Ragdale Hall: New Year's Package

It was the perfect antidote to the hectic Christmas period. There we were, stretched out in shallow warm water in a cavern illuminated by candles and piping out classical music. Ragdale Hall's candle pool is one of my favourite spots for relaxation in the destination spa in the heart of rural England. But its other facilities don't disappoint. There's the landscaped outdoor pool with greenery and trickling waterfalls, a large indoor swimming pool, and a lovely rose-scented sauna. The spa's rural setting, amid miles of rolling fields, is quite the tonic too.

We were booked onto the New Year's Package, and enjoyed two nights' full board, as well as two lush treatments - a lavender and tea tree exfoliation and a back, neck and shoulder massage. Perhaps I've become too spoilt by the standard of Swiss spas - especially those with natural, mineral-rich thermal water - but I didn't overall feel Ragdale warranted its price tag this time, our second visit. The pools, though prettily situated and relaxing, were heavily chlorinated, which left my skin feeling itchy. The new outdoor infinity pool, which has lovely tranquil rural views, was so cold I was in and straight out. Such a shame.

And the standard of catering was frightful for a place that considers itself to be a health spa - sugar-loaded menus with high carbs and low fat. Breakfast, served to your room, consisted of sliced white bread (sliced white bread, I ask you!) and sugary instant porridge, while juices were fruit-based and from concentrate. I was so disappointed. The buffet-style lunch and three-course dinner were much better - think butternut squash or parsnip soup, followed by seared tuna on pak choi then homemade blueberry sorbet.

The place nevertheless enchants with its setting, its extensive facilities and its cosy floral interiors spliced by wood panelling and roaring fires. And as we soothed our muscles in another candlelit room during an 'evening stretch' class on our final night, we certainly felt relaxed and ready to ease back into work the following week.
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