“Can I stay an extra night?” Nancy pleaded with the receptionist at the end of her short break at Ragdale Hall spa. Nancy has been a regular visitor there for 25 years, but with all the best will in the world, her wish could not be met as the spa was full!
I was stunned to hear this; after all, aren’t we still meant to be feeling the pinch from the economic decline? Yet somehow, Ragdale has achieved an astonishing average daily occupancy of 99% in its 93 bedrooms!
I had originally planned to visit Ragdale earlier in the year when it launched its new Weight Loss Kickstart programme created by its fitness expert Dean Hodgkin (pictured), but was unable to go due to other commitments. My visit was rescheduled to last week when I met Nancy there who joined me on the “social table”, where guests who are on their own can meet up and dine with other solo guests. Nancy couldn’t stop raving about Ragdale as, indeed, did everyone else I met. There was a huge coach party from a London gym and a group of ladies from Dublin were paying a return visit while I was there.
The beauty of the place is that despite its very grand building (the spa opened 41 years ago), it is not at all intimidating and it oozes friendliness and hospitality; the 460 staff cannot do enough to help you from the moment you arrive. Combine that with its delicious food and lovely rooms, then it is no surprise that Ragdale constantly attracts glowing media reviews, and was ranked 4th by Tripadvisor in the 2012 25 Relaxation/Spa Hotels in the UK.
Just lolling about in their white fluffy bathrobe is relaxing – even for dinner – without having to worry about what to wear during the day. Certainly most people dressed this way for their delicious lunch and chilled out with magazines on comfy chairs in quiet rooms or a coffee bar. I never saw Nancy wear anything but her white bathrobe.
Over lunch I marvelled at her considerable constraint in eating small portions and resisting temptation by sampling some of their mouthwatering dishes. All their meals are clearly marked on the menu to show which ones are the slimming options and which dishes have more calories. Nancy opted for cottage cheese and a small piece of salmon with a salad. This was clearly the reason for her enviable slim figure, it’s not rocket science to keep weight down if you have this kind of will power. I love my food and do not have this kind of constraint, and with a holiday in Sorrento looming next month, this was the reason I wanted to try Radgale’s Weight Loss Kickstart programme – so I can wear my bikini there with confidence.
Having missed the opportunity to try out Dean’s new programme, I was pleased to have the chance to meet him during my visit. Dean is co-author of Better Body Workouts For Women and talked me through his weight loss programme, which has four key steps:
1. ME Time – This is Metabolic Effect training which is based on the individual’s ability for high intensity exercise to achieve maximum fat loss, reducing the grehlin hormone responsible for making us feel hungry.
2. Strength training. Dean recommends weight training for burning calories and resistance training for stimulating changes in the muscles that require energy, leading to extra calories being burnt after the workout.
3. Combat workouts. The benefits of the correct kicking and punching techniques include reducing stress, improving confidence and body coordination.
4. Cellulite control. Dean says the right exercises can tackle cellulite in two ways by helping to reduce the orange peel body fat and tone the muscles by alternating between upper and lower body exercises so that your cardiovascular system constantly transports the blood from one are of the body to another to deliver the oxygen required, helping you burn more calories.
This programme is being repeated at Ragdale during 20-22 November, though I am sure if they held more of them, they would all sell out.
While it is not unusual for mothers and daughters to have a spa break together, it was lovely to see a feisty 77-year-old grandmother wearing bright red glossy lipstick joining in my aerobic class. The range of classes is fabulous, but unfortunately I missed out on ballet toning, cardio combat and hula hooping, but made up for this with two visits to their wonderful thermal spa. This includes a candle pool, (pictured below) which has the feeling of entering a hidden cavern, sand is omething I have never seen before. The highlight of my visit was a night time visit to the thermal spa which finished with Nancy and I luxuriating in the outdoor waterfall pool’s warm water, our backs massaged by the jets from the side of the pool, while gazing up at the moon and stars. It was bliss!
My only disappointment was that my therapist was too light handed with my Swedish massage, despite my request for it to be firmer. She didn’t hit the spots which needed most attention, despite her promise to be firmer on my back and shoulders. Nancy told me she had to ask her therapist to be firmer too during parts of her massage, and hers was delivered as she wished. I know she enjoyed some of their other therapies, many of which they have created, and unfortunately I didn’t have time to book in for others, but wouldn’t hesitate in doing so next time I visit. This experience didn’t spoil my fabulous short break.
Ragdale believes it is important to exercise the mind as well as the body, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to try out their unique Mind Gym, which is equipped with games and puzzles. Next time!!
I was amused to see that Ragdale’s creative marketing team are promoting breaks for those who want to escape the World Cup in July.
“Does your heart sink at the thought of the upcoming World Cup? Are you worried about the prospect of football dominating your TV and your household this summer? If so, why not grab a friend or two and escape the madness for some pampering and relaxation in a footie-free sanctuary!”
With a house full of football loving men, this might be one offer I cannot resist!