With Christmas over and a late Easter my wife and I decided that we needed a break. Someone suggested that the historic AA four star rated Ye Olde Bell Hotel at Barnby Moor, Nottinghamshire was a good place to stay. Having decided on our base we looked at the attractions to visit in the area and soon discovered we were spoilt for choice.
First stop on our way was the National Civil War Centre in Newark, the town was a Royalist stronghold in the wars (there were actually three). The museum has been extremely well put together and fun for all the family. You can try on helmets and armour and read about the personalities involved. A series of films are shown which re-enact key points in the conflicts.
It was then on to Lincoln to discover a city which has a long heritage. The cathedral is a magnificent Gothic masterpiece and well worth a visit. The cobbled streets around the cathedral are lined with quaint shops and a few steps away is the well preserved Lincoln Castle which holds one of the four surviving original Magna Cartas.
With our very fulfilling day of English culture at an end we headed for Ye Olde Bell where the heritage experience continued. Ye Olde Bell has four centuries of history embedded within its walls, it's been a farm, private house, soldiers billet but in the main has provided hospitality for weary travellers.
Ye Olde Bell is situated in the village of Barnby Moor near Retford on the original Great North Road between London and Edinburgh. The hotel was a popular stagecoach stop in the past and has been lovingly restored by current owners Hilary and Paul Levack. Its amenities are bang up to date but tempered with the homely feel of period pictures, rich fabrics and objet d'art.
In its two large function rooms the first features an ornate ceiling rescued from nearby Wiseton Hall when it was demolished. In the second there is oak panelling from another stately home, Bradgate House, the birthplace of the Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey.
Our bedroom, the Lady Jane Suite was a superbly appointed room, double aspect windows overlooked the landscaped gardens. It was tastefully decorated with antique furniture, luxury curtains, an impressive crystal chandelier and it had an enormous bed.
The same high standard extends to the public rooms, there is a comfortable lounge area and two bar/restaurant options. In the first option, the St Leger bar and bistro you can drink and dine in a casual environment and sample local ales.
The other dining space is the Restaurant Bar 1650, this is an elegant room with wood panelled walls and stylish art deco bar. The menu is the same for both the bistro and the restaurant and as the food has been awarded the coveted AA Four Rosette rating you are guaranteed a good meal.
We ate in the more formal Restaurant Bar 1650, Head Chef Tim Stamp and his team have devised an inventive menu made with local, seasonal ingredients. We feasted on salmon and pigeon for starters, pork and beef for the main course and a delicious ice cream dessert. Our Spanish Tempranillo red was chosen from a good selection of popular wines.
Throughout the meal the service was impeccable as it was during our entire stay. The staff are very friendly and efficient.
The next morning we were up bright and early to savour the full English breakfast, which for us was a rare treat. Before leaving we took a look outside. The hotel car park was the only UK checkpoint for the Monte Carlo Rally this year. We spotted Ye Olde Bell's exciting new spa building which opens later in 2017 and will offer a range of treatments and spa experiences.
Back on the road we headed south to Creswell Crags. This limestone gorge is honeycombed with caves. Stone tools and remains of animals found in the caves by archaeologists provide a fascinating story of the most northerly dwelling people during the last Ice Age. There is a well appointed and informative visitor centre and it's a fascinating place for both adults and children.
Just a few miles away is the Welbeck Estate, owned by the Duke of Portland. I had brought my wife to see the Portland Gallery. This new building contains the art collection of the Portland family and it has numerous exquisite works. These include family portraits, fine silverware and Michelangelo's Madonna del Silenzio. The Harley Gallery next door is dedicated to more contemporary works.
It was time to go home but what a great two days it had been, the area is steeped in history and our luxurious stay at Ye Olde Bell was the icing on a very rich cake.
Information about Nottinghamshire is at www.experiencenottinghamshire.com