Ragdale Hall is considered to be one of the best spas in the UK. Penny Bunting visited to find out how first-class pampering and sustainability can go hand in hand
Arriving at Ragdale Hall, in Leicestershire, is an event in itself. Pulling up at the front of the elegant historic house, with its grand façade of crenulated towers, my daughter Izzy and I knew we were in for a real treat.
Entering through the grand front doors, we were greeted by friendly reception staff offering a valet parking service. I instantly regretted that the inside of our car hadn't been cleaned out for a while – especially as it's often used to transport our large, hairy dog to muddy dog-walking locations – and mentioned as much as I handed over the keys. Fortunately, the staff throughout Ragdale are friendly, polite and professional – and I was reassured by a cheerful “Don't worry, everybody says the same thing!”
Check in was a leisurely affair – seated in the bright and spacious bar, we were provided with a welcome cup of coffee, which we sipped as a receptionist explained Ragdale Hall's etiquette. This includes not using your mobile phone in public areas, and being allowed to wear bathrobes in the dining room.
We were given a map to help us find our way around the extensive facilities, and then we headed straight to the spa.
The Thermal Spa
The spa at Ragdale Hall is absolutely stunning. The first thing you see on entering is an enormous indoor pool, complete with water jets and cascade. There's a jacuzzi here too, and another, smaller pool that's used for aqua exercise classes.
Then there's the waterfall pool, an all-weather indoor/outdoor pool that's designed to recreate the feel of swimming through a series of natural rock pools – except these rock pools have massage jets!
We loved the 'wishing stone' feature as you entered the thermal spa: select a pebble, hold it mindfully for a moment and then throw it into the stream to release any negativity before you begin exploring the facilities.
The waterfall pool is surrounded by thermal experience rooms – all designed to relax and revive, with water and steam heated to different temperatures.
These include a rose-scented sauna, a volcanic salt steam room, and the Thought Zone. The latter is a dry, warm space, with gentle music and ever-changing natural images projected onto the ceiling – a soothing place for meditation and relaxation.
It would be hard to choose a favourite experience, but if pushed we'd plump for the delightful candle pool. This subterranean, cavern-like room is gently lit by flickering candlelight – with subtle colour-changing light effects and a starlit ceiling adding to the magical atmosphere.
Upstairs is Ragdale's newest addition: a spectacular rooftop infinity pool. Heated to a deeply relaxing 35°C, it's a wonderful place to soak up the glorious surroundings – with amazing views across the grounds to the pretty Leicestershire countryside. Every few minutes the pool sends out jets of bubbles – fantastic for easing aching muscles.
Throughout the thermal spa there are peaceful seating areas, including swinging pod chairs, loungers and armchairs.
It never felt crowded, and we often had one of the experience rooms all to ourselves. Even the infinity pool was rarely full, and when I went there in the evening for a last-minute soak before bed, I had the whole pool to myself. This was one of the most blissful moments of the stay – the night sky was clear, and I was able to enjoy a spot of stargazing as I floated around in the warm water.
Treatments, guest rooms and eco-friendly initiatives
We stayed at Ragdale Hall on an Overnight Reviver Break. This included a 50-minute Blissful Face and Back Therapy, as well as meals.
The treatment was excellent – a Swedish-style massage that really went to work on the knotted muscles in my shoulders, followed by a facial. The products smelt amazing and I left the treatment room floating on air.
Our room at Ragdale was spacious and comfortable, with an elegant country house atmosphere and lovely views across the grounds. A hospitality tray with quality Fairtrade teas and coffees was provided.
The modern bathroom had two sinks, and the complimentary toiletries – which smelt gorgeous – were presented in large refillable dispensers. These have reduced the need for small single-use plastic bottles, and the large packs these products come in are recycled.
Initiatives to reduce single-use plastics can be seen throughout Ragdale Hall. Although all plastic waste is recycled – and there is a recycling bin on each floor for guests to use – guests are encouraged to bring refillable water bottles. There are no disposable plastic cups alongside the water dispensers in the corridors – instead, a stainless steel jug is provided in each guest room.
Recycling as many materials as possible is one aspect of Ragdale Hall's 'Green for Go' initiative, which has significantly reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill. And Ragdale is working with Elemis – one of the brands used in the spa – on larger initiatives in recycling.
The 'Green for Go' initiative is also working to reduce use of natural resources, with a consistent reduction in consumption of electricity, oil and gas. This includes energy saving actions such as installing double-glazing throughout the hall, and insulating other areas to reduce heat loss. Emissions have been reduced by switching to a renewable electricity supply, and a biomass boiler supplies heat to the laundry building.
Lights have been replaced with low energy lighting where possible, and the amount of packaging used in the retail outlets is also being reduced.
All paper comes from suppliers committed to sustainable forest replanting, and paper waste has been minimised by replacing hard copies with electronic communication.
Guests are also encouraged to adopt eco-friendly practices, with a 'green plan' in rooms and easy access to recycling facilities.
All of our meals at Ragdale Hall were outstanding. Breakfast is served in the room, and is healthy and delicious.
We chose from a menu the night before – a difficult task, as the selection was huge and everything sounded wonderful. Izzy appreciated the range of vegan choices, including a heavenly vegan blueberry croissant, and a hot, tasty bake with butterbeans, chickpeas and tomatoes.
There was a range of cereals to choose from, from the more familiar Weetabix, granola and muesli to a delicious Atholl Brose – a blend of toasted oats, honey, yoghurt and berries.
Also on the list were American-style pancakes, a smoked haddock, leek and egg bake, croissants, Danish pastries, savoury muffins, fresh fruit… it took us a while to choose.
Lunch was equally superb, with an excellent selection of hot and cold dishes – including fresh fish, stir fry and dozens of different salads – served buffet style. The large selection of mini desserts was also dangerously tempting – it was impossible to be moderate and choose just one.
You can also have lunch in the excellent Verandah Bar – a bright and airy room where light lunches, coffee and cake are served.
At dinner, we chose from another superb menu – again, with great plant-based options for Izzy.
What struck us at every meal was how decadent the food seemed – yet everything was wholesome and healthy, and made from fresh, often locally produced ingredients. If you are trying to watch your weight, the menu displays symbols to let you know how calorific each dish is.
But if you want to indulge, you can. As well as the mini desserts at lunch, there's a good wine list at dinner – and the Conservatory Bar and Verandah Bar serve wine and cocktails, as well as locally crafted gins and local beers. Excellent coffees, teas and cake are also available throughout the day.
The grounds and living rooms
The grounds at Ragdale Hall are a delight, and a lovely place for a walk or a run. There are also lots of places to just sit and enjoy the idyllic surroundings, including a pretty summerhouse.
A large pond with a fountain takes centre stage at the front of the hall, and the gardens are full of flower borders packed with nectar-rich plants. These change with the seasons – snowdrops and euphorbia were growing in abundance during our visit in late February.
One of the eco-friendly policies at Ragdale is to protect wildlife habitats in the grounds, and we noticed lots of birds and birdsong during our visit.
There's also a seasonal outdoor pool (closed during our February stay) with sun loungers in summer.
Inside, there are sumptuous living rooms for relaxing or reading. You can choose from two comfortable lounges, where the traditional country estate atmosphere manages to be elegant yet cosy. Or rest in the modern, light-filled pavilion, featuring glass walls with views across the grounds.
There are also several relaxation rooms, with comfortable beds, seating and blankets, where you'll find a quiet retreat for meditation or a nap.
It's no surprise that we left Ragdale Hall feeling deeply relaxed and rejuvenated. Ragdale Hall has a reputation for being one of the best dedicated spas in the UK – and from our experience, this reputation is well-deserved. For a luxurious and pampering treat, it's highly recommended – and we can't wait to return as soon as possible.
We stayed at Ragdale Hall in February 2020, before the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ragdale Hall is currently planning to reopen on Monday 27 July 2020, following Covid-19 assessment and intensive training. A series of measures has been put in place for staff and guest safety, including reduced numbers and enhanced cleaning.
Spa days at Ragdale Hall cost from £93. A two-night Taster Break, including all meals (but not alcoholic drinks) and two treatments, costs from £364 per person. Visit www.ragdalehall.co.uk for more information.
Green Adventures June 2020