The first thing that strikes me about Ye Olde Bell Spa is its sheer size. Situated in the rural village of Barnby Moor, Nottinghamshire, the multimillion pound spa is a breathtaking 17,000sq ft and spread across two levels – with the ground floor sporting 10 hot and cold experiences, a restaurant, bar, hair salon and outdoor relaxation space, and the top floor featuring six treatment rooms and the warming Sabbia Med experience.
Although it sits adjacent to the four-star 17th century Ye Olde Bell Hotel, which is known in the area for offering a high-end experience, the spa is a separate business – despite both properties being owned by the same family. Paul and Hilary Levack are the owners but only run the hotel, while daughter Sadie Ardon-Levack and therapist Lizzie Bath – who used to rent a treatment room in the hotel – now run the spa operation as spa directors.
“My dad [Paul] had planning permission for seven years but didn’t want to build the spa until he felt there were people to see the project through, and Lizzie and I knew we were right for the job,” says Ardon-Levack. “However, while the spa is there to add value to the hotel, we’re operating as a separate business.”
That’s not to say that the pair aren’t using the hotel’s stellar reputation to help them attract clients. “The hotel hosts up to six weddings a weekend, two a day, in the summer, so we’ve created lots of packages for bridal parties,” explains Bath. “It also has a strong corporate market, which is why we’ve launched the Twilight evening spa package on a Wednesday. It’s the hotel’s busiest night for that clientele.”
When I visit the spa, it has only been open for two weeks but more than 70 guests have visited. Going forward, Ardon-Levack and Bath hope to host 25 to 30 people a day but tell me that prior to opening it was challenging getting locals to understand what a day spa is.
We’ve had to change people’s perceptions of what spa is, and that’s why we have so many different packages
“Around here, people are used to health clubs and hotel chains that offer a pool, Jacuzzi and sauna calling themselves a spa,” explains Ardon-Levack. “We’ve had to change people’s perceptions on what spa is and explain why we’re charging what we’re charging, and that’s why we have so many different packages on the menu – to entice people in.”
The menu is a mix of indulgent treatments, with facials and massages up to 120 minutes in length, and express services including brows, nails and waxing, “so my old clients don’t feel unwanted now that we’re a big spa operation,” says Bath. The pair hope to add cosmeceutical and laser treatments to the menu in the future.
Opened: June 2017
Size: 17,000sq ft
Treatment rooms: six
Team: three full-time and nine part-time therapists, three full-time and three part-time receptionists, one spa manager, three chefs, four spa butlers, three bar staff, four cleaners
Brands: Germaine de Capuccini,
The London Spa Company, Delilah,
HD Brows, Nouveau Lashes
Best of both worlds
The spa journey is the business’s main USP and it’s well thought out, with each experience inspired by the directors’ personalities. “We based the layout on how Lizzie and I like to spa. Lizzie loves thermal facilities and wants each experience to be interactive, whereas I’m a mum with a toddler, so I like to sit back and relax,” explains Ardon-Levack.
The journey starts with the hot and cold footbaths and herbal laconium, a warming room that uses steam infused with herbs; before moving on to the stonebath, which features a heated oven and cold water cauldron to warm muscles.
The Swiss Alpine sauna follows, with an aroma to ease muscle aches and sleep ailments; before moving on to the custom-made snowstorm experience – enabling clients to mimic the feeling of being on top of a mountain by walking through either a gentle sprinkle of snowflakes or powerful snow storm, complete with lighting effects and gusts of wind.
“In England, there’s always so much excitement when it snows and we wanted to add that element into the spa. It’s been one of our most popular facilities. Guests love it,” explains Bath.
Next comes the five-strong shower walk; humid herbal steam room; and relaxing salt inhalation room; before the journey finishes with the spa’s indoor-outdoor vitality pool. A Sabbia Med sunlight therapy is also available upstairs – a room with a beach setting which “replicates the feeling of sunrise to sunset,” she adds.
A lot of time and effort has also gone into finding the right staff.
“Most of the therapists we interviewed for part-time jobs were better than whose who applied for full-time positions, so we sorted the hours to suit them, which, because we’re a start-up, we could do,” says Bath. “We needed people with the right personality who could deliver a service comparable with the facility.” Ardon-Levack believes that their unsaturated countryside location has also given them an edge. “The nearest spas to us are Seaham Hall and Rockliffe Hall but both are a two-hour drive away, so we don’t have any real competition on our doorstep,” she says.
“We’ve priced ourselves in the same bracket as those spas though because ours is a five-star build. Our goal is to become the most recognised spa in the region.”