Exposed visits… Ye Olde Bell Spa and Hotel
For obvious global pandemic-related reasons, UK staycations or “holistays” are very much in vogue these days. You might not be guaranteed the weather, but the benefits are pretty clear: reduced travel time and costs, the ease at which you can fit in short breaks, no airport stress or jetlag worries to deal with, and you can always nip back if you’ve forgotten something important… like a bank card or family member.
It also means you get to explore some real gems closer to home, as Exposed discovered last month while staying at Ye Olde Bell, an award-winning luxury spa hotel situated in Barnby Moor, Nottinghamshire – a mere 45-minute drive from Sheffield city centre.
The striking building was originally built as a coaching inn in the 17th century and retains plenty of old-fashioned charm and quirks. Exposed beams, oak-panelled walls and ornate decorations adorn the hallways and rooms, while the stylish restaurant complete with art deco bar and a contemporary dining menu brings it right up to the 21st century. Overall, they offer 59 individually styled rooms providing various levels of decadence, plus four stunning suites and two luxury lodges for good measure.
After a swift, friendly check-in we were taken across the courtyard to our accommodation, Rufford Lodge. Attached to Grove Lodge (the two can be connected for larger parties via a set of communicating doors), the two-storey abode had a wonderfully cosy, country getaway feel to it and featured a small kitchen area, comfortable lounge, spacious bedroom and modern en-suite boasting a roll-top bath and walk-in shower.
It was also conveniently located right by the spa, our next port of call for the day. A multi-million-pound addition built in 2017, it’s become a popular draw for visitors seeking relaxation and rejuvenation offered by their wide range of treatments, heated vitality pool, saunas, steam room, experience showers, salt inhalation room and more.
After being fitted with the customary attire of robes and flip-flops, we ordered some complimentary coffees from the on-hand spa waiters and took a dip in the pool, which despite the nippy October weather was heated to a toasty temperature and perfectly agreeable to drift through to the outside in. We then made our way around the saunas and steam rooms (the rustic ‘Stonebath’ room was our favourite) before being taken for the pre-booked Sabbia Med treatment upstairs.
Sabbia Med is essentially a relaxation room, designed to transport you to a sunkissed beach of your imagination’s choosing and kitted up with UV lights to provide a welcome Vitamin D boost without the risk of skin damage. It’s particularly effective for anyone who suffers from SAD (Season Affective Disorder) but also benefits those looking for a small slice of holiday bliss without the need to catch a flight. For 20-minutes we kicked back on deckchairs, dug our feet into the sand and listened to the waves lapping at the shore before a gentle knock at the door told us our time was up. We were then escorted back downstairs feeling so relaxed that a short nap in the sinus-clearing salt inhalation room was our next move. It was probably around this time that we hit peak ‘spa chill’ levels, I’d say.
Once the darkness started to creep in and temperatures really began to bite, we naturally decided to head outside to take a pew in one of the wooden shelters tucked away behind the sauna rooms. No, we didn’t have a hankering for hypothermia, but instead wanted to get snug by one of the large open firepits that had roared into life. Combined with large blankets, steaming hot chocolates and a decent read on the Kindle and the last hour or so of our spa visit was spent very well indeed.
After freshening up back at the lodge, it was time to wander over to the 1650 Restaurant for dinner. Embellishing the walls in the reception area you’ll find an impressive assortment of culinary awards including a coveted AA Rosette, so upon entering and taking our seats in the chandelier-lit dining room we had high hopes of an evening meal to remember.
Thankfully, our lofty expectations were more than met. We gorged on succulent baked scallops, seared pigeon breast, stunning roasted lamb, and a faultless beef shin and red wine pie. There was just about enough room to share a dessert, a delicious peanut parfait with crunchy salted caramel and rich, indulgent ice cream. Comfort food at its absolute finest.
Stuffed and still in serene mode from our spa experience, with an added layer of wine-induced sleepiness on top, we just about had time to retire to the drawing room for a nightcap in front of the open log fire and indulged our Agatha Christie-esque fantasy a short while longer before returning to the lodge for a restful, exceedingly comfortable sleep.
Following an early rise for coffee and two full English breakfasts at the St Leger Bistro-by-the-bar, we checked out of the hotel only disappointed that we hadn’t booked in for a longer stay. However, plans are already underway to visit the spa again – and this time with a few friends from the Steel City in tow who’ve been swayed by our glowing reviews.
The power of the staycation, eh?