Richard and I were kindly invited to visit the spa and stay overnight at Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa as a PR gift. As with any review I place on this blog, I will always be wholly truthful and give you any information I can so you can assess whether this would be the perfect place for you to travel to in the future.
In the beautiful Nottinghamshire countryside, there is the village of Barnby Moor. It has idyllic countryside views and creates the perfect rural oasis for the setting of the spa we will be reviewing today. Whilst having stunning panoramas, Barnby Moor is also fantastic as it remains a short drive from the historic city of Retford and 25 minutes of driving to travel to Doncaster.
Ye Olde Bell Hotel itself was originally built in the mid 17th Century so the main hotel building has stunning bedroom suites with canopy and four poster beds up a couple of flights of steps. There is also an annexe area with more accessible rooms such as our partly adapted hotel room which contained a wet room with plentiful grab-rails to utilise when showering or visiting the toilet. Our bedroom had a wide enough doorway for me to access this easily with my manual wheelchair (standard adult size) and I could also access one side of the bed very easily. I would have to be more ambulatory to visit the other side of the bedroom, hot drink making facilities or wardrobe as my wheelchair struggled to fit down the bottom edge of the bed. I was travelling with mu husband so he helped me out here of course. Our previous post gives full details about this overnight and the delicious three course meal we sampled at the restaurant area. The restaurant was a short wheel away from a disabled toilet where I had no problem accessing all of the room’s amenities. This toilet was also very close to the area where Richard and I had our breakfast with the hot food options and continental buffet.
Since there are overnight hotel stays included in some of the spa packages, it is definitely worth mentioning to the hotel staff prior to booking if you have any access requirements. We found the hotel staff to be really lovely and very helpful throughout our stay so I am sure they would oblige by booking a more accessible room rather than those within the historic seventeenth century hotel complex itself.
The spa at Ye Olde Bell is a fully modern-built building and the clean modernity of the area creates a really aesthetic aura of calmness. As many mobility aid users also know, a modern building is often far better for those with access requirements as buildings are more likely to be built to inclusive specifications. This was certainly the case with this spa complex and I found so many aspects of the spa day to be a really streamlined, easy experience for myself. My husband is abled and could help me with transferring to the heated seats within the thermal experiences but I definitely feel I could have travelled with other disabled friends since this whole experience was much easier than I have ever experienced within a UK spa.
Outside the building, there is plentiful parking all around the main hotel and the more modern spa entrance. There are also marked bays specifically for blue badge holders which made it easier to find places we could remove my wheelchair from the car with greater ease. It was then a short, smoothly paved tarmac wheel across to the spa entrance and there was a dropped curb in front of the building so I could easily self-propel onto the pavement. The reception was behind open double doors so there was no problem getting my wheelchair into this area at all. Throughout the spa complex, all surfaces were smooth and very easy for my wheelchair to move around on.
We checked into the reception and were helped by a really friendly team of staff during this check-in process. Our package had an overnight stay and evening dinner at the main hotel and also included a full day’s spa entry and a two course lunch whilst within the spa. They checked our reservation and moved us over to a brightly coloured relaxation area and bar where there were comfy sofa chairs and small tables. In this area, there was a male toilet and also a female/ accessible toilet. I’ll pop some pictures below but this toilet was great as it had grab rails around the toilet itself so I could easily transfer on and off of this. The sink was lowered and there was a large mirror so I could check on my frizzy spa hair haha! I was really pleased to see the red emergency pull cord reaching the floor here so that a disabled person could reach this if they had fallen. The sanitary bin was a slight stretch to reach from the toilet so I would suggest moving this closer so a wheelchair user can reach this from a seated position. The toilet (and the spa complex as a whole) was really clean and I loved the opulent turquoise and gold decor.
Back in the seated area, we were talked through pre-ordering our two course meal and also booking in for a time slot for this. This was due to seasonal, fresh ingredients being used but was also great for customers who may have particular dietary requirements or allergens as the kitchen therefore knew about this well in advance and could adapt recipes if needed. As part of our package, we had a two-course meal included but another course could be added for £8.95 if we had chosen to at this point.
We were shown a map of the spa areas and went over a few general things to do or to avoid within the spa. These were pretty self-explanatory suggestions about not reserving loungers, respecting other spa guests when taking photography and being safe within your experiences. We didn’t book any treatments as we wanted to spend our time fully relaxing in the tranquil surroundings and we also wanted to make the most of the eleven thermal experiences throughout the spa complex. There were lots of wonderful treatments on offer such as facials, massages and detoxification wraps but there were also group treatments which would be ideal for groups of friends or couples who were perhaps celebrating a special anniversary or had even just had their wedding at the main Ye Olde Bell complex! I go into more detail about the wedding access in my previous post. These group experiences would also work wonderfully as an accessible hen party/ “hen spa-rty”.
We were introduced to the spa staff member called Irena who was a really lovely person and asked if there was anything she could help with in terms of access. She showed us to the disabled changing area so we could get into our swimming costumes and spa robes. This changing room was really spacious, included a fully grab rail surrounded toilet and also a shower area. I really loved the inclusive design here as there was a zimmer frame and a shower seat wheelchair which you could place into the shower. I loved seeing this available access equipment as you could even utilise the shower wheelchair throughout your day in the spa if you wanted to enter places such as the steamroom which would dampen the cushions on your conventional wheelchair. This would be a fantastic adaptation for wheelchair users who struggle to transfer to the seats within these thermal experiences and prefer to remain on their chair.
The red pull cord again reached the ground so that was wonderful to see from a safety point of view and the locker was at an easily reachable height from seated. All of the spa packages include flip-flops, towels and bathrobe (dressing gown) rental which was handy as we then didn’t have to travel with towels in our suitcase. The spa staff were on hand all day and replenished our towels for dry ones after we had wet them through whilst drying off after the pool.
We changed into our swimwear and were shown by Irena where each of the experiences and areas are. The entrance to the spa is down a beautifully lit corridor which is luxurious and calming, creating a distinct barrier between the spa areas and the busy outside world. This corridor is nice and wide and the glass door to enter the spa itself was also wide enough for my chair to easily fit through. The door was not heavy for wheelchair users who self-propel and there was no lip over the doorway to contend with.
Once you had entered the main spa area, you were hit by the gentle sounds of water splashing and bubbling and faint scents of the fragrant tea on offer. There was TeaPigs’ Cleanse Tea offered as a complimentary option which was an aromatic blend of lemongrass, green tea and coconut and also conventional tea, iced water or citrus-infused iced water. The overall spa scent was not overpowering as I have experienced in some spas so those who struggle with sensory experiences would probably still be able to visit and relax in this calming area. On this station were also little pots of sliced fruit to enjoy alongside suncreams available on this station since it was a very warm, sunny day and the spa has an outside area. I loved how elevated these complimentary options made the experience feel and sipping my cleanse tea was wonderfully relaxing whilst I used stations such as the foot spa which were small jacuzzis that created a bubble massage for your feet.
A full bar menu of drinks were also for sale and the staff members carried these to wherever you were seated; really handy for a wheelchair user who struggles to self-propel whilst also balancing a glass of wine! This waiting service felt luxurious and also meant that staff were on hand if you needed anything. We didn’t feel “bothered” by the staff at all for drink provisions and we also thought the drink prices were very reasonable given the space we were in.
Access to the pool was via submerged steps in a couple of areas. The main indoor spa area had a pool which continued outside on nice weather days; within this pool there were submerged areas that, when a button was pressed, emitted bubbles and jets to give an aquatic massage. Each of these massage stations, both indoors and outdoors, were set to different power frequencies so you could choose the degree of tissue massage. Most of these aquatic massage points required the user to stand up with the support of the metal bars around them but there was also a bench-style bubble experience at the far side of the pool, outdoors.
The loungers, both inside and outside, were spaced far enough apart that I could easily get my wheelchair to every area without a problem. These loungers were comfy and adjustable. In the outdoor area, there was also a large apple shaped wicker pod with larger sofa cushions where groups or couples could relax. Down two mid-sized steps, there were also larger group areas with sofas and beds that faced fire pits which would be lit for the evening spa experiences. There are also special events run at Ye Olde Bell Spa such as “Ibiza party” themed nights where there are themed foods and drinks. This is why there was a fun yellow car at the spa entrance! You can see more of these events on their Facebook page, particularly if you have younger children who wish to enjoy the spa experience with you.
One of the huge draws of this spa, beyond the inclusive access, is the fact that it has so many thermal experiences and rooms you can enjoy. There is no wonder it has been awarded the prestigious “Five Bubbles” award by the Good Spa Guide! Within most fire and ice experiences, you are supposed to start from the coolest room and work up to the hottest. There was also a relaxation room if you were becoming overheated in the other rooms. This was a Salt Cascade Experience with gentle multicoloured lights, lighting up a salt build-up wall. The multicoloured lights gently phased between each colour on the spectrum so they should not trigger seizures which require a faster, more urgent frequency. This was a cooling area which recommended silence in the area to immerse in the fully relaxing experience. Salt inhalation is meant to clear the respiratory system and allow you to breathe deeper and more clearly.
The coolest room out of the set was the Herbal Laconium which was a sensory experience with a bouquet of relaxing herb scents. This infusion paired with a submersion machine which provided gentle bursts of steam. I liked that this was such a calming, gentle experience and you could stay in here for a lengthier time. The doorway to this room was plenty wide enough for my manual wheelchair, as were all of the doorways in this spa space.
If you were climbing from “ice” to “fire” then the next room would be the Stone Bath experience which was a patented experience where steam was released as water hits a range of heated minerals. This is really beneficial for your skin and felt very luxe. Following this, the Steam Bath was a steam-room with dense humidity which surrounds you in a calming aura of warmth. This was understandably filled with wet surfaces so I needed additional help from my abled husband to transfer out of my wheelchair and onto the steamy seats. He then placed my wheelchair out of the room so it wouldn’t get damp but you may be able to use the wheeled shower chair in this area if it is not needed by other guests.
The hottest of all of these experiences was the Alpine Sauna where dry heat emitted from the Swiss pine exterior. This intense burst of heat apparently helps with blood circulation and joint movement; I know a lot about joints since I dislocate frequently with my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome so it’s very comforting to have this heated experience rather than cosying up to my favourite hot water bottles.
Each room brought something entirely different to the table and we returned back into our favourites after we had reclined on some of the comfy indoor beds. The faux floral decorations around these bed areas were luxurious and added a pop of colour to the calming, neutral space.
The Snowstorm Shower was personally one of my favourite experiences as it was so unique and different. This gave a choice of “snowfall” or a “snow storm” where you could stand under the shower of ice and snow and experienced immersive sound effects and flashing lights (when you chose the storm experience). I would caution against using the storm option if you have epilepsy or have seizures that can be triggered by flashing lights. This was such a cooling experience after going in each of these heated rooms and there are many clinically proven benefits to having cold experiences like this. They improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation and produce endorphins so if you can brave the icy cold of this shower then absolutely go for it! This area was contained in a glass corridor which had plenty of width for my wheelchair but I did have to run over a heap of compacted snow/ ice on one side so be aware of this.
The other shower experience was a walk-through (or wheel-through) of different types of shower fall. This changed heat and fall intensity as you moved through the large, open space and there was also a bucket shower to drop a multitude of water on you all at once. This was a wide open space but I didn’t personally use the whole area as I didn’t want to wet my chair. You could, again, ask to use the shower chair from the accessible changing room or, if you are ambulatory, you could wheel to the start of the row of showers and stand up/ walk through. Again, there are fairly intense light flashes which definitely immerse you in this experience but should perhaps be avoided for those with sensory sensitivity or those prone to seizures.
I can absolutely see why this spa has won awards as it felt so luxurious and relaxing. Plus, I loved that I could wheel around freely through all of the areas and would absolutely deem this spa fully accessible for most people (unless you needed a pool hoist).
After all of these thermal experiences, we were definitely ready for our gourmet two-course lunch which was included in our package. There were three levels of “indulgence” on the menu, from lighter options to more decadent and filling meals. I liked that there were three types of each option to choose from (starter, main and dessert) and that the dishes used local, seasonal ingredients which we could taste were of a very high quality.
Richard chose a starter of breaded ham hock with a minted pea purée and pea salsa; this was served with caramelised onion bread. This was such an indulgent start and was presented beautifully on the plate alongside having a range of fresh flavours.
I chose a dessert as my second course in this offer so started with a main after Richard had finished eating, whilst we both snacked on the freshly baked farmhouse loaf slices. As my main course, I chose the pan-roasted maple duck breast with garlic & sage fondants and red wine jus; this was served beside french beans and a sweet potato puree. I love the colours and intense flavour palette of this; each of the ingredients was clearly fresh and came together in a very well-balanced dish. Richard chose the pork fillet with leek mashed potatoes, a spiced apple purée, root vegetables and jus. This had a really hearty portion of meat and was very filling according to my lovely husband. The perfect balanced meal to treat yourself during your indulgent spa day!
I had opted for dessert as my second course and chose the blueberry and almond tart with clotted cream icecream and berry compote. This was rich and flavoursome, paralleling a Bakewell tart but with the fresh fruit flavour balancing out the richness of the almond and pastry.
All of this food was absolutely delicious and presented in a very gourmet style. We really enjoyed the whole restaurant experience and want to give particular thanks to Ellie who was our server, replenishing our water to rehydrate and also kindly removing a chair so I could remain seated in my wheelchair.
The aforementioned toilet in the colourful relaxation, sofa area was a very short wheel from our table for me to access and there was plenty of space between the tables so I could wheel around each of them. There was also an outdoor space to the restaurant, giving an aura of tranquility and openness. You could eat in your swimwear and bathrobe which was how the majority of diners chose to eat. This was very handy as a disabled person since I didn’t have to worry about the pain and fatigue caused by changing in and out of my swimming costume.
Overall, we truly enjoyed our spa experience. It was probably the best spa we have visited in this country for accessibility and I felt very included in each of the spaces and experiences. I didn’t personally have any treatments but I checked the lift out and it had plenty of room around my wheelchair and the vast majority of the treatment rooms had level-access or one very small step. I am sure if you told staff about your mobility requirements that they could place you in accessible treatment rooms.
The huge variety of thermal experiences was wonderful and we both really enjoyed the decor of the spa area since it felt so elevated and relaxed. The staff were really helpful in terms of access but also in terms of bringing the complimentary cups of tea to where I was seated or bringing any other drinks we ordered. I would highly recommend this whole experience if you have mobility requirements, are otherwise disabled or are an abled person reading my review. I really loved the spa and found the hotel experience to be accessible for most people too so you could even stay overnight and recuperate even more energy. My full review of the Ye Olde Bell hotel and the evening dining situated in this historic building is on my website here.
Please do pop an email across to me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you choose to visit any of the places I’ve written about. I love hearing about other people’s experiences and hearing your future recommendations! Thank you to Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa for letting us stay, we had a fantastic time and are sure you would too!