Ye Old Bell hotel and spa

YLocated just 40-minutes away from Leeds, Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa offers an almost faultless experience, exceptional cuisine and a surprise around every corner.

What do Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Shirley Bassey and Louis from One Direction all have in common? Well, besides from having fame and fortune, they’ve all rested their weary heads at Ye Olde Bell over the years.  

Winter vibes at Ye Olde Bell

At first glance, this unassuming hotel resembles a large country pub and has been around for close to 400 years. Packed to the rafters with character, creaky stairs, roaring fireplaces, and other things that brought back fond childhood memories of my great grandparent’s home, this traditional hotel is brimming with charm.

There are few clues to suggest that there’s a polished, ultra-modern spa attached to this period property, but we’ll get to that later. After check-in, we headed to our room which was vintage in style, with the exception of the more contemporary bathroom. For anyone looking for a bit of extra luxury, there are also a handful of cottages in the grounds too, as well as the decadent Victoria Suite which is named after the famous monarch, who also stayed here many moons ago.

Steak dinner in Restaurant Bar 1650

After freshening up it was downstairs to dinner in the Restaurant Bar 1650, which is named as a nod to the date the original building was built. With its oak panels, candelabras and chandeliers, the art-deco era interior has a faded glamour vibe that’s both welcoming and intimate.

The restaurant has a AA Rosette for culinary excellence, which doesn’t always guarantee quality in my experience, but here it rang true. The pan-fried scallops were plump and juicy, elevated further with the smoked bacon crumbs.

The fillet steak was another triumph, and was medium rare as requested but at the same time, seemed like it had been slow-cooked as the meat fell apart.  After an Espresso Martini nightcap, it was time to hit the sack in preparation for a day of pampering.

After a hearty full English breakfast back in Restaurant Bar 1650, we headed out to the spa which is within the same grounds but separate to the hotel. Having opened in the spring of 2017, the contemporary spa is a an almost jarring contrast to the hotel, but the first-class customer service remains a constant.

Ye Olde Bell Spa by night

Heading up into one of the treatment rooms, I enjoyed the Germaine de Capuccini mini-facial, which is tailored to your skins needs and uses prescriptive products to cleanse, exfoliate and massage. Having had a busy week with little sleep, it’s fair to say I looked pretty rough to begin with, however, this treatment fixed that.

The therapists were professional, friendly and fun too. After showing us around some of the treatment rooms, including the impressive Sabbia Med room which mimics a day on the beach, it was time to hit the spa. Having seen plenty of glowing reviews online, I already knew this place was special, but it has to be seen to be believed.

View from one of 10 thermal spas

Inside, there’s no less than 10 thermal spas, ranging from a traditional Alpine sauna to a herbal laconium. Each one is beautifully modern, with floor to ceiling glass overlooking the pretty outdoor area. The indoor vitality pool is separated from the outdoor pool by a glass partition, which shifts at the flick of a switch, allowing you to go straight out without jumping out of the water. Outside, you get the feeling you really could be somewhere in Scandinavia, with all the wooden cabins, faux-fur throws and fire pits. There’s even a pair of heated stone sun-loungers to combat the unpredictable British weather.

Scandi-style exterior spa

Spa Butlers are on-hand to bring you a drink or grab you a towel. It really is like a winter paradise, and has a homely, boutique feel to it. After a Corona in the outdoor vitality pool, we robed up and headed into the Herb Garden Brasserie overlooking the spa. And this was where the next surprise came from, because if dining in the hotel was good, the food here was exceptional.

Culinary delights in the Herb Garden

Sitting perfectly between dainty and hearty, this was fine-dining quality cuisine with some bold and daring flavour combinations. The sea bass with sweet potato, vegetable rosti and vanilla cream was a great example of this, but it was the roast belly pork with braised red cabbage and spiced carrot puree which rocked my world.

After lunch, it was time to hit the as yet unexplored areas of the spa, starting with the snowstorm experience, which is exclusive to Ye Olde Bell and a world first. With a light snow and then storm setting, it’s not for the faint of heart and certainly woke me up from my post lunch drowsiness.

Pool view of heated sun loungers

Next, it was onto the heated salt inhalation room, which features a gigantic salt wall and the comfiest seats you can imagine. If you fancy a power nap, then this is the place to go. After one last dip in the vitality pool, we left feeling fresher and more alert than when we arrived. If you’re going to go to one spa in 2019, then make it this one.

With superior facilities, food and service, it’s quite frankly one of the best spas you’ll find in the UK.

Written by Jordan Fletcher.

Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa, Great North Road, Barnby Moor, Retford, DN22 8QS. Tel 0177 7705 121.