Here Calms The Bride
Relax at Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire
by EJ Wright
By the time we turned into the drive leading up to Ragdale Hall we were ready for her to fold us into her arms and say ‘there, there, we’ll make it all better’. Work had taken it out of us. We were battered and bruised, stressed with shoulders up above our ears and ready to hide ourselves away from the world albeit for just one night. We’d booked the ‘Overnight Reviver Break’ and I for one was hoping Ragdale would live up to all she promised. Could she perform a sweet miracle and help me unwind and put aside the responsibilities that awaited me beyond the gate way down there at the end of the drive? Would it be possible for me to relax for the first time in over twelve months? Could I of all people breath out a deep sigh of ‘aaaahh’? Twenty four hours would tell.
I’d taken along my husband who at first put up a fight saying spas are for ladies and it’s not quite ‘his thing’. His first priority upon arrival in the beautiful panelled reception hall was to check out the menu framed neatly outside the dining room door. Needless to say he was delighted to discover that Ragdale served ‘real food.. and there’s pudding!’ Safe in the knowledge he could maintain a salad free existence for the next two days we checked in.
We were invited to make our way to the Garden Room where we would be greeted and offered an introductory tour of all the facilities. I recommend you do this as the spa offers a wide range of activities and there’s a reason you’re given a map! Our guide was very knowledgeable and showed us everything from the boutique, Thermal Spa, The Retreat (with hammocks and beanbags for the ultimate nap), shops and dining room. We were booked in for a treatment that afternoon so it was helpful to know where to go and what to do.
We decided to visit our room before lunch and drop off the bags. We were booked into a Superior Double with en-suite bathroom and a small balcony overlooking the front of the property. We like lots of fresh air so this was a real treat but do check when you book as not all rooms have this little extra. Because of my hotel background I’m very fussy about hotel rooms. If something’s amiss I’ll usually spot it so it was lovely to walk in to a clean, bright, beautifully furnished bedroom decorated in fresh lime and raspberry colours. The bathroom was a good size and well appointed with a large mirror and excellent lighting. There was plenty of wardrobe space, tea and coffee making facilities (tick two for the husband) and a flat screen TV (tick three!). We unpacked, freshened up and headed downstairs for lunch.
We love our food, hence the love handles, and Ragdale does not disappoint. The panelled dining room is bright and airy. We were shown to a window table for two which is such a treat for us as we love to dine out but don’t get the chance very often. Crisp white linen and silverware made for a formal setting but the atmosphere was light and relaxed, mainly because most diners were wearing bathrobes and slippers. What new joy is this to dine out on super food whilst virtually in your PJs! We were still in our ‘real world’ clothing at this point but we didn’t feel left out. Indeed robed and be-slippered guests mixed happily with lycra clad gym addicts and there were convivial ‘hello, how are you’s’ between the tables. Our waiter was smart, attentive and helpful. The service was very good and the staff were friendly without being intrusive. We had three courses for lunch served from a fabulous buffet. Plenty of fresh salads, meats, fish and seafood and a good selection of hot food including pasta and rice dishes. There was a choice of desserts too so those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed. It’s rather comforting to know the chefs have already counted the calories for you and prepared wholesome yet hearty food to tuck into and enjoy! After our lazy lunch we were starting to unwind and returned to our room to change into our robes. I was beginning to feel well on my way to a stress free break ensconced in this hideaway from the pressures and strains of the real world. Little did I know that my husband was about to crash through my fragile window of peace and serenity.
“I’ve forgotten my trunks”
For the love of…. were we never to be allowed to float across these scented corridors and find some tranquillity? The beauty of Ragdale is you don’t have to pack much in the first place and yet of all the things you do need to bring, swimwear is at the top of the list. First stop then – the shop. Wall to wall items of ladies swimwear, bags, shoes and clothing and I thought all hope was lost and I would have to re-clothe myself in my real world clothing and drive home to collect his wretched trunks but just like a gentle mother with calm assurance a voice said ‘we sell gentleman’s swimwear too’. I could have kissed that boutique consultant. Albeit a small selection there was indeed a corner of the boutique stocked for those gentleman who had forgotten their knicks and knacks. Ragdale had thought of everything. Whatever you’ve forgotten from your togs to your toothbrush you can purchase it here. Once kitted out in his new swim shorts we were off.
It does feel a bit odd at first wandering around in your slippers but as everyone else is virtually doing the same thing the feeling soon passes. Remembering the childhood rule of ‘don’t swim after a meal’ we decided some exploring would be a good way to ease ourselves into Ragdale life. There’s a super gift shop with some really lovely gifts, jewellery and keepsakes plus the perfumery is a treat and stocks the high end brands you would expect.
We visited the Retreat once more for a swing in the hammock before heading off for some serious sensory therapy. I’d been looking forward to trying out the Thermal Spa. I’m more of a spa than a spin girl so the idea of languishing in the candle pool and chilling out in the sauna was my dream come true.
This area of Ragdale really is the highlight of your stay if you crave relaxation and some time out, and rightly so Ragdale are very proud of it. There are fourteen key areas of the Thermal Spa designed around your senses; heat, cold, steam, water, dry heat, candle light and aromatherapy are all available within the soft curved walls which lead you onward to the next luxury experience. Fountains and the gentle sound of the Wishing Stream calm your senses and the scent of aromatic herbs envelop you. This haven of rooms is true bliss. We descended the steps into the candlelit cavern of the Candle Pool. This is a silent zone so you can float your cares away and let your mind slowly unwind as you stare up at the starlit ceiling. Several nooks are dotted about for quiet contemplation in the flickering candlelight.
In contrast the Volcanic Salt Bath is kept at a constant temperature of 40-42 degrees and 100% humidity. The walls are black granite with a floor of black slate. A soft blue hue is the only light and menthol is spritzed into the air together with a 20% salt infusion to aid deeper breathing.
The Scented Room however is maintained at 60 degrees and quite mesmerising as you watch the feature unfold. In order to ‘cleanse, detoxify, purify and improve your immune and circulatory systems’, water is doused onto fresh aromatic herbs that sit above a stove. The air is thus filled with the scent of lavender and jasmine. This was one of my favourite rooms and one where I felt I could really drift off.
After all this quietness, nothing prepares you for the Cave Shower which was actually quite scary. We walked in to the loudest crack of thunder as rain pours down from the rocks above. Great fun but so realistic you’re half terrified you’ll be struck by lightning. You must, must, must try it! Our afternoon gently passed us by spent enjoying the Waterfall Pool, Rose Sauna and Colour Flow Cave.
I have to admit to giving the Ice Fountain a miss. Ice, in my world, goes into a G&T. It was not meant to be rubbed all over me. But such is the mix of sensory environments it would be a shame to ruin your anticipation of them by reducing the glorious indulgence of them to mere words – there simply are no words really when only experience of them will do for you to understand the sheer calming luxury of this oasis. Just to say the Thermal Spa at Ragdale Hall is now one of my treasured spaces and one to which I hope to return again soon. As for my husband? Well if I hadn’t gone to look for him he would still be there now, floating his cares away in the Candle Pool. Such was his change of heart that spas are not just for ladies!
Our evening began with a glass of bubbly before dinner in the Garden Room. And why not? We’d had a busy day, hubby and me. Although we’d been told you can if you wish wear your robe to dinner we decided we’d like to get dressed and in the main so did most of the other guests. Once again we were seated at a table for two by our waiter. We both chose fish for our main course – tuna for hubby and salmon for me. Both meals were delicious and served with ample vegetables. We both opted for cheese after our main meal and we shared a bottle of wine. Once again our waiters were very friendly and attentive with a good understanding of the menu and swift service. The staff at Ragdale across all departments are very helpful and their disposition went a long way to making our stay as special as it was. After dinner we sat and people watched for an hour or so in the Garden Room. There’s a lovely atmosphere at Ragdale in the evening. Members pass you by pumped up and ready to hit the gym after the rigours of their working day whilst overnight guests float about in a more relaxed state; some heading for a late treatment, others for dinner and no doubt many for an early night. It’s hard work all this lazing about so it wasn’t long before we too decided it was time to tread the wooden hill. Tucked up in our comfy bed I fell asleep reading up on the many packages and offers available planning our next visit.
Breakfast is served in bed as though Ragdale hasn’t spoiled you enough by this point. You make your choice the day before and hand your slip in to reception. Promptly at your chosen time there’s a tap on the door and breakfast is served. I chose an orange, mango and banana smoothie and the popular Atholl Brose – toasted oats, honey, yogurt and raspberries. My other half, who was topping up on some overdue TV time, had the bacon tomato and Emmental wrap. Breakfast, although tasty, was tinged with disappointment because today was going home day. We toyed with booking in for another night but work commitments wouldn’t allow. Wishing not to waste a second of my remaining time at Ragdale I booked in for a Hair and Scalp mini treatment in the Beauty Express which offers mini treatments at what I thought were very reasonable prices allowing you to indulge a little without breaking the bank. We considered visiting the gym but decided we needed to leave something for next time so another leisurely day was spent in the Thermal Spa.
By early afternoon it was time to head for home. Ragdale Hall had indeed fulfilled all her promises to me and more and I felt refreshed and ready to take on life’s challenges once again. For those of you burned out from juggling wedding planning and work life or if you fancy a special break with your mum or a pre-wedding getaway with your groom then pop Ragdale Hall on your list of options. And if you want a weekend away with your closest maids then a visit to Ragdale could tick the boxes although this is not party central and there’s no dancing on the tables until dawn. But if you’re seeking some sensory indulgent ‘me’ time in a relaxed and fun atmosphere with great service and super food then Ragdale Hall could offer just the break you need. For us our break was over but thank you Ragdale Hall for our two day hug. We love you too.
Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire LE14 3PB www.ragdalehall.co.uk 01664 434831