One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a day at a local spa. It wasn’t a “spa” spa, but a fancy beauty salon that offered massages and such. It was amazing, and I raved for months. Years.
I thought that was the best gift ever, until my husband gave me the gift of a day at Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa in England. I have never been so relaxed, so comfortable, and so happy. By the end of the day, I was contemplating whether I could live there if I didn’t need a house, or a car, or to buy clothes (spa robe!) or buy food. Since that isn’t realistic, I’ve been planning a return trip very, very soon.
Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa is unlike any other place I’ve ever been. At first, Ragdale seems quite similar to a traditional spa, with a myriad of beauty and health treatments, fitness classes, outdoor activities, swimming, and fabulous food. What makes Ragdale unique is the Thermal Spa, a collection of showers, steam rooms, pools and saunas. With a range of temperatures and humidities and special features, each part of the Thermal Spa will help to relax and detoxify your body.
While Ragdale Hall offers overnight packages (even weeks!), my first visit was for a Chill Out Day. Arrival was between 8:30 and 9:00 am. Once I found the Hall, I parked in the semi-secured parking and entered the front door of the Hall. I was immediately greeted by a young man who asked if I was there for a Spa Day. He looked up my name and took me to a small cafe-type area. He offered me tea or coffee, and informed me that someone would be with me in a moment. My tea was delivered with a shot glass of fruit smoothie. A young lady arrived with my locker key, robe (£3.50 charge), and the schedule for my two treatments and lunch. She showed me to the locker room and gave me directions to find the treatment area.
I wandered over to the treatments part of the hall and discovered that basically every thing that interested me had been completely booked. At first, I was disappointed. As it turned out, I was happy not to have a bunch of treatments cluttering up my schedule of doing nothing. Note for next time: pre-book treatments if you want them.
I returned to the locker room where I took a long, hot shower (I hate my shower at home) and changed into my swimsuit. The shower has lovely shampoo, conditioner and body wash available, and ample, large towels were provided throughout the facility.
The Thermal Spa
I headed through the regular pool area, which has two pools, a hot tub, a sauna and a steam room. At the Thermal Spa, I threw a rock into the Wishing Stream. According to the brochure, “caress an age-old pebble before throwing it into the stream that runs through the centre of the spa to rid yourself of negative energy before starting your journey around the spa.” While I have no doubt that the rocks were, in fact, “age-old,” they were also recycled throughout the day as I witnessed staff scooping the rocks out of the water feature and putting them back for the next guests.
The Thermal Spa is laid out with a large central atrium and the different features around the outside in a circle. Towel supplies and ample water is available. There are nine different experiences available: The Thought Zone, The Colourfall Cave, The Candle Pool, The Experience Showers, The Volcanic Salt Bath, The Cave Shower, The Scented Room, The Rose Sauna, and the Indoor/Outdoor Waterfall Pool.
My favorite features were the Colourflow Cave and the Indoor/Outdoor Waterfall Pool. The Colourflow Cave is a large steam room with fairly high humidity and the fragrances of jasmine and chamomile. The Colourflow name is a bit misleading, as the “flow” is actually just a design in the tiles. Fortunately, that bit of silliness doesn’t detract from the fabulous feeling of sweating out lots of junk and inhaling lots of lovely, scented warm air.
The Indoor/Outdoor Waterfall Pool is entered from inside the atrium. As you walk down the ramp into the water, you come to a curtain that keeps the ouside air out. Push through the curtain to find yourself outside in a lovely warm pool. I went in winter and loved the combination of the cold outside air and the warm water. There are a variety of jets that can be activated, pushing warm water towards your back or shoulders. My favorite, however, was the waterfalls. By pressing a button, you can turn on a waterfall of warm water to land on your head or shoulders. It was divine, really kneading the knots out of my shoulders and back.
Other features that kept drawing me back included the Experience Shower and the Rose Sauna. The Experience Shower had three or four settings including jets that sprayed your sides, a warm shower that smelled like tropical flowers, and a cool (but not frigid) shower that smelled like peppermint. I liked doing one after another. The cool shower was a great contrast to the hot experinces.
The Rose Sauna was a regular sauna with a large window overlooking the outdoor waterfall pool, and pictures of roses inside. It was supposed to smell like roses, but I couldn’t detect the fragrance.
I also tried the Volcanic Salt Bath, the Candle Pool, the Scent Room,and the Cave Shower. The Volcanic Salt Bath was very hot and very humid, to the point where it was difficult not to step or sit on the other guests. I probably would have liked it a lot except that it was very different from my expectation. I was expecting a pool of warm, salted and mineralized water and therefore was disappointed when I discovered it was just a really steamy steam room. The Candle Pool was a warm pool lit by candles. It was fine, but didn’t appeal to me. There was classical music playing in the Candle Pool and, even though it included some of my favorite pieces, I found the music distracting. The Scent Room was nice, but not great, a fairly warm room of medium humidity with small burners of mildly fragranced herbs. My least favorite experience was the Cave Shower. It provided a deluge of hard rushing water that was very, very cold. It included lights and sounds to mimic a thunderstorm. I might have liked it had the water been a bit warmer.
One last experience was the Thought Zone, a dry, warm room. While it was supposed to clear your mind to think, it was just boring, and the music bothered me. I’m guessing it was supposed to be zen-like, but it didn’t work for me. It was so blah that I find it hard to summon any enthusiasm, either positive or negative.
My package included a Blissful Back and Face Therapy and a Classic Manicure. I was supposed to have the choice between the Back and Face or a Soothing Back Massage and Fresh Feet Treatment, but I wasn’t offered the choice at any point. I was a little confused about the process and so I didn’t make the best use of my options. When I called to book, I wasn’t asked what treatments I wanted. When I arrived, these two treatments were already booked for me. I went to the treatments reception to see about adjusting or adding treatments, but apparently I was supposed to do that prior to arriving at the Hall. Next time I’ll know. I was able to squeeze a haircut in just after my manicure, which was great because it gave my nails a chance to dry thoroughly.
The Blissful Back and Face Therapy was basically a short back massage and a short facial. It was pretty blissful, as the therapist was good, the products lovely and the treatment interspersed with warm, moist cloths wiping your face. I’m not a huge believer in fancy products, but I did notice that my face was lovely for a few days after the treatment. My only complaint was that the treatment room was located on a busy hallway and other guests talked constantly despite the posted requests for quiet in that portion of the Hall.
The Classic Manicure was exactly what you would expect, a basic, no-frills manicure. I was able to choose the Ragdale Rose laquer, which is a lovely shade made by OPI just for Ragdale. They also have Ragdale Ruby, which looks really versatile and elegant as well. I loved the look of my manicure but it didn’t last as long as I would have liked.
I had a quick haircut, as well. I didn’t bother with shampooing, blowdrying or styling as I was between sessions in the Thermal Spa. The haircut was fine, but I have simple hair, so there isn’t much to report.
As I mentioned, my day started with a cup of tea and a smoothie shot. I hadn’t eaten enough breakfast, and my lunch wasn’t scheduled until 1:45 in the afternoon. By mid-morning, I was famished. The Veranda Bar had sweets and crisps available but didn’t have their lunch offerings prepared yet. I settled for two slices of thick toast with butter – not exactly spa food but I had to eat something!
During my massage, the therapist mentioned that I could probably change my lunch booking. Brilliant. I wandered over to the dining room and asked if I could change the time of my lunch. When the host asked what time I wanted to eat, I said, “Now!”
I was given the option of dining alone or at a social table with other single diners. I chose the social option and was seated at an oval table with six seats. The other diners were at various places in their meals and I was able to chat with a variety of people.
The table was set with mineral water, both still and sparkling, white tableclothes, and lovely tableware. According to my tablemates, a server was supposed to come ask if I wanted a hot starter, but I think I was lost in the social table chaos. Fortunately, the buffet lunch was more than adequate. It included numerous cold salads, hot and cold fish and chicken dishes, and a carvery. There was also a large dessert bar with a variety of petite but decadant looking options. I tried several items and they were all outstanding.
In addition to the Thermal Spa, the treatments, and the food, there is also a full gym, outdoor activities, a solarium so you can enjoy the sun without freezing outside, a “mind gym” with a variety of games and puzzles, some shops, an exercise pool, a regular pool, a hot tub (rather lame), several atriums, and The Retreat, a lovely, perfectly quiet room hidden at the end of several hallways and furnished with oversized chairs and ottomans, rockers, and even a sleighbed.
If you are looking for a fabulously relaxing and luxurious holiday, consider Ragdale Hall. It’s location is about two hours north of London in the Leicestershire and it is easily accessible by car or train and taxi. It’s not cheap, but it is money well spent.
I hope I see you there!
*Sorry for the lack of photos. I didn’t take any and there aren’t any properly available online. I’ve written to Ragdale and hope to get permission to use some of their photos.*