Despite the 4 hour road trip from London (2 hours by train), I recently seized the opportunity to clear my lungs and venture up North for a luxury spa escape in Ribby Hall Village – yes, an entire spa village dedicated to health, wellness and the art of relaxation. Driving through the entrance, past assorted restaurants, the spa cafe, wellbeing fitness centre and holiday homes, Ribby Hall Spa Hotel sits at the end of the road, overseeing its impressive surroundings.
After checking our bags into one of the sizeable rooms available on the second floor, it was straight onto the day’s itinerary so that we could experience as much as possible of the complex: the orangery restaurant and bar, aqua therapy, steam rooms, zen gardens, pilates, a scent workshop and talks from various affiliated companies over two days.
Smoothie Tasting with Lovetaste.co
First on the agenda was the arduous task of sampling some delicious, fruity concoctions. Welcoming the chance to quench my thirst and refuel at the same time, I tucked into various flavour pots from LoveTaste, a company specialising in no-fuss, no-mess, 100% natural smoothies. They provide chains such as Pret with individually packaged bags of various assortments of frozen fruits and vegetables (depending on the desired recipe) ready to be combined with apple juice, ice and blended. I love getting vegetables into my day in this way, I would otherwise eat far too few and there was no need for any chopping, prepping or deliberation as to which combinations might best compliment each other, as it had all been done for you. My favourite flavour was the ‘Detox-Zing’ which had succulent berries and a hint of refreshing ginger, I also devoured a fair few pots of the kale and spinach concoctions.
Trigger Point Pilates
Ribby Hall Wellness manager Natalie Westgate, is one of only 180 qualified Trigger Point pilates instructors in the world and conducts sessions in the spa gym or outside in the scent-mist Zen Gardens. Admittedly I was rather relieved that the session was not an intense, sweaty, pain-inducing power hour. It focused on stretching tight muscles, core strength and self massage. It also uses a technique known as self-myofascial release, whilst simultaneously performing pilates exercises on rollers, balls and bands.
Despite the hilarity of some of the movements (seeing everyone on their backs, legs outstretched with their middle fingers up to improve the stretch was priceless) as well as the equipment (stimulating prickle balls are an essential), it felt like I’d done my body a lot of good. My favourite part was at the end, when we were covered in blankets and got to shut our eyes and breathe deeply. We all know exercise is good for us but often neglect to properly stretch and massage our muscles before and afterwards, I love that these classes combine the two together.
Time to Spa
This is a hotel that truly understands the needs and desires of its clientele – as evidenced by the GHDs in the changing room. Dressing gown, slippers and towel were also all provided in one of the large lockers available. Indoors, the spa consists of treatment rooms, aqua therapy pool (where high powered jets of water massage your sore muscles), various steam rooms, foot baths, saunas and a plunge bucket.
My favourite feature was by far the Bali steam room which was infused with menthol, dimly lit blue mood lighting and soothing music that crept through the steam. Here you can sit in a daze and allow everything to seep out through your pores, before emerging like a snake shedding its skin and heading over to the plunge bucket for a shocking re-awakening. Despite the spa being adult-only, this did rather amusingly result in periodic, high pitched screams of surprise ringing out from behind the showers and disrupting the silence.
Outdoors you will find the newly built Zen Garden complete with hot tub, egg chairs, sofa swing, water features and scent mist environment. As the sun was beginning to set, this was the perfect place just to sit and bathe in its caressing glow whilst pretending to read. An outdoor bar is situated just adjacent to the gardens with a selection of juices, cocktails and teas and I noticed that jacuzzi-side champagne seemed to be one of the most popular options.
Its hard not to have noticed Neom as a brand, rapidly popping up in health stores and spas all over London and the UK. After our workshop, accompanied by pink tea and prosecco jelly, I fully understood its ever increasing popularity. With a focus on women’s mental health, the power of sleep and the benefits of aromatherapy and essentials oils, they have created a natural and organic range of supportive lifestyle products.
The name ‘Neom‘, derives from the initials of its founders – Nicola Elliott and Oliver Mennell, who created the Neom Wellbeing board consisting of an aromatherapist, sleep and mindfulness experts, a life coach, fitness, massage, pilates and nutrition experts as well as a psychologist for a holistic approach to inspiring women to lead healthy lives. The WHO estimates that by 2020 the top 4 diseases will be caused by stress, which is why Neom goes beyond merely selling perfumed products and offers accompanying lifestyle advice, wellbeing tips and suggested routines to maximise the benefits.
The treatment candle is by far my favourite product – upon lighting the wicks and allowing the contents to melt and then cool, you can pour the essential oils straight from the gold-tipped candle onto your body for an intensely aromatic and self-indulgent massage. This was not dissimilar to some of the Neom Wellbeing treatments offered at the spa, whereby naturally scented, warm oils are slowly worked into sore muscles. The best part is that each treatment begins with a specific guided meditation, preparing the clients body and mind for total tranquility.
Neom products contain no parabens, the wick is paper and cotton instead of zinc, they are 83% organic and have the highest percentage of essential oils on the market. As they contain soy, vegetable wax, rapeseed and beeswax they also burn smoke-less, meaning they do not leave sooty black stains when lit, as with other candles. Their foaming bath products are equally skin-friendly, organic and natural and contain coconut, marshmallow and aloe instead of sulphates.
A range of products are on offer focusing around the themes of ‘Tranquility’, ‘Energy’, ‘De-Stress’ and ‘Happiness’. The scent test allows you to pick your favourite base combination of oils, before being advised as to the lifestyle changes to adopt along with your new products. For example the Tranquility recommendations are as follows: burn the candle for 2-4 hours before bed, whilst bathing in the range’s Safflower and Vitamin Oil in the bathroom. Spritz the Pillow Mist onto your bed, try to ensure that the room has blackout blinds, is de-cluttered and 2-3 degrees cooler than the room you’ve been working in. There should be 1.5 hours devoid of technology before bed, no eating after 7.30pm, camomile tea is advisable and if an alarm is set it should not be ‘snoozed’ upon waking. The Headspace mindfulness app also comes highly recommended. Following all the above steps there is little room to believe you could not get a better nights sleep! Personally I find the pillow mist works a treat and has a lasting scent that doesn’t feel too overpowering to sleep on.
After a hard days relaxing its time to satisfy the appetite, and satisfied you shall be with the selection of AA Rosette-awarded delights on offer in The Orangery Restaurant. Given its intimacy, the service is second to none and the hotel manager himself also waits tables – a statement that underpins the friendly, family-run vibe and attention to detail at Ribby Hall. I recommend selecting the glazed duck with celeriac and balsamic cabbage, washed down with a sweet almond and pink grapefruit cocktail, all whilst sitting in your dressing gown and slippers if you so choose. The music, decor and setting give the restaurant an elegance as opposed to formality, which makes the experience more relaxing whilst still inciting that luxurious feeling.
In the mornings, a selection of pastries are on offer at the continental bar including Nutella-filled donuts, waffles and croissants. For an additional charge you can also order off the menu and select items such as potato cakes, buttermilk pancakes or a full Lancashire breakfast.
Morning Run Along the Woodland Trail
Before indulging in the delicious delights downstairs, I went for a morning run along the woodland trail on-site. The path skirts around the border of the hotel and is relatively flat, bar the hill conveniently located towards the end. Fitness trainers are also available should you feel in need of some morning motivation and its a great way to see the sights as you run past the petting area (not that kind of petting – animal petting, from sheep to alpacas rather randomly).
Ishga Skincare Workshop
Unfortunately I couldn’t bottle some of the fresh rural air to pipe back into my London abode on a permanent basis, however there was a more practical solution in the form of the Ishga cosmetics stand. To find out more, I had the opportunity to speak with Leon Trayling, one of the founders of this natural, seaweed infused, scottish brand.
‘Ishga’ means ‘water’ phonetically, in Gaelic. I feel like this is a brand that was made for me as it combines my Gaelic heritage with the seaweed-based benefits that have long been featured in South East Asian diets and products. Ishga uses organic, ethically sourced seaweed from the stunning area of the outer Hebrides in Scotland. The harsher the environment, the better the seaweed as it produces more beneficial compounds in order to protect itself. The company first began when the beautician wife of one of the co-founders, asked her scientist husband to create a seaweed face cream for her. They work as a close-knit team to hand-source the best quality ingredients including ‘healing water’ from a mineral rich well near their loch-side portacabin in rural scotland.
The Ishga body lotion alone contains 35% seaweed extract, higher than any other product on the market. The products are not animal tested, although Leon joked that they are tested on little children as his family are frequently subjected to testing the benefits of all Ishga products. In particular, Leon’s son has frequently suffered from flare ups of childhood eczema and he maintains that the body lotion was more effective, more quickly than any other emollient they have tried. Given the companies successes, they shall soon be branching out further afield and developing their own seaweed-based candles, supplements and spa resort. I fell in love with Scotland the first time I went to visit and a Seaweed Spa in the outer Hebrides sounds like something I cannot wait to visit.
My final meeting of the trip was with Wellness International, a group that consult Ribby Hall on the wellness of not just their clientele but also their staff. The World Health Organisation defines wellness as encompassing the physical, social, emotional, dietary and nutritional aspects of health. This holistic approach underpins the movement at Ribby and is evidenced by their onsite nutritional consultations, corporate wellness breaks and opportunities to get moving whilst simultaneously calming the mind and winding down.
Instead of offering stand-alone beauty treatments such as anti-cellulite massages, the therapists here may also refer clientele for advice about tackling the underlying clinical concern, for example guided methods of effectively targeting cellulite through diet and exercise. It is this holistic, multidisciplinary approach that creates longterm goals and long-lasting achievements.
All of the staff at Ribby are offered the option of enrolling on the Spa’s Know Your Numbers Programme, in which they are given measurements for their cholesterol, glucose and BMI amongst other things in order to determine their baseline fitness levels. Education and self-care are tightly interlinked and there is also a wellness ambassadors programme, in which representatives conduct presentations and workshops for guests.
My stay came to an end all too soon and it was time to make the 5 hour road trip back to London. It seems not even my possessions wanted to come with me as half way back, I had to turn around and race back to the spa to retrieve one of the bags I had left in the locker room… Perhaps I left a little too relaxed. All in all the drive up was absolutely worth it and I shall certainly be booking in for a heavy dose of holistic self-love again soon.
As much as the saying ‘there’s no place like home’ holds true, I don’t think I’d kick up too much of a fuss if I had to live and work in a rural retreat complete with award winning food, beautiful grounds and such happy company, with a healthy approach to life. A huge thank you to everyone at Ribby Spa Hotel for such an educational, interactive and refreshing couple of days.