It’s halfway through the year, and I don’t know about you, but my body is starting to ache, and all I want is to unplug, undress, and have someone massage all my troubles away. And as I’ve now discovered, there’s no better way to regroup than a spa break at Ye Olde Bell.
This spa hotel has everything, from a pool where you can swim from the inside to outside, an indoor beach that gives you a boost of vitamin D, a snowstorm therapy room, and loads of luxury treatments.
After a drive across the Peak District to the town of Retford, we arrived at the spa and my shoulders instantly relaxed. I was very ready to embrace a day of walking around in a dressing gown and flip-flops, my phone firmly locked away.
We were welcomed by the front-of-house team who gave us our itinerary for the day (the least scary or pressured itinerary I’ve ever seen) as well as the opportunity to pre-order our lunch and wine (carbs and a bottle, thanks). From sea bass to crispy pork belly, all of it sounded delicious – and don’t even get me started on the dessert options.
Before we even arrived at the spa, the changing rooms were beautiful. With dressing gowns, flip flops and fresh towels waiting for us in our lockers, the spa had really thought of everything, so all we had to do was strip to our bikinis and enjoy the day.
Walking into the spa, we were given a little tour of all the thermal rooms, and we were set on our way for the day.
Ye Olde Bell has everything from dry saunas ranging in different temperatures, salt rooms to ease allergies, to a cold bucket shower. My favourite therapy room however was the snowstorm experience (who doesn’t love snow in August?!) – it was so refreshing after being in the 90-degree dry sauna.
After trying all the treatment rooms and hearing the occasional scream from the ice water bucket, we swam outside to the pool and ordered cocktails.
With a spa butler service, you can order a range of hot and cold drinks, but also wine and cocktails – we obviously sidetracked the soft drinks and opted straight for an Aperol spritz and a pineapple margarita. They went down a treat.
After our two-course lunch and wine, which was as delicious as the menu had promised, it was time for treatments.
I opted for the ‘Experience Elements’ massage, which was based on Chinese philosophy and the oil selected is based on your sign. Amy opted for the ‘Taste of Germaine’ facial which is an introduction to facials – and seeing though she had never spa’d before it was the perfect treatment to start with.
30 minutes went so quickly and I honestly didn’t want to peel myself off the massage table, but we had the Sabbia Med to look forward to, which was like being at the beach and the perfect vitamin D boost needed.
At the end of the day, we didn’t want to leave – but luckily for us, we didn’t have to, with lodges and hotel rooms all on site. Ye Olde Bell really is the perfect place to escape Manchester and enjoy a weekend with friends.
But there’s one particular hike in the Peak District that’s so impressive it will take your breath away (and we don’t just mean from the effort of walking uphill).
The Alport Castles walk takes in everything from geological formations to massive lakes to manmade structures.
One of which is the Derwent Dam, a massive structure that towers 34m overhead and is flanked by twin Victorian-Gothic towers at either end.
If you catch it when the water cascades over it, you’ll witness a spectacle like no other.
Building the dam in the early 1900s was such an intense and laborious process that an entire town was built here to house the 1000-odd workers involved in its construction.
A specially created railway was also built to bring the enormous stones it’s made from to the valley from the Bole Hill quarries.
But as well as being a mighty sight to behold, the Derwent Dam holds historical significance from the purpose it served during World War Two.
The 617 Squadron used the dam to practice their low-level flying, in preparation for the Dam Busters raid against the Germans. The dam has a lot of similarity to the German dams and is now adorned with a commemorative plaque.
Occasionally, legendary planes like the Lancaster Bomber will still fly overhead to mark the work of the 617 Squadron.
The dam stands at one end of the Derwent Reservoir and was constructed to keep up with the huge demand for water from the booming industries in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester.
There’s so much water in this part of the Peak District, it’s been referred to as the Lake District of the Peaks.
If you’re eager to get out for some brisk winter fresh air, our pal GetLostMCR has pulled together the most perfect walk, which takes in lakes, views, woodland, and that iconic dam.
The nine mile route is named after Alport Castles, another feature you’ll pass on your way round.
It’s not actually a castle, but rather a tumble of boulders caused by what’s said to be the largest landslip in Britain – it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this geological feature resembles a castle.
GetLostMCR’s circular route starts at Fairholmes Car Park and Visitor Centre and you’ll get to visit the best of Derwent Reservoir, Derwent Valley Woodlands, Rowlee Pasture and Alport Castles.
The route starts at Fairholmes Car Park. The car park does fill up quickly on weekends, so advice is to visit off-peak where possible.
Start: Fairholmes Car Park, Bamford, Hope Valley, S33 0AQ
Toilet facilities at Fairholmes Visitor Centre
Bicycle Hire – Derwent Valley is a great place to explore cycling trails
There’s a refreshment kiosk at the car park, which is open everyday 8am until 6pm (later if there is demand), selling takeaway drinks, snacks and hot food.
Ladybower Inn (7 min drive from visitor centre)
Yorkshire Bridge Inn (8 min drive from visitor centre)
How to get 55 days off work in 2024 using only 25 days of annual leave
Whether you can believe it or not, we’ll be getting ready to say welcome in December by this time next week.
And that also means in won’t be long before 2024 arrives either.
2023 has been quite the year, and with the working world getting ready to wind down for the festive season, many are no doubt already looking ahead to the new year, and planning all the holidays and time off work they want to book.
Fancy making the most of it though? For those looking to play their cards right and hack the system a little bit, travel insurance price comparison platform PayingTooMuch has worked out a way to secure yourself a whopping 55 days off work using just 25 days of your annual leave allowance – and it’s pretty impressive.
With most full-time employees who work a five-day week having a minimum of 28 days (5.6 weeks) of paid annual leave each year, travel experts at the company have figured out how these people can effectively double their time off in 2024.
Here’s how it works.
Saturday 30 December 2023 to Sunday 7 January 2024 – To extend your new year celebrations, you’ll want to book four days off at the start of the year for a total of nine days off.
Saturday 23 March to Sunday 7 April – With Good Friday falling on 29 March next year, you can enjoy a long Easter break of 16 days by only booking eight days off.
Saturday 4 May to Monday 12 May or Saturday 25 May to Sunday 2 June – Thanks to the two bank holidays in May, there’s two ways for you to enjoy nine days off in a row by only using four days of annual leave.
Saturday 24 August to Sunday 1 September – Here you can book just four days off in August to gain nine days off for a summer holiday.
Saturday 21 December 2024 to Tuesday 1 January 2025 – To end the year on a high and give yourself the chance to properly enjoy the festive period with family and friends, you can book five days of annual leave to gain 12 days off in total.
PayingTooMuch also spoke to Wellbeing Coach Lorna Wilkins to explore the health-boosting benefits of going on holiday and taking time off from work.
“One of the key health benefits of going on holiday is that it reduces stress,” Lorna explains.
“Having a break from your daily routine can make you feel more relaxed and therefore improve your mental wellbeing.
“A change of environment and getting away from the pressures of day-to-day life not only helps you to clear your mind but can also help to improve your sleep quality as you’ll be feeling more relaxed.”