Ye Olde Bell in Barnby Moor is a bit of an anomaly. Behind this former 16th-century coaching inn – chock-full of Tudor charm – sits a multi-million-pound spa that’s anything but antique. You can get your wellness hit by day and enjoy genteel, country pursuit vibes by night.
It’s ideally situated for the weary traveller, almost exactly between London and Edinburgh on the Nottingham and Yorkshire border and set in an acre of pleasing grounds. And while access is easy, once ensconced, you’ll feel like you’re at a very smart private residence.
The hotel itself harks back to a time of leaving your gumboots at the door, enjoying a snifter by the open fire and lots of drapery and velvet. It’s charming and so are the staff – but neither takes itself too seriously. When places go for the whole country manor thing, sometimes the result is a bit snooty and silly – not here.
We stayed in one of the rooms with a four-poster bed and interiors that were gloriously Elizabethan — it all felt like a very historical drama. The bathroom though was reassuringly modern and all the rooms in the hotel, from the singles to the suites, are generously proportioned. Some even have roll-top baths.
If the weather is clement you can have a little turn around the grounds, cocktail in hand. Ye Olde Bell caters for weddings too and in the summer, I imagined it would be lovely indeed to enjoy afternoon tea while admiring the flowers.
The hotel has two eateries – 1650 and St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar. The former is more for cocktails and snacks, the latter for a sit-down supper. After a glass of decent house champagne (very reasonable, too, at £8 a pop) we went for scallops with burnt apple puree and chorizo oil and a cold salmon starter.
Both were tasty. Afterwards, a slab of halloumi that was as big as a dictionary and just the right amount of salty and a steak that was farmed locally.
The menu isn’t particularly daring but it’s all high quality and certainly a bit edgier than the usual pub grubby offerings like burgers, pie and fish and chips.
The best till last. The spa at Ye Olde Bell is extraordinary, such a lovely contrast to the bygone charm of the hotel. It opened in 2017 and was one of the first spas in the UK to have a stone bath thermal experience – intense heat that increasing metabolism and strengthens the immune system. There are nine other experiences to choose from, too, including a snowstorm, rain walk, salt inhalation room, Rasul and herbal laconium.
Before (or after or during) your wellness overload, there’s a fabulous onsite restaurant – the Herb Garden Brasserie – that serves up healthy and wholesome lunches like beetroot salmon gravlax, grilled cod with spring onion mash and pineapple as well as a basil and ginger sorbet. With a full bar, of course.
And it’s far from crowded. The spa ensures that no more than 30 people are present at any one time so the whole experience feels intimate and very safe. Every detail has been thought of, from underfloor heating in the changing rooms to complimentary eye makeup remover. There are also elegant spa butlers gliding around, fetching whatever you need.
The jewel in the spa’s crown is probably the 12-metre vitality pool with its indoor and outdoor air recliners, mini air tub, reflexology station, water massage jets and water curtain. When the weather is cooler, it feels very alpine. There is also plenty of places to just relax with a book including a rattan “apple”, loungers and chalets with fire pits.
Another highlight was the Sabbia Med room – a light therapy that replicates sunrise to sunset in a 30-minute cycle giving you a solid Vitamin D hit.
Ye Olde Bell is a real treat and has everything you could possibly need for a short break – comfy but luxe rooms, cosy nooks, decent food, terrific grounds and of course, its award-winning spa. And you won’t be driving around for ages to find it, one of its other big selling points is its extremely convenient location. So park up, order a glass and let the rest take care of itself.
A stay at Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa, which includes spa time, lunch and Full English breakfast starts from £149.50 per person.
All images courtesy of Ye Olde Bell.