Beat the winter blues with a relaxing break at Ragdale Hall, says Kaye Holland
Exhausted, stressed, run-down and hassled are all things many of us feel following a full-on festive season. If you need to rejuvenate your weary soul, recharge your batteries or put the yummy back into the mummy, I have the perfect solution: a break at the award-winning Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa.
Yes times are hard, money is tight and credit is in short supply, but life is short too. Chances are there are two types of people reading this feature: there are those, lesser folk, who lie in bed worrying about the fiscal cliff and then there are those who will look back on January 2013 and say: “I started it in style”.
Located in the leafy Leicestershire countryside – a mere couple of hours from the hustle and bustle of London – Ragdale Hall’s elegant facade (expect ivy-clad traditional Victorian architecture) makes you think you’ve stepped back in time to a far more graceful age.
Owned by Michael Isaacs and Penny Nesbitt who purchased the property back in June 1990, Ragdale Hall doesn’t just offer excellent quintessentially English accommodation: it’s keen to provide you with a better life.
To this end, there’s a fantastic array of treatments on offer (the 130 strong team of therapists perform over 130,000 treatments on guests every year) from a milk and honey body glow flotation and crystal therapy to traditional facials, massages, mani-pedis and the male zone (treatments specifically designed to cater for male concerns).
I enjoyed a bliss-inducing 50-minute body massage which saw my therapist knead my body from head to toe using a melting combination of Swedish and deep tissue massage techniques and a 50-minute natural harmony facial. I can’t count the number of people who said I had a certain glow about me in the days that followed.
After your treatment, you can rest in the Pavilion – a contemporary emerald-hued relaxation area offering lovely views of Ragdale’s gorgeous grounds – and allow full effects of your therapies to sink in, before sliding slowly back to reality.
Beyond the treatment rooms, there’s an enormous fitness area – a true study in technology. And if you’re not a fan of exercising alone, there’s no need to hide: Ragdale Hall offers group activities from aerobics to Zumba. Alternatively, you can find kindred spirits seeking nirvana in the reading room or do as I did and splash some cash in the gorgeous boutique, which is chock full of tempting treats for your home and wardrobe.
However, for me, Ragdale Hall’s piece de resistance is the Thermal Spa. Opened in 2007, the spa boasts 10 heat and water facilities including a cave shower and an outdoor heated mineral water pool. Floating outside in warm water as your breath steams around you was a wonderful experience. Nonetheless, my own personal favorite was the Candle pool; a magical 34C haven lit by lots of flickering candles set in sparkling, mosaic lined niches.
Food is another part of Ragdale’s short break pleasures. Executive head chef, David Ross, and head chef, Anthony Doyle is committed to helping guests become fitter, healthier and slimmer so there are, as you would expect, a lot of light options on the menu for the weight watchers amongst you. However, there are also plenty of decadent dishes – vanilla brulee anyone? – for gourmets to dig into and drinks such as wine and coffee are not only allowed but positively encouraged.
Lunch and dinner – both beautifully presented three-course affairs – are served in the formal dining room, but don’t worry about dressing up. During my visit, I watched women (and men) arrive for meals wearing their fluffy white robes and slippers, without looking in the least self-conscious.
Breakfast meanwhile, is served in bed: result! I started the day with an omelet made with eggs so good that the chickens must have had a five-star life, rivaled only by Kim Kardashian.
Yet arguably what really sets Ragdale apart from its rivals is its employees: the attentive, always smiley staff stand leagues above the competition, from the charming receptionists and waiters to the conscientious therapists.
Admittedly Ragdale Hall has never been a cheap date: prices for accommodation and food can be shockingly high. But even if Ragdale leaves you with a lighter wallet, you’ll still inevitably leave with a heavy heart and if you’re serious about getting fitter, healthier and more focused, than a few days at Ragdale Hall means you might just achieve it.
Essentially this retreat would suit anyone looking to detox, de-stress or simply relax, in total luxury. From the rooms to the restaurant, spa, saunas and steam rooms nothing disappoints and I can’t wait to return.
A two night midweek breaks from £296 per person including all meals, with a two-night weekend break starting from £335.To a book a break or more information, please visit www.ragdalehall.co.uk