NESTLED in the village of Barnby Moor, Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa was well known to travellers making long cross country journeys in the 17th century.

Located on the corners of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, the privately-owned country hotel has welcomed illustrious guests over the centuries, including a young Queen Victoria, who stayed there with her mother. One of the hotel suites is named The Victoria Suite in her honour.

Today the hotel blends historic charm with contemporary R&R - in the shape of a brand new boutique spa.

Recently named one of the UK's top three best new spas by the Good Spa Guide Awards, Spa at Ye Olde Bell opened in the summer. Its 10 thermal spa experiences include an indoor-outdoor pool, a 'snowstorm' and alpine lodge chill-out spaces.

Walking into the spa lounge, with its funky armchairs, felt like entering a world of relaxation, where real life is left at the door. We began with a dip in the pool - underwater features include a mini air tub, reflexology station and water massage jets. Heavenly.

Next we relaxed in the Herbal Laconium, where a natural infusion of herbs blended with bursts of gentle steam. The mildest of the saunas, it's a starting point to warm the body, clear the mind and relax the muscles. Then came the Stonebath, a steam room reaching temperatures of 50-70°C. With a sudden clanking noise, an iron contraption released mineral coals into water, setting off a soothing hiss. A nice theatrical touch. The humid atmosphere is good for breathing, flushing out toxins and increasing blood flow to muscles.

After the heat, it was time to cool down - cue the Snow Storm Walk. At the press of a button, a snowfall - yes, real clumps of icy snow - fell into a shower walk, which was as invigorating as it sounds. Cold boosts the immune system, eliminates toxins and, best of all, is said to improve the appearance of cellulite...

Leaving the big chill, we stepped into the Alpine Sauna, the hottest, most traditional sauna. A walk-through shower alternated between ‘tropical rain’ and cold, stimulating the circulation, and if you’re brave enough (we were, just), there’s a cold bucket shower.

We enjoyed lunch in the Herb Garden Brasserie, which has a varied menu including a hearty lentil broth, vegetable Tom Yum soup, beetroot salmon and radish salad, and venison loin with chocolate sauce.

After relaxing in the salt room - a silent area with low level lighting and a salt wall, which can aid respiration and allergies - we reclined on heated loungers on the terrace outside, clutching copper mugs of cappuccino. Then it was time for our treatments; I enjoyed a soothing de-tox facial and my sister had the sensual Sperience Elements massage.

Feeling like we were floating on air, we retreated to The Grove, a fabulous two-storey lodge in the spa courtyard. It was such a treat to have a private cottage-style space, with a lounge and mini-kitchen and oak staircase leading to a galleried room with en-suite bathroom, complete with roll-top bath and walk-in power shower. The property can be connected to the lodge next door on both levels, for larger groups.

There are more than 50 rooms and suites in the main hotel, and a row of suites in the courtyard too. All are individually styled, blending period furnishings with contemporary designs.

We dined in the hotel's Restaurant 1650, where the menu features produce from the three bordering counties of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. This, combined with impressive creativity in the kitchen, has secured the hotel’s AA Rosette.

The beautiful wood-panelled dining-room felt like stepping into a period drama, and the staff were friendly and efficient. I started with heritage tomato consomme, with stuffed courgette flowers and kale pesto, then buffalo mozzarella with peas, broad beans and truffle oil. My sister had confit duck egg and Peking duck leg, with compressed cucumber and crispy seaweed, and for her main course lamb cannon with heritage potatoes, goats' curd and tempura apple, and for desert we had blackberry and creme fraiche panna cotta with ginger crumble, and coffee porter treacle tart with ice-cream and pecan brittle. All beautifully presented and delicious.

Our stay at Ye Olde Bell was a real treat, and by far the best spa I've been to. Perfect for a girls' weekend or romantic getaway. We're already planning a return visit, with the girls.

* A new ‘Train Sparkles’ offer encourages guests to ditch the car and take the train for a day of pampering. A 90-minute rail journey from Bradford, the spa is near Retford station on the Kings Cross to Edinburgh EastCoast mainline. The offer includes a pamper session and gift bag, including a mini-bottle of ‘sparkles’.

* Ye Old Bell Hotel & Spa is at Barnby Moor, near Retford.

If arriving by train, guests are requested to quote ‘Train Sparkles’ when booking and present a valid train ticket for that day on arrival.

Prices start from £50 for afternoon spa or £95 for a full day with lunch in the Herb Garden Brasserie.

Call 01777 705121, email or visit