The Spa Spy blog

Wellness Retreat at Ribby Hall

Spa Spy was thrilled to be invited to a ‘blogging retreat’ at The Spa Hotel at Ribby Hall Village, a charming holiday resort between Manchester and Blackpool with an impressive five bubble spa and outstanding restaurant. The theme was Wellness, something the spa has embraced since its conception in 2009 (it was built in 2011) with an on-site nutritionist, Pilates classes, and treatments by organic brands Neom and Ishga. It was time, they decided, to spread the word.

Fellow bloggers were young, gorgeous and far more clued up than I when it came to the latest wellness trends, as well as very active on social media. Our group included the lovely health and beauty editor of a trendy Mancunian magazine, a smart and sweet medical student blogger, a fun beauty blogger, as well as a certain mature, well-seasoned Spa Spy.

The Young Bloggers (YBs) had a habit of standing on chairs to photograph each spectacularly beautiful dish served in the Orangery Restaurant to post on Instagram while I went ahead and tucked in – probably why they were so slender! Spa Spy was a little more old school in her approach. She managed a couple of twitter posts, but mostly just immersed herself in the experience while hoping someone else was taking photos (they were! Thank you Jessica Isherwood)

Our two-day itinerary was thankfully rather relaxed, with acres of spa time, two Pilates sessions and an optional morning run along the woodland trail.

On arrival, I checked into my suite with romantic veranda overlooking a huge pond with water lilies and ducks. It was gloriously sunny, a rarity I am told in Lancashire. Beyond I could see the alpacas in the petting zoo. The village’s holiday bungalows are rather plain on the outside, but the spa is stunningly modern and the hotel colourfully smart.

Downstairs we met in the swanky new Lounge Bar – Chesterfields, bookshelves and doors opening onto the sun drenched veranda – for a smoothie tasting with Lovetaste.co. Guests can now enjoy these ingeniously healthy concoctions in the trendy new Zen Garden bar. Colourful samples were laid out in shot glasses and the YB’s whipped out their cameras while I tucked in. Kale Kick and Broccoli and the Beast were surprisingly delicious, but the clear favourite today was the Detox Zing – berries with a ginger stinger.

Next on the agenda – lunch! Guests can eat in their robes in the Orangery, a delightful restaurant done out in jelly bean oranges and lime, with a dramatic orange chandelier hanging from the skylight. It has two rosettes, and the food is fabulous – fresh, local ingredients, deliciously flavoured with light and vegetarian options, as well as more hearty fare and seriously tempting puddings. It was also beautifully presented and therefore Instagram-friendly: even my risotto which was studded with violas. We all agreed the pop music in the restaurant made you feel like you were in a relaxed Gastro pub, as did the staff, many of whom have worked at Ribby Hall most of their lives and are infectiously good humoured.

After lunch had been digested, it was time for some proper hard work – or rather lying down on spikey balls making V-signs at each other. Trigger Point Pilates is sort of yoga plus self-massage, and our class was taken by Wellness Manager Natalie Westgate, one of only 180 qualified Trigger Point Pilates instructors in the world. It was fun, sometimes hilariously so, but after the first exercise involving a cylindrical cushion, my back felt completely tension free. Glutes and core got a good workout too, and it ended with a snooze under a blanket.

Finally, it was spa time and we had a couple of hours to enjoy the thermal journey. At the back of the older hotel, the spa is impressively modern with a large glass structure at its centre where you can look out over the hydropool and through the windows to the Zen garden and outdoor Jacuzzi.

We changed into our swimwear, donned the robes and flip-flops provided in our lockers, showered, then began our journey. Thankfully all of the heat rooms were well sign-posted, as were instructions to make use of the showers and cold water provided so as to remain hydrated. There were also plenty of recliners should one feel overwhelmed. Highlights for me were the outdoor Jacuzzi, the powerful swan pipes in the hydropool, the head-clearing salt infused steam room followed by the icy cold bucket shower, and the warm, quiet Tepidarium beds for a snooze at the end. There are three separate relax rooms upstairs by the treatment rooms, two overlooking the lovely Lancashire countryside.

I was also impressed with the Zen Garden. It may look like a few choice pieces of furniture surrounding some stones, but it is a really lovely, relaxing space, especially in the sunshine with the trees rustling gently in the wind. We saw lots of guests sipping Prosecco in the Jacuzzi or curled up in the cosy hanging egg chairs, and occasionally a cloud of scented mist would emerge from the stones.

So relaxed we were virtually comatose, we gathered on large comfy white sofas and chairs around a table piled with lots of Neom products. Neom, as you probably know, is an organic company specialising in 100 per cent natural essential oils, and fits perfectly with Ribby’s Wellbeing ethos. Neom was set up by Nicola Elliot, a maxed-out 38-year-old mum, who said she wanted to achieve the effect of two hours of yoga on a beach in her morning shower. I totally relate. Neom scents do feel virtuous and uplifting.

We had fun trying out the oils, and passing around candles and sprays and must have created a mist of wellbeing. The girls from Neom invited us to smell four candles and choose which one most appealed. Whichever scent you chose – De-Stress, Energy Boost, Sleep or Happiness – indicated what you needed. Half of us (oneself included) needed Happiness, the other half Energy Boosting. To be honest, I could have done with all of it, but clearly happiness was a priority.

It’s a rather clever idea, and one I would thoroughly recommend trying, as now you can get Scent to Make You Feel Good: On The Go Collection (bit of a mouthful from the company who came up with such an elegantly minimalist brand name and logo)! These lovely kits contain three little portable bottles, either of On the Go Mist, Rollerball, Bath and Shower Oils or Pillow Mist. At £20 then make beautiful gifts: I bought a Scent to Make You Happy box for a friend who is going through a bit of a tough time at the Spa Shop.

The Neom ladies also gave us an Intensive Skin Treatment Candle to take home, which I am saving for a stressful day. After the workshop I had a Neom Happiness Treatment (60 mins £70, 90 mins £95). All the Neom treatments have been masterminded by the Neom Wellbeing Board comprising 11 wellbeing experts, and kick off with a Mindfulness CD. My therapist gave me a back scrub followed by a wonderful massage with richly scented Happiness oil. Utter Bliss.

After a hearty dinner and a few cocktails, we all slept amazingly on our plush hotel beds.


Day 2: Up at 8am for the woodland trail run, all of us wearing pink Adidas tops with the Spa Hotel logo, apart from the chaps who wore yellow. Half the group sprinted off betraying impressive stamina while the rest of us jogged along at a nice, gentle pace taking in the countryside scenery. Running through the woods was a lovely way to begin the day, and the perfect excuse for a hearty cooked Lancashire breakfast in The Orangery.

Next it was more Pilates, a deep stretching class that left us all feeling fabulous, then a Workshop with Wellness International who have been involved with The Spa Hotel since its conception. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define wellness as a holistic approach that takes in the physical, social, emotional, environmental and dietary aspects of health, not just disease or infirmity. Wellness International provide support, training, education and health checks for Ribby Hall’s staff, including the spa therapists, who are then able to provide holistic care for each individual client.

In The Spa Hotel wellness is everywhere, from the onsite nutritionist and food, the surrounding countryside and new Zen garden, to the ethical brands, Pilates classes, and the clearly very healthy and happy staff. They also run corporate wellness retreats, which they piloted with their own execs, and there are plans to expand the wellness programme further.

After another delicious lunch, we packed our bags and went back to the spa lounge to meet Leon from Scottish skincare company Ishga. Leon had driven from Glasgow where he manages the Spa at Blythswood Square, and we let his deeply soothing Scottish accent transport us to the wilds of the Hebrides, where the seaweed is hand harvested and transformed into pots of goodness. Seaweed has long been used in Thalassotherapy treatments as it has natural skin healing properties, and apparently seaweed grown in wild, natural conditions is particularly potent. The Hebridean seawater also contains a high density of nutrients and is considered one of the most pristine in the world, while the products also use water from a historical healing spring. The plan is to eventually open an Ishga spa on the island: we can’t wait!

We try the products and are impressed with the lemongrass scented body oil (I already own this: it’s fantastic) and the miraculous Marine Cream, which Leon says worked wonders on his son’s eczema. I purchase a pot for my daughter who also suffers. It’s £70, but considering it’s handmade and contains such a high density of goodies, plus you only need a small dab, I think it’s worth it (and yes, my daughter has reported amazing and immediate results: she loves it). As fellow YB points out, it’s cheaper than Crème de la Mer. I am also tempted by products for Mr Spa Spy: beard oil and a manly marine cream, both tastefully packaged in grey.

Sadly our trip reached its end. We shared a farewell coffee and macaroons, and were given some generous goody bags with Elemis, Ishga and Neom products and two spikey balls from our Pilates to take home. I left utterly relaxed, certainly happier and inspired to bring more wellness into my life. Thank you everyone at The Spa Hotel and Ribby Hall Village for my amazing wellness experience.