The original and still the best dedicated spa retreat, Ragdale Hall is a large, comfortable country house set in attractive gardens and grounds. Ragdale is the John Lewis of spas: good quality, well priced and delivered by people who really know their stuff. You’ll find unfaltering customer service, an extensive range of top-quality treatments, and a fine array of facilities and classes. You can feel at liberty to be as healthy or as pampered as you like, and with varying prices for rooms, most budgets can be accommodated.
|Key Brands:||Elemis, Decléor, Spa Find, Clarins, LiTya|
|Treatment Menu:||View this spa's treatment menu|
7.30am – 10pm daily
Six room types available, from Economy Rooms to Suites.
Breakfast is served in your room; The Garden Room and Verandah Bar serve hot and cold refreshments and snacks; the main restaurant serves lunch and dinner.
Super efficiency. I had only just stopped outside the main entrance, and someone was there to take my luggage and park my car. A wonderful start to a spa day. You can let go of all your worldly cares along with your car keys. My luggage went one way, to magically reappear in my room, while someone escorted me to the lounge, offered me a drink and gave me a few minutes' peace and quiet to unwind and relax, while people clad in white robes wandered past.
Ragdale call themselves a "health hydro and thermal spa", and offer a complete spa experience. The main indoor 25-metre pool has a waterfall feature, massage jets and a raised level Jacuzzi. A smaller pool is used for aqua classes and nearby is a steam room and a sanarium -- my favourite as it is not as hot as a traditional sauna.
Nearby is the thermal suite which has ten zones. Each zone has a name: The Thought Zone, the Colourflow Cave, The Scented Room, the Rose Sauna, Volcanic Salt Bath and so on. The idea is that you move from zone to zone, spending a few minutes in hot or cold, dry or moist environments, relaxing and drinking plenty of water in between. The waterfall pool takes you outside, so you can bask in warm water and massage jets out in the fresh air. You know when someone goes into the Cave Shower, not just because of the thunder and lightning effects, but by the shrieks as the icy cold shower comes on.
My favourite is the dimly lit Candle Pool. You enter through a curving corridor, with soft music and changing lights ahead, so it feels a bit magical as you wade in the warm water. As the water becomes thigh-high, the "cave" area opens out onto several bays, each illuminated by candle-style lights on the walls. You can lie back on your underwater seat, and float there enjoying the warmth, the water, the gentle music and dim lights. I found it hard to leave.
Classes in the studios and the gym are included and there are 18 different classes to choose from. You could simply come to Ragdale and spend all your time in the thermal suite, the pool and at classes.
I had the Ragdale exclusive Natural Lift Facial (55 minutes, £53).
Jana, my therapist, explained that she had devised this treatment herself. She wanted to develop a holistic facial that would lift and firm the face through massage, acupressure and lymphatic drainage.
The treatment began with warm mitts to relax my face muscles, then a neck, shoulder and décolletage massage. Jana explained that tension in these areas results in tightness in the muscles of the face. Before she could do the "lifting" element of the massage, she needed to make sure that the muscles were relaxed. I can see the logic of that. Often after a massage, I notice my face looks much better; maybe this is why.
Jana's steady relaxing voice told me to breathe out and breathe away my tension. The bolster cushion under my knees meant I could relax the muscles in my lower back and legs, as well my neck and shoulders.
There is no exfoliation or mask with this treatment, just rich oils and plenty of massage. The predominant smell was rose oil, which I love, but there were other oils blended in which help to drain toxins and brighten the skin.
Once my muscles were suitably relaxed, Jana worked on the pressure points on my face and did some lymphatic drainage. She began the lifting massage, which I could feel especially around my jawline and across my cheeks.
I drifted off during the treatment; not quite asleep, but so relaxed that I could not have answered a question had I been asked one. Jana thankfully left me to drift, while she focused on draining away my puffiness. She said afterwards that she usually shows people their face once she has done half, so you can see the difference. However, I was on cloud nine, so she did not disturb me -- for which I was very grateful.
At the end of the treatment, a close inspection in the mirror showed a much firmer jawline. The puffiness around my cheeks was reduced and my forehead had lost its frown lines completely. Ha! Who needs Botox when you can have Jana's magic hands! My skin felt firmer to the touch and looked much brighter.
Jana pointed out that for real improvement, this "natural face lift" needs to be combined with eating well, drinking plenty of water, and managing stress. Oh, if only there was a magic treatment for that! For anyone of a certain age whose face is beginning to "drop", this is the perfect treatment: natural, holistic and very enjoyable. I wish I lived near and could have a course of treatments. I have had similar "face lift" treatments that involve electricity to tighten up the droopy muscles; they do work, but this is much more pleasant and just as effective.
You can have almost any treatments you can think of at Ragdale, with products from Clarins, Decléor, Elemis, Spa Find and Li'Tya, as well as Ragdale treatments and natural therapies. You can book scrubs, floats, body wraps, and facials. I counted over 25 different types of massage on offer. There are tailored treatments for men and for mums-to-be. There is a hair studio if you fancy a new look, and you can book one-to-one fitness coaching.
You do need to book treatments a couple of weeks before your visit to ensure you can get just what you want. However, extra "last-minute" treatments are written up on a blackboard in the huge conservatory waiting area. So you can pop along and see if you can have your chakras unblocked or just have your nails done before you go home.
Breakfast is served in your room; you choose from a range of healthy breads and pastries, fruits and yoghurts, cereal and even hot items.
Lunch is part buffet. You order your starter at the table but get to choose from a wide range of roasted meats, fish and salads for the main course.
Dinner is served at the table and there is a varied and interesting menu. I had perch one evening -- a fish you usually only see on the menu of expensive restaurants. Drinks, snacks such as salads and sandwiches, and treats including cakes and cookies are available in the Verandah Bar all day.
The sense of being looked after from the moment you arrive. Customer service is second to none at Ragdale.
Knowing that 3% would be added to my bill! Yes, I liked the fact that this optional tip is shared among all the staff and that I did not have to think about how to tip.
The "social" table at meals. You can choose to join or be alone if you prefer. Sometimes I was so spaced out that I did not want to talk. When I did join the social table, it was fascinating to hear about other treatments people had tried.
The sheer variety of treatments, classes and things to do. The thermal suite is enjoyable and I went back several times.
The fact that the main pool opens early. I had the pool to myself at 7.30 one morning – bliss.
The very large dining room felt a bit crowded at times.
The lunchtime buffet was great on main courses, but the vegetable dishes and salads were repeated day to day, which is not ideal if you are there for more than a day or two.
The very firm foam pillows on the bed meant my first night was not good. There is a much softer pillow in the wardrobe and a note to tell you this, which of course I missed!
Friends and relatives. Ragdale is a perfect place for friends to meet up and there were plenty of people who were using the time to catch up with someone. I have taken my daughter, my sister-in-law, my best friend and my husband, and they have all enjoyed it!
Solo spa goers: Ragdale is a comfortable place to go on your own. Much as I love my friends, I also enjoy a few days a year where I don't have to speak to anyone, and Ragdale is perfect for this.
Anyone who wants to jump start a new regime, be it eating well or exercise, or just making time for themselves.
Anyone who wants to de-stress and step outside the hurly burly of everyday life.
Ragdale keeps its 5 bubbles. We have said it before, but it is worth saying again: they really know their stuff at Ragdale. The customer service is excellent and everything they do, they do well. There is plenty to do, a wide range of treatments, and everywhere is clean and well maintained.
It's not grand or glitzy and no one dresses up for dinner, so leave that little black dress at home. Pack your swimsuit, some soft and comfortable clothes and a determination to relax and enjoy yourself.
We visited Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa in September 2012