Review: Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa, Barnby Moor, Nottinghamshire
I've lost count of the amount of times I've driven past Blyth services at junction 34 on the A1.
But I had no idea that just a few miles from the junction, through Blyth, is the delightful village of Barnby Moor - and a hidden gem in the Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa.
After ringing the changes in June last year it’s chimes are being heard across the country.
And if it hasn’t yet reached your ears, let me tell you if you're looking to dump the stresses and strains of everyday life to head for a tranquil getaway, this place will be sweet music.
Ye Olde Bell is a privately owned 59-room country hotel dating back to the 17th Century, located in the pretty village of Barnby Moor, on the corners of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
A former coaching house, it rose to prominence as an important stop between London and Edinburgh with the inauguration of the postal service in 1635.
It has welcomed illustrious guests throughout its history, including a young Queen Victoria who stayed with her mother - and one of its four suites is now named in her honour.
As you walk through the door of the reception you are immediately struck by the history and charm - and the blazing real fire in drawing room was a perfect touch for a cold January.
We were shown to our room, which shared all the decadence and tradition you would expect of this style of hotel - while enjoying every modern convenience.
After taking control of managing the hotel in 2007, village residents and owners Paul and Hilary Levack oversaw a full-scale renovation and refurbishment.
While sympathetic to the heritage and history is clearly paramount - the restoration has brought this charming retreat bang up to date.
In a nod to the history of the property, interior features include plush fabrics, deep red carpets, elegant wallpapers and moulded wall coverings.
All the oak panelling has been restored, but there is a good mix of modern additions throughout the hotel.
After dropping off our bags we were feeling quite peckish and we were keen to see what the Herb Garden Brasserie had to offer. We certainly weren’t disappointed.
When you go into many hotel spas they feel somewhat soulless and you feel like you’re just checking in to the local gym - but this was from that.
The building and reception area are stunning, open and bright, with stylish fittings and furnishings.
The staff were great from the onset - keen to help in any way possible and making you feel special.
We were led to the brasseries which is headed up by AA Rosette winning chef Richard Allen.
Featuring an open plan kitchen, dishes include starters such as beetroot salmon gravadlax, vanilla cream and radish salad; mains of the likes of roast guinea fowl with merguez sausage, broad beans, asparagus and pan reduction; pan fried sea bass, king prawns, ginger, crab bisque and chorizo crisp and desserts including pineapple, Thai basil and ginger sorbet.
The food was just delicious - and washed down with glass of bubbly, this was already making for a cracking stay.
So it was time to don the dressing gown and head to the spa - and what an experience it is.
A dedicated team of spa butlers are on hand to cater for guest’s every need and to advise on all that is on offer.
There are heated indoor and outdoor vitality pools, with pine-lodge style seating areas outside.
The thermal area offers numerous unusual experiences. Three of these have floor to ceiling windows making them feel light and airy.
There is an alpine sauna, a herbal laconium and a Stonebath - one of only three in the UK. It’s great. It has a heated oven and cold water cauldron, creating steam when the mineral stones are lifted from the oven into the cold water. I could have played all day...
Those feeling a little more adventurous can try the custom-made snowstorm experience. You can can select from gentle snow shower or a more powerful snowstorm. It even has the effects of lightning (just the light) and gusts of wind.
And there’s even a shower walk, which includes a sequence of five showers, with different ambient lighting and sound. These start with a warm tropical rain, to cold alpine rain, followed by warm summer storm, then cold mist and end with the cold bucket shower for those brave enough.
There’s other ways to relax in the Turkish-style steam bath, foot spas and even a salt inhalation room - all adding to the relaxation.
If this is not enough, guests can also enjoy a vast array of treatments. We opted for a massage which was just what the doctor ordered for those keyboard-fatigued shoulders.
Upstairs in the spa are six treatment rooms, including two doubles, salon and beauty lounge.
The Turkish inspired Rasul is a great experience for individuals or groups of up to four. It features the ritual of mud cleansing for the whole body or foam for an unusual twist.
Guests can be also transported to the French Riviera for the Sabbia Med sunlight therapy room, with its St Tropez scene painted on the walls and warm sand is on its floor.
The treatment recreates the benefits of the sun without the harmful rays and helps to release vitamin D - great for those affecting by the dark winter blues.
An afternoon in the spa had made me quite thirsty - so it was a couple of San Miguels for me while we got ready for dinner.
Food for the evening is served in either Restaurant Bar 1650 or the St. Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar.
The atmosphere in the bar area was lively and the service was quick.
We were given our menus before being led to our table and there was a super choice on offer.
The food was once again delicious. I would highly recommend the pan-fried pigeon breast with butternut squash puree and red wine jus to start and the lamb on herb mash was to die for.
Full to the brim, we headed back to our room.
After a great night’s sleep, it was back down for breakfast. The waiter was more than happy to We tucked in as we enjoyed the oak-panelled surroundings and looked out across the frost-clad sprawling countryside.
Ahhh! Weekends like this are what life is about.
Sadly, it was a return to reality for us and back up the A1 to parenthood.
But the sound of Ye Olde Bell will be ringing in our ears for some time to come.
A stay at Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa, which includes spa time starts from Â£149.50 per person.
For more information visit www.yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk