Ragdale Hall is one of those names women utter in awed and hushed tones: like an incantation it has a certain power over them.
Its magic lies in its ability to evoke a vision of a better life, one that involves wandering around in your dressing gown all day, eating healthy but delicious food, and having a huge range of options for pampering or self improvement at your disposal.
That way lies the thermal spa with its steam rooms, rose sauna, candlelight pool and outdoor pool; this way lies the sanctuary of the treatment rooms where massaging, moisturising, cleansing and polishing take place. In between are the studios where a body can succumb to anything from pilates to salsa. Or there's always coffee and cake in one of the cafes.
Whatever you fancy in the feelgood field, Ragdale Hall will provide it, and provide it smoothly, on well-oiled wheels.
There is nothing edgy or terribly trendy about the converted country house in Leicestershire. When they say relax they really mean it: you won't find any supermodel types, you won't bump into anyone intimidatingly glossed and polished. This really is a place where normal women can let their hair down for a few days.
They come from all over the country and they come with their friends, their daughters, their sisters, or even their husbands, though Radgale Hall is undoubtedly a female haunt in the main.
Our visit began with a problem-free, two-hour drive from Leeds into the Leicestershire countryside.
As we drove slowly up the long drive to the hall – a private residence belonging to the Master of the Quorn Hunt until the 1950s – it appeared before us, lights glowing welcomingly from the windows into the winter afternoon.
The pampering starts here and staff at award-winning Ragdale Hall will park your car for you, though we chose to unload our overnight bags and then accomplish this task ourselves.
Once inside, we were led to a seat in one of the cafes for a hot drink and a short session of form filling, followed by lunch.
The food at Ragdale Hall is one of its highlights: it's delicious, prepared with health in mind and not too heavy, though you will never go hungry, and there is lots of choice.
Breakfast is served in your room and chosen from a large selection of cold dishes covering all the usual cereals, fruits, juices, bread rolls and including a choice of savoury dishes such as a dill scone with smoked salmon or cottage cheese, grapes and Ryvita.
Lunch is mainly a buffet and includes gorgeous salads, meats and fish as well as hot dishes like chicken chasseur or beef casserole.
Dinner is the star attraction though with three luscious candlelight courses which you can still eat in your towelling gown if you wish – including the most delicious iced banana parfait I have ever eaten – what? Of course I could have avoided the calories... but imagine how rejected the chef would have felt then.
Ragdale Hall was voted Best Spa in Europe in 2007
Two-night midweek breaks cost from 249 per person including all meals, use of facilities including the new Thermal Spa and a choice of inclusive treatments
Day packages are from 69 including lunch, a treatment and use of facilities
Tel: 01664 433000
www.ragdalehall.co.uk Who could be that unkind?
The thermal spa is the newest addition to Ragdale Hall, a delicious retreat of water and heat treatments based on ideas from across the globe and across the centuries – from the Romans to the Japanese – and featuring a candle lit pool, and an indoor and outdoor pool. Wander from one scented, steamy room to another, take a shower as cool as you dare, swim outside via the outdoor pool into the rolling countryside. Enjoy.
The idea is that water treatments increase blood flow and circulation, reduce stress and boost the immune system, the effect is that you will feel relaxed and calm.
And when you have had enough, dry off on one of the limitless supply of warm fluffy towels, put on your dressing gown and go in search of refreshment in one of the cafes, into The Retreat to read or snooze, or perhaps, if you are that way inclined, into the mind gym – a room full of puzzles and games to exercise the brain cells.
The rooms at Ragdale are cosy and conformable and ours looked out over the great expanse of the Vale of Belvoir, all big skies and empty, flat fields to add to the sense that life had slowed its pace, for a little while.
The average stay at Ragdale is three nights and during that time you can book as many treatments as you like, at varying prices, or book a package that includes both accommodation and set treatments, the choice depends on personal preference and how much cash you have to spare.
Everything is available from Ragdale’s 130 therapists from a two-hour session of top-to-toe luxury to an alternative treatment like reflexology to a simple manicure or pedicure.
My reflexology was performed by a therapist originally from Lithuania who sent me into a trance-like state while diagnosing my health problems unnervingly accurately.
A two-hour Finders Luxury Mineral Mud Infusion was a total pampering treatment combining head, body and facial massage with a mud wrap and a complete moisturising session – the works in other words.
But if you want something that will help your fitness levels then expert instruction is available daily in everything from t’ai chi to fitness ball and every class is included in the price of your stay.
By the time you leave Ragdale you mind will be busy on just one subject - planning how you will use your time when you return.