When it comes to relaxing, I’m as professional as they come – which made me the perfect person to go and check out Yorkshire’s newest spa, Yorkshire Spa Retreat.
Now, it’d be a pretty short review if I went all Yorkshire on you and told you that it did what it says on the tin, so I’ll treat you to the low down of my experience, starting with the stunning location.
Just a short ten-minute drive from the pretty North York Moors town of Helmsley, Yorkshire Spa Retreat sits nestled on the edge of the underrated National Park – surrounded by beautiful nature and some of the park’s finest attractions. We’re talking picturesque village Hutton-le-Hole, the gorgeous market town of Pickering, Duncombe Park, and Rievaulx Abbey. Not too shabby, huh?
But it’s not just the location that’s impressive. After a whopping £4.5m cash infusion during development, Yorkshire Spa Retreat finally opened its doors late last year – and I must say, it was money well spent.
Upon arrival, the first thing we wanted to do was get ourselves in that spa. Forget checking in. We were mentally ready to unwind – stat. After a warm welcome in reception (which smells, looks, and feels very, very new), we were shown to the changing facilities where we swiftly shimmied into our swimmers (and discovered the joys of being barefoot with underfloor heating – what a luxury), before completing the first ‘must’ on our agenda: getting in the warmest pool on offer, the hydrotherapy pool.
The choice between the natural (unheated) wild swim pool and the (heated) hydrotherapy pool wasn’t exactly difficult given it was a crisp 3 degrees on a January day, but just how beautifully executed the wild swim pool is certainly enticed me (at least, it would have if it was ten degrees warmer that day). On a summer’s day, our inner Wim Hof would unleash like the Hulk.
Guests are able to order from the bar, which is nuzzled inside an alpine dome within the spa complex, before settling down in an amenity of choice – for us, that entailed a couple of glasses of fizz (we were clearly feeling pretty fancy) which we perched on the side of the pool before plunging in like ducks in a bid to get nice and toasty.
The plan was to get all nice and wrinkly, before checking out the Himalayan salt-lined sauna and herbal steam room. It’s everything a spa-goer needs to leave feeling refreshed – but for us, the main event was the endless list of treatments that the pros at Yorkshire Spa Retreat have on offer.
After being escorted to one of three private huts at the spa, I enjoyed a one-hour Hot Rocks massage, while my guest opted for the aromatherapy-infused Life Force massage – a pretty fancy treatment that involved turmeric paste, hot bags of barley, and hot towel wrapping.
I’m not gonna embellish things here, but I really did revert to feeling like a baby being bundled up and swaddled as my therapist placed hot orbs and warm towels on my back ahead of my massage. It was a feeling of relaxation that lasted for days afterwards, in a totally different way from your typical ‘please get my knots out’ massage. I’m talking a head-to-toe massage for one whole hour – temple rub, foot rub, the whole works, amplified by a relaxing soundtrack playing in the background. Ahh, bliss.
After woozily stumbling away from the treatment room from one hour’s worth of tranquility, we finally checked into our lodge for the night – a warming, ambiently lit two-bedroom retreat which looked just as cosy from the outside as it did on the inside – gorgeous decorative fireplace included.
It really set the tone for a night of cuddles in front of the tele. But it wasn’t a night in front of the tele that we had planned. It was a night in front of three courses of delicious grub, courtesy of Yorkshire Spa Retreat’s on-site restaurant, The Dome – which, as its name suggests, is shaped like two domes put together to make up a luxurious bar and restaurant.
In the first dome – which is made of an alpine-like wood that mirrors the vibe of the spa – we escaped the winter chill into an atmospheric (and upmarket-feeling) bar lined with the same Himalayan salt that also lines the resort’s two saunas. Now, after a long day at the spa your typical Yorkshireman would be tempted by a pint, but I have to admit, the cocktail menu (and my partner) twisted my arm and I ended up indulging in a bellini and an Old Fashioned (from one extreme to the other, I know). The perfect tonic for a day of doing simply nothing.
After sampling the cocktail menu, it was time to move into the second dome – a low-lit space decked out with an intimate number of tables for both couples and groups, with views of the natural pool lit by moonlight. Basically, it was the perfect spot to indulge in three courses before inevitably having to pop the top button and sloth out for the evening. Which – spoiler – is exactly how our evening went.
We started out with the Thai fishcakes and Yorkshire rarebit – a very positive entry to our meal. While the menu was quite varied with influences bobbing from Britain to Italy and beyond, the Thai fishcakes boasted a pleasantly authentic flavour, while the Yorkshire rarebit took a Northern spin on the Welsh classic, infusing the locally-brewed Black Sheep Ale with a plentiful smothering of mature cheddar. The portions for both were pretty generous (and even the side salad was moreish), but alas, we troopered on to the mains – which after much deliberation, consisted of the chicken supreme for me and the braised beef cheeks for the other half.
Now, when it comes to flavour, each dish we ordered had it by the bucketload. I’m talking rich gravy and pleasantly creamy peppercorn sauce, with perfectly cooked meats and even an expertly baked Yorkshire pudding – a must when in God’s Own Country, obviously.
Each dish was the definition of ‘hearty’ – reminiscent of the filling grub you’d expect from the welcoming Yorkshire countryside. And despite the mountain of mushrooms at the bottom of my chicken supreme (unfortunately, I am one of the rare few who is rather offended by too many mushrooms), both plates were scraped almost clean. After all, we had to leave room for a bit of pudding.
There was a pretty crowd-pleasing selection available to choose from for pudding – my sticky toffee pudding-obsessed partner got her fix (with a very welcome Guinness twist), while I got a chocolate hit with the warm chocolate brownie. Now, a chocolate brownie is defined by the distinct slight flakiness on top, with a gooey, chewy inside that sets it apart from both the cake and biscuit category. I’ll be honest. This wasn’t that, but it was a wonderfully spongey chocolate cake with a lava-like covering of chocolate sauce to finish. The perfect light bit of naughtiness to push our tums over the edge after a gratifyingly huge meal.
All that was left to do from there was roll ourselves back to our luxurious lodge and stick a bitta tele on. And that we did.
We stayed just one night at the retreat so didn’t quite have an excuse to try out all of its features, however, the lodges are perfectly equipt for holidaying with friends – thanks to not only its large decking adjoining the living room, but the huge patio to the side with outdoor seating, a covered pergola, a private hot tub and even the Kamado Joe BBQ of dreams. Summer nights here would definitely be heavenly.
Yorkshire Spa Retreat is open now, and you can find out more on their website here.
[Featured image: Yorkshire Spa Retreat]