborate ceiling and then designed the room around it. The Bradgate Suite took its name from the oak panelling, which Nielsen saved from Bradgate House after it was demolished. It had been the home of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen for just nine days before her execution in 1554. There’s so much more history linked to this property and you can find more about it here, so just grab your cuppa and relax by the fireside in the lounge area.
The friendly enthusiasm of the staff is genuine and uplifting as I am ushered along the creaky corridor on the first floor to door number 27. My first impression of this bedroom is the whole stunning impact of the imposing four poster bed, drapery damask curtains, gilt antiques, Rocco furniture and the tapestries. Hilary, the owner of the property led the renovation, working with Tonia Wynne of Homestead Interiors. The 59 bedrooms were all completely refurbished and each individually styled. In a nod to the history of the property, interior features include plush fabrics, elegant wallpapers, and moulded Lincrusta wall coverings. All the oak panelling was restored, including the ‘linen fold’ panels in the St Leger Bar, the original creaky oak floorboards were kept, antique furniture restored and added to, but also combined with ‘new’ to give a contemporary mix which manages to remain perfectly reflective of “ancient and modern” year after year!
-Shop the Travel Set-
While the hotel itself oozes very old school charm, rich in history, there’s something else for you to know. Want to find out what it is? Last year in 2017, the hotel opened the new multi-million-pound spa, which has just been awarded 5 bubbles by the Good Spa Guide. Spa at Ye Olde Bell features ten spa experiences, indoor-outdoor vitality pool, an extensive range of treatments and bespoke therapies, Herb Garden Brasserie, outdoor relaxation areas with alpine lodges and hair and beauty salon.
Guests can try out the traditional Alpine Sauna, clad in Swiss Stone Pine with a distinct aroma and great healing and sleep aid properties – a firm spa favourite and a great contrast to the colder experiences on offer. There is also the Stone bath, one of only 3 within the UK, which features a heated oven and cold-water cauldron, creating a theatrical outpour of hydrating steam when the mineral stones are lifted from the oven into the cold water. Sounds pretty inviting, right? The floor-to-ceiling windows inside the sauna, contrasting with the view of blue skies outside, give a harmony feel and ease all the stress away – I could get used to this more often. Hardly any blue skies in London!
The concise menu of 24 treatments means that guests can discover the options that are right for them over a cup of herbal tea or a glass of fizz, without the need to thumb through pages and pages of therapy descriptions. Using Germaine de Capuccini skincare products, the spa offers massages, wraps, facials, and pedicures. I opt for the Mini Turkish Ritual Massage which, as its name suggests, originated from Turkey, a treatment which focuses on releasing tension in the neck, back, and shoulders. After our unique feather ritual, a light silk fabric is used to gently stretch the body combined with specialised massage movements. The aromas of our saffron massage balm simply melt away any stresses of the day.My friend Diana chooses the more ladylike facial massage, A Taste of Germaine De Capuccini, which is designed to refresh your skin with prescriptive products and this facial includes deep cleansing, exfoliation, and massage. Then, after being buffed with a soft warmed mitt to a sparkling shine (that any car valet service would have been proud of), she opts for a polished facial to complete a noticeable transformation.
The spa offers yet another exciting treatment, where guests are transported to the French Riviera for the Sabbia Med (sunlight therapy). The vista of the bay of Cannes is painted on the walls and warm sun-drenched sand is on the floor. The treatment is designed to recreate the benefits of the sun without the harmful rays and helps to release vitamin D, which can help alleviate SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The faux beach replicates sunrise to sunset in a 30-minute cycle, while you recline in a deckchair and deeply relax – or sleep. SAD, also known as ‘winter depression’ is thought to affect one in three Brits, causing anxiety, stress, lethargy and a low mood. In addition to managing stress, taking regular exercise and consuming a healthy diet, getting as much natural daylight as possible, which could be supplemented by light therapy, can also help treat the condition. Nonetheless, for £20 a session, the Sabbia Med treatment at Ye Olde Bell is a dreamy way to spend some rare downtime, rather than a trip to Cannes and the first one to arrive in the UK. No one would know you’re in dim, cold, old England – you’ve escaped to the beach, after all, and you’ll realise that now’s the perfect time to book in. You also can get to relax at the outdoor relaxation area with a glass of bubbly and/or choose from the healthy choice lunch menu available at The Herb Garden Spa’s Brasserie, headed up by AA Rosette winning chef Richard Allen. Based on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, Chef Richard’s beautifully presented dishes are a feast for all the senses — the beetroot salmon gravadlax with vanilla cream and radish is memorable.
If you prefer to wait for a gourmet dining experience, the hotel’s 1650 restaurant offers a hearty, yet understated menu, and surprises diners with its exquisitely sophisticated cooking and presentation. Restaurant Bar 1650, named after the year of origin of Ye Olde Bell, offers an elegant dining option and a bespoke, refined menu of five starters, five main courses, and five desserts.
These include the likes of crab rillettes; lobster bisque gel; heritage potatoes; goat’s curd; artichoke and dark chocolate delice; pumpkin granola and pumpkin ice cream. The restaurant features rich oak panelling and a stunning art deco style bar, which serves a range of hand-selected spirits and wines from their extensive cellar. The restaurant is keen for the 1650 to earn another AA star rosette.
Also, the restaurant offers tasty breakfast menu which you can either dine in the dining room or in your own room. Spoilt for choice here, right?
After a long successful day of the retreat, it’s time to retire to the plush bedroom. Finally, I am able to sink my head into the pillows and think how splendid the day went. Can I repeat all this again tomorrow? Good night folks!
Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa offers a double room with breakfast from £150 or a Spa day with lunch starts at £95, with overnight spa packages from £140pp.
Treatments lasting 30 minutes cost a standard £40, with 60-minute treatments at £75, rising to £120 for two-hour rituals and therapies.
Photos by Diana Martin Photography