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Like many people these days; I often really struggle to truly switch off and take a moment of relaxation and some time for self-care. Today we're talking about a lovely countryside spa getaway I recently took at Ye Olde Bell Spa & Hotel...
The hotel has been in existence since the 17th century as a 'stopping off point' on the route between York and London. It's pretty conveniently-situated in Nottinghamshire within a reasonable drive from Birmingham, Manchester, the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. The building itself feels rustic and historical, set against a beautiful countryside backdrop, so you really feel disconnected from the city and out of that fast-paced mindset. The decor is definitely 'traditional but updated' - the rooms had that grand old Edwardian feel but everything was very clean, the paintwork was all fresh and it didn't feel dated. Some of the common areas could maybe do with a bit of an update, however I think this is also part of its charm.
We headed straight for the spa in a newer building opposite the hotel when we arrived and I have to say (as someone who has sampled many spas across the Midlands and North); it had to be one of my favourites. Sometimes you'll go to a spa and things feel a bit shabby and like they need a bit of a makeover or just some general maintenance and you don't get that luxury experience, however here it felt beautifully designed and decorated. There are a number of hot and cold rooms, a walk-through snow shower, a foot spa and a rainfall experience! There's also an indoor-outdoor pool so you can swim right through to the other side, as well as jacuzzi seats. Alongside this, scattered about are comfy beds, pods and loungers and a beautiful outdoor space with huts and blankets that would be so cosy and cute in the winter.
I also just appreciated the little touches that made it stress-free experience. I've been to a lot of spas that honestly just make your life a bit difficult: 'you need a dressing gown? That'll be a £20 deposit', 'we don't provide slippers', 'sorry you'll have to go to the hotel reception if you want a locker key. And those are just some of the experiences I've had... They have spa butlers who come, explain everything to you and show you around before taking you to your locker where a cosy dressing gown, flip-flops and a towel are ready and waiting for you (our 'butler' even went and got me a larger pair of flip-flops for my big feet!) Despite it being a weekend; I also appreciated it was never too crowded or busy or stressful.
After spending an hour or so using the various rooms, snacking on some of the fruit on offer and trying the different teas; it was time for our lunch. I've had many spa lunches; whether it's been part of a Groupon offer or a trip that's set me back a fair amount, and my experiences have been mixed to say the least! However we were so impressed with the quality of the food we got - if I lived locally to this place; I'd just go there for a nice 'treat' lunch. For my starter I decided to have crab with a gorgeous tomato jam - it was fresh, light, healthy and tasty. As a main course: I went for the gnocchi dish and my boyfriend opted for a risotto. Whilst both dishes could have felt heavy and stodgy in the wrong hands, they weren't too much at all, so gave us a hearty meal without feeling heavy. Finally, my boyfriend (having a sweet tooth and a love for chocolate) went for a beautiful ganache. The drinks (which you can get at the bar, in the spa restaurant or brought to you by the pool) were also very reasonably-priced in general.
Not long after lunch, we headed upstairs for our treatments - we both chose the Mini Turkish Ritual. This was a 30-minute treatment of three parts. First we were relaxed into the experience with a sort of feather massage before being given a good but gentle stretch of our arms and legs using ribbon sashes. It finished off with a nice body massage - mine focused on my upper back, neck and shoulders because that's where I hold most of my tension sitting at a desk for most of my working day. It really loosened up my my limbs and upper body and worked out some of those knots!
After finishing at the spa, we had a bit of time to chill in our room before heading to Restaurant Bar 1650 for dinner. I definitely think this restaurant is a bit of a 'diamond in the rough' - it's definitely in the older part of the building, so does have a more pubby feel, however the menu definitely didn't give off that vibe! We had a really lovely bottle of the house red along with three courses. I had a polenta and asparagus starter with spinach and olive foam - it was nice but it wasn't until the mains came out that my socks were knocked off. My boyfriend went for a tomato-based gnocchi dish with roasted vegetables (clearly jealous of my lunch!) which I had a bit of and it was really delicious. I went for the halibut with saffron and lemon risotto with a crab tortellini on the side. The creamy, lemony flavour balance was perfect with the seafood and my stomach is rumbling just looking at the photo of it... Finally we had dessert - I went for creme brulee and my boyfriend opted for a chocolate and morello cherry dish (spotting a theme?) The creme brulee was beautiful! It had a fluffy texture and amazing flavours with honey, cinnamon and berries, with a herby lavender shortbread on the side. The quality of the food and the flavours really were impressive and interesting. I'd definitely recommend even just visiting the restaurant if you're ever in the area.
Overall this was such a great experience for us. Life can get a little hectic at times and city life can be overwhelming. It was a lovely end to a very busy period and I felt refreshed and ready for work the following week. I'm definitely learning (as I get older and life gets more stressful) to take these moments as they come and leave whatever is on my mind back home.
Have you been on a spa break recently?