The perfect weekend getaway
- Credit: Ye Olde Belle
It was a stay of juxtapositions, old and new, snuggled up warm and snow falling down outside, the chaos and the calm.
Our stay at Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa in Barnby Moor, just off the A1, was much needed for me and my step-sister, who I took along.
The 17th century hotel on the Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire border offered just enough distance from Norfolk to feel like a getaway but was close enough to reach in a morning, three hours to be exact.
Arriving at Ye Olde Bell it felt like an oasis of calm just a stones throw away from the busy main roads, but you wouldn't have known it.
Clearly a popular wedding spot, a beautiful arch led through to a large heart sculpture, one imagines perfect for photographs.
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The age of the building was clear.
Oak panelling, lovingly restored by current owners Paul and Hilary Levack, adorned the walls of the 1650-built building.
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On the Great North Road, the original route between London and Edinburgh, the hotel which was then known as the Blue Bell became famous as a stopping place for stagecoaches.
Since, an impressive guest list has been built.
Just some include Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Oliver Reed, Joan Crawford, Sir Harold and Lady Wilson, Shirley Bassey, Edward Heath, Jilly Cooper, and One Direction.
Queen Victoria herself even stayed in 1835 on her way music festival in York.
And during our stay we were treated like queens.
The level of detail both at the hotel and the new spa, opened in June last year, left nothing to be desired.
The spa itself, in a modern building at the back of the site, complemented the old time charm of the hotel.
Sometimes new additions can jar unpleasantly with serene surroundings but clearly there had been real thought about how to ensure the addition didn't take away from the history.
Lunch was served in the small - but perfectly formed - restaurant, with a view of what was to come outside as steam drifted off the pool.
Cleverly divided into three sections from super healthy to indulgent, we had a selection of dishes. Especially impressive was the pigeon breast starter served on mushroom risotto and the panacotta with freeze dried raspberries.
Details such as underfloor heating and bright, sleek changing facilities gave an instant feeling of luxury which continued into the spa. The facilities were obviously new and for the uninitiated may have been intimidating, but our spa butler Mo gave us the tour of the 10 thermal areas, including a unique snowstorm experience.
I braved this chilly blast, and on Mo's advice used the snow as exfoliant. The change between that and the alpine spa, which reached temperatures of 90c, got the blood flowing.
Expert therapists then treated us to massages with oils based on our Chinese birth sign. Being someone who spends a lot of time at a computer the chance to relieve some tension in my shoulders and back was welcome.
Therapist Claire told me new treatments aimed at those with cancer, with therapists understanding their individual needs. Another service I hadn't seen anywhere else was the beach room - officially called Sabbia Med - where you could take it a full days dose of vitamin D in half an hour. We gave it a go and did feel more perky afterwards, especially when in Norfolk it feels like we haven't seen the sun for at least ten years.
As we left, however, snow was falling down outside - from the beach to a winter wonderland.
The food at dinner was just as impressive. Attention had clearly been paid to high quality ingredients, and this was shown as breakfast too. However of the three meals we enjoyed at Ye Olde Bell breakfast was the one where maybe more choice could have been offered.
Our room was well out together with heavy fabrics and classic furniture. The bathroom was modern. Unfortunately the nights sleep was disturbed by other guests walking past outside and the bed heads were against the wall adjourning the corridor. This is probably the only area where the age of the building let it down, as the creaks and bumps did wake me up, and I count myself a heavy sleeper.
Staff couldn't have done more for us, and looking around it really felt as if you were in a country manor at times - a testament to the wishes of Mr and Mrs Levack to keep many of the original features.
• To book, call Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa on 01777 705121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org