An Inspector Calls… A review of Ye Olde Bell in Nottinghamshire

An Inspector Calls… Ye Olde Bell in Nottinghamshire is a ‘welcoming sort of place’ – but please turn down the radio

  • Ye Olde Bell is a former coaching inn in Barnby Manor, near Retford 
  • There are 60 rooms and people come from ‘far and wide’ to visit the spa
  • The Inspector couldn’t quite forgive being ‘assaulted’ by Radio 2 at breakfast

That charming photograph of the Queen Mother and her two daughters — the one of them practically cheek to cheek and looking infectiously happy — hangs on a wall near the entrance to the bar of Ye Olde Bell.

Elsewhere, there are pictures of the owners, who acquired the hotel in 2007, surrounded by their loyal staff; a few hunting scenes (including a comical mural of a huntsman trying to keep control of his nag) and near the front door is a help-yourself coffee trolley.

The big news at this 60-room former coaching inn in Barnby Manor, near Retford, Nottinghamshire, is the spa. ‘People come from far and wide,’ says a member of staff.

Welcoming: Ye Olde Bell is a former coaching inn in Barnby Manor, near Retford

Inns with names that start with Ye Olde tend not to have spas. What they do have — and this is no exception — are patterned carpets (faded and stained in parts); wood panelling; lots of brown furniture and music from several decades ago played just a touch too loud for comfort, such as Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through The Grapevine.

Crucially, Ye Olde Bell is a welcoming sort of place. When I ask for a room with a bath, the keys immediately are switched and I’m directed to Room 5 on the first floor.

Before setting off, I’m warned about a steep step down into the room once you open the door. There are also a couple of steps up from a landing outside the bathroom to the bedroom, which has a carved wood headboard.

The room overlooks a flat roof and beyond that the busy A638.

You don’t find many bathrooms with linoleum flooring any more but you do here, complete with a tear-drop shaped white plastic bath. I’m paying £89 for bed and breakfast. The night I’m here the main 1650 restaurant is closed because, I’m told, ‘we’re short of staff today’ but I think it’s more a case of ‘we’re short of guests’.

Instead, dinner is served in the brasserie next to the bar. My scallops followed by loin of lamb are both delicious, far better, frankly, than I expect. At a nearby table comprising four women, the dessert menu is just arriving.

‘No, I don’t think so, do you?’ says one of them.

There are 60 rooms and people come from 'far and wide' to visit the spa

There are 60 rooms and people come from ‘far and wide’ to visit the spa

‘Ooh I don’t know,’ says another.

‘I think we should look . . . ’ says a third.

And they do, with the result that all four of them order something or other.

My glass of wine comes with me to my room and we watch the news together. In days gone by, travelling salesmen would have stayed at Ye Olde Bell rather than in a Premier Inn — and felt more in the swim as a result.

It’s a forgiving spot, but I can’t quite forgive being assaulted by Radio 2 at breakfast, complete with the traffic round-up at 7.45am and that weary old jingle that I’m sure Sir Terry Wogan found irritating after 20 years or so. 


 Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa Barnby Moor, Retford, Nottinghamshire DN22 8Q. B&B double room from £89. For more information call 01777 705121 or visit