Sun, Sea and Sabbia Med at The Spa at Ye Olde Bell
One week after sunning myself in Sardinia, work deadlines, a house renovation and early-morning rush-hour traffic soon made me feel like I’d never been away.
Thank goodness then that I was booked in for a top-up of relaxation and Vitamin D in what was a first for me – an innovative Sabbia Med sunlight therapy session at The Spa at Ye Olde Bell. At £20 per person for a 30-minute session, it’s cheaper than a budget flight, plus you don’t need a passport.
As I hurried through the pouring rain, past the old brass bell at the entrance to the hotel, I realised this couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ye Olde Bell has stood on Barnby Moor, halfway between Edinburgh and London on the Great North Road, since the 17th Century. The family-run hotel has just been brought bang up to date with the addition of a multi-million-pound spa which opened in June 2017.
The reception area was instantly uplifting: light and airy with a double-height ceiling, brightly coloured furniture and a warm welcome from the receptionist. After a complimentary cappuccino, spa butlers Michele and Mo gave me a tour.
I loved the Stonebath Sauna, with its views over the courtyard and quirky clockwork mechanism, and the indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool with its open-sesame door. The Snow Storm ice shower gives you a choice of ‘flurry’ or ‘blizzard’. There are thunderstorm sound-effects too, while a panoramic photomural of the Matterhorn sets the scene.
In complete contrast, the Sabbia Med is a relaxation room that simulates a sunny beach in the south of France. Walls are decorated in a seaside setting of azure skies with seabirds wheeling around and a glitzy, shore-side resort on the horizon.
The floor, covered in sand, has a sunlamp in the centre which bounces light off the ceiling. Stripy deck chairs sit in one corner, shaded by palm trees.
The idea is to soak in all the benefits of Vitamin D, which is stimulated by natural sunlight, without the risk of burning your skin. Sunshine also activates your metabolism – good to know as I’d just enjoyed a delicious three-course spa lunch and a glass of wine in the restaurant.
I’d brought everything I needed for the beach: my tankini and a magazine to settle on a beach mat in the sand. I hung my robe on the quirky flip-flop hooks behind the door and lay down on the sand, face up towards the cloudless ‘sky’.
As there was no dazzling light shining in my eyes, I didn’t need to wear shades and of course there were no irritating ants, wasps or mosquitos to worry about. The UVC sterilizing lamp also ensures a hygienic sandy surface.
I smiled to myself when I noticed the painted beach sign on the wall which pointed to destinations such as ‘Politics’, ‘Stress’ and ‘Cellulite’ in the opposite direction.
I let the relaxing sounds of the sea wash over me – waves crashing on the shore, gulls calling on the breeze. Slowly the light changed from a gentle dawn on a bright, summer’s day to a dim twilight and cosy sunset.
The two friends who developed the Spa at Ye Olde Bell told me they like the Sabbia Med for different reasons. Lizzie Bath of LB Therapies finds it hard to sit still, so uses the sand to exfoliate. Spa director Sadie Ardron-Levack is a busy mum, so makes the most of her me-time to fall fast asleep.
I’m definitely in Sadie’s camp. At the end of my session, Mo couldn’t wake me up. He did try knocking loudly, not just once, but twice at the door. Lizzie came to the rescue, gently coaxing me back to reality. Clearly, I needed it: I felt utterly relaxed, the perfect shot of holiday bliss.
Sabbia Med would be perfect for anyone who suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter months; for sociable groups of friends who’d like to gossip and drink cocktails on the sand; or anyone, like me, who needs a holiday to get over their holiday.
It’s the perfect escape to the Côte d’Azur without any of the hassle, financial strain or sun damage. What’s not to love?