Before I get into the post I just want to apologise for not having blogged for nearly a week - I've been really rather sick and for some reason my body has decided to recover at a glacial pace which does not thrill me in the slightest. I seem to be getting there though so am FINALLY able to write this post. There's been so much I've been wanting to write, mes amis!
I'd never been to a spa before - sure, I'd had the occasional manicure, always a treat - but the idea of going on a proper spa day had long appealed and never appeared. Walking round in fluffy white robes, being pampered, relaxing... Who wouldn't love that?
So, I was absolutely thrilled when, months ago last Christmas, I unwrapped a voucher for a spa day at the famously luxurious "health hydro and thermal spa", Ragdale Hall. Wahooooo! White robe, I'm comin' for ya! thought I.
Except what with the ol' year abroad and all, it took me rather a while to actually do so. However, Mama and I eventually settled on a date that would suit both of us, and we booked ourselves in.
After a long, fun but exhausting and stressful year of working, travelling and living abroad, the prospect of a spa day just a couple of days after coming home was simply perfect.
Conveniently, Ragdale isn't far from where we live, so we can get a good day of
I was booked in for a Luxury Refresh and Revive Day and mum on the Ragdale Experience Day - she wasn't fussed about having treatments, but they were a real, well, treat, for this spa newbie.
Here, we were offered tea and coffee and were left with some information. To be honest, we thought we were left for a little too long - we wanted to make the most of our day and time was ticking away! But we were eventually attended to.
We were told what time my treatment would be and when we were booked in for lunch, and given a map and fitness class timetable, as well as our robes.
It turns out that unless you're on the luxury day, robes aren't actually included (tragic), but would have to be hired for £3.50. Oh, and luckily we'd brought our own little slipper mules to wear - don't forget flip-flops or something similar if you go yourself!
The interior of the whole spa is beautiful - there are both modern and classic areas, yet somehow they work well together. Most of the spa is airy and bright, and the atmosphere is wonderfully peaceful and relaxed.
There are designated silent areas, workout studios, a gym, various changing rooms (beautifully decorated, might I add), lounges, a "mind gym", pavilion, and of course, the pools, thermal spa and treatment areas.
There are also beautiful grounds which would have been lovely to explore, had we had more time.
Ragdale is quite big, but not too big that you feel lost. And although it was apparently fully-booked the day we visited (months in advance too!) it didn't seem busy.
There are various shops (a gift shop, beauty shop, fitness shop etc) as well as cafes and bars, but instead of paying with cash should you want to buy anything, each guest is given a personal account number to which they can charge purchases. A good system, I thought.
All around Ragdale there were enticing-looking chairs and the latest magazines, just calling out for you to sit down and chill out.
Once mum and I had made our plan for the day, we got cracking! And first up, we went to the gym.
It's well-equipped and has TVs on the walls, floor-to-ceiling windows round half the room and a water fountain. We had a relatively brief sesh but it was good to get the heart-rate going, particularly having not had access to a gym all year.
The reason we had only a brief gym sesh was that we wanted to head to an exercise class: Ballroom Blitz!
There are tons of different workout classes on over the week, with a different timetable each day, which sort of makes me want to stay for a while to try them all.
At Ragdale you can choose from well-known classes like pilates, aerobics and Zumba, to slightly more intriguing and unusual ones like Magical Musicals, Drums Alive and fitness yoga.
Unfortunately I didn't get to try anywhere near as many as I'd have liked to but I really enjoyed Ballroom Blitz. It wasn't hard choreography-wise (actually, that may just be my opinion having a fair amount of dance experience), but it was fun and still got us all sweating.
Straight from Ballroom Blitz I had to waltz my way over to the beauty reception because it was treatment time for me! I was booked in for a 50-minute Blissful Face and Back Therapy and jolly looking forward to it, even though I wasn't entirely sure what it would entail.
A lovely lady called Danielle (who also turned out to be 21 but had far more beautiful skin than me) led me into a very relaxed, dim treatment room, and we sat down to have a brief chat about my skin and back concerns so she could then tailor my treatment appropriately.
We started with the massage so I wouldn't smush my freshly facialed face, and, listening to classic spa relaxation tunes, I drifted off into peaceful land. The back massage was totally blissful and went by far too quickly, and then over I rolled for my facial.
To be honest I haven't a clue what Danielle was putting on my face - hot things, cold things, creamy things, exfoliating things - but it was so therapeutic.
Once my treatment was over, Danielle gave me a "prescription" with her product recommendations which, conveniently, were available in the Ragdale shop. I don't doubt the lovely products would improve my skin, but alas I wasn't quite feeling flush enough to splash out.
Although I may not have left with noticeably more radiant, glowing skin as one would like to imagine, I massively enjoyed my treatments. It's not cheap to have them but my goodness, are they lovely.
I left feeling wonderfully serene and pampered. Just ready for lunch then!
The prospect of a healthy buffet lunch held as much appeal for me as everything else involved in my spa day.
In a large country house style dining room, mum and I were shown to our table and sat down. In our dressing gowns. Amongst various other tables of ladies. In their dressing gowns. It's kind of hilarious to be in an apparently posh restaurant in a fluffy white robe but also rather good fun.
The three course lunch begins with still or sparkling water and bread rolls - gently warmed, I honestly think mine was one of the best bread rolls of my life. We were even allowed butter. It must've been low-fat.
One waiter amongst many took our starter order (there was a choice of two), and we were swiftly served - tomato soup for me and salmon on rye bread for the mothership. Very tasty indeed.
And then it was time to hit the buffet. There was so much choice I don't - and didn't - even know where to start: an amazing salad bar, tagine, jacket potatoes (yes, carbs are allowed!), lean meats, fish, casserole, pasta salad, sauces... It's safe to say we filled our plates. All in the guilt-free knowledge that a) it was healthy, and b) we were exercising lots that day.
There was then an option to have a hot pudding, but the orange sponge didn't really take my fancy. However, the cool pudding buffet was more than enough - there were lots of mini puddings like mango parfait, apple custard crumbley pots, jellies, fruit compotes, yoghurts, dried fruit, coulis, pieces of fruit and even more that I can't remember. I may have had three. But they were tiny, honest.
After eating up all that, we were unsurprisingly far too full to do much, so happily retired to the Verandah Bar for our complimentary post-lunch tea or coffee.
Super comfortable, we reclined on the sofas, sipping our drinks, flicking through magazines and laughing our heads off trying to recreate model poses. Too full to manage the hula class we'd originally planned, we simply relaxed.
The pools and thermal spa
Finally having sufficiently digested, Mama and I squeezed into our swimming cozzies and made our way to the pools for a relaxing bob around. Let's face it, we were never going to be swimming hardcore lengths, were we?
There are actually three indoor pools at Ragdale - one exercise pool (with legit pool workout machines) where water workout classes take place, the main pool, and the thermal spa which starts inside FROM WHICH YOU CAN SWIM INTO AN OUTDOOR POOL! Seriously. There's also another outdoor pool I think, but I don't think that was open.
The main pool in itself is great. It's really big, wonderfully warm, with a really cool waterfall you can sit under, have a shoulder massage and pretend you're somewhere tropical. It also has jets for foot and back massages too. Oh, and there's a jacuzzi.
The thermal spa, however, is really something else.
Around the pool there are all these tiny little rooms called things like the "Candle Pool", "Colourflow Cave" and "Volcanic Salt Bath". Certain rooms are designated silent for ultimate relaxation.
While some of the rooms are essentially saunas and steam rooms with added relaxation music and nice fragrances (not that that's not lovely), I reeeaaally was wowed by others. The Candle Pool, in particular, was amazing. It's like being in a massive bath, surrounded by candles, in water that changes colour. Seriously cool.
I also loved the Cave Shower which recreated the experience of being in a thunder storm (but with hot water) - so much fun!
It was awesome to make our way round all these interesting little parts of the thermal spa - there's so much to do, it's wonderful.
The pool in the thermal spa is also great - it's not huge so not designed for swimming, but it's awesome that you can swim from the inside to the outside. And it's seriously warm too. Amazing.
Exercise pool classes
It's not just studio-based workout classes at Ragdale either, oh no. While they're usually asociated with larger old ladies at leisure centres (and sure, there were a few of them bobbing around and doing their thing at Ragdale), Mama and I decided to take the opportunity to try a Cardio Splash class.
Not only was the class fun, but it was great to try something new. Considering it was the end of the day, a pool workout class was ideal as we didn't break a sweat. Afterwards, however, I was more than ready for the final part of our day...
There's something about swimming which always leaves me peckish, yes, despite the epic lunch.
Once more wrapped up in our robes, we plonked ourselves on to the sofas in the cosy Verandah lounge and were served our tea, sparkling Pinot Noir and three tiers of treats. I was surprised by just how many different things to munch there were, and there was a great selection.
Instead of just classic finger sandwiches, for example, our savoury layer consisted of mini quiches, tomato-topped bruschetta, salmon-wraps and, well, sandwiches.
Layer two was little sponge cakes topped with utterly scrumptious icing and raspberries, and mini strawberry-topped lemon tarts and chocolate brownies.
And the top layer was scones and macarons. (I missed scones so much on my year abroad!) Deeee-lish!
Considering Ragdale is, in fact, not an establishment which specialises in afternoon tea, it was wonderful. The perfect end to our day.
And had we not had the afternoon tea as part of our lovely upgrade, we certainly would've been treating ourselves to a slice of one of these babies...
They must all be low-fat, right?
The parsnip and maple cake looked particularly divine so I guess I'll just have to go back to try it out!
I absolutely loved my day at Ragdale Hall - it was relaxing, extremely enjoyable and very special.
In exchange for a review, Ragdale Hall kindly upgraded my standard Refresh and Revive Day to a Luxury one, and added robes and afternoon tea to mum's Experience Day. Many thanks to Ragdale, and as ever, this post is my honest opinion.