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​Zen & the art of hot tubs: Thermal journeys and hot stone massage in rural Lancashire holiday village will leave you blissed-out

Ribby Hall
Ribby Hall

OH,, it’s a tough old life.

The day had started in re-invigorating, relaxed, totally laid-back fashion – and then eased languorously towards being so chilled out I had to have a quick pulse check.

Ribby Hall does that to you. And then some.

It’s a delightful holiday village set in the rural splendours of Lancashire.

We were at the four-star SPA Hotel and the especially chilled-out day was spent at the amazing spa.

First up, there had been a couple of hours on an Aqua Thermal Journey, working through rooms of slowly increasing temperature.

Then it was a steamy bubble-fest in the hot tub in the Zen Garden, which has had a £200,000 investment as part of the SPA Hotel’s cool half-million makeover.

Then it was a light lunch in the bright and airy Orangery restaurant, where we soon agreed that head chef Michael Noonan certainly deserved his two AA Rosettes.

After that it was sheer indulgence with the Ishga Hot Stones Massage. Trust me, had there been any tension left, they would’ve been eased away by the expert ministrations.

Then, stretching out on the heated beds, there was plenty of time to contemplate the treat in store for the evening, with a return to the Orangery.

After a couple of cocktails – the daily happy hour’s two-for-£12 offer was irresistible – we were ready for more fine dining.

There’s a fabulous tasting menu but we settled on the extensive a la carte, with the fillet of beef melt-in-the-mouth marvellous. Brilliant service too.

If you can stay a bit longer, this little corner of Lancashire has much to enjoy – like Samlesbury Hall (samlesburyhall.co.uk), one of the Red Rose county’s stunning stately homes.

A half-timbered beauty, it dates back to 1325 and it had a grisly, spooky past.

The story of the Samlesbury witchcraft trial – revisited on a fun tour with Witch Janey – is just one of many tales worth discovering.

Admission to the house and grounds are free and there are displays and exhibitions. We saw the spot where a cleric was pursued by troops and beheaded, so much blood spilling on the floor it couldn’t be cleaned up.

There was an old Victorian classroom – the Hall also had a spell as a school – set up. And the oldest part, the Great Hall, is a high-roofed marvel, complete with a massive fireplace into which you could fit an entire modern kitchen.

It’s one of those places that has so much to see, you’ll want to take time to discover properly.

So, we refuelled with a bite to eat at the homely, friendly restaurant in another splendid high-ceilinged room. Then there was a wander round the bee centre to learn all about the busy little creatures.

In Preston itself, the Harris Museum is a grand, imposing building right next to the town hall. It houses some impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions over several floors.

We learn a bit about the Temperance past of the city and the footballing pedigree of its most famous sporting son, Tom Finney, whose funeral cortege in 2014 brought thousands on to the streets.

There was also the fascinating story of how an elk dug up when a suburban house was being built in the 1970s changed historians’ views of ancient man.

After a bit of browsing, there was time for a reviving cuppa at the trendy and welcoming Ham & Jam cafe which we heard had been winning many plaudits. Then we headed for a stroll down to the River Ribble and the Avenham Park which was a nice contrast to the city-centre bustle.

And anyway, back at the SPA Hotel, we knew that utter relaxation awaited us there.

The rooms range from very comfortable standards up to really rather special suites with lounges, tellies that pop up from the bottom of your bed and others at the end of your bath.

Oh, the lazy choices.

And the views are either looking down over the village from the hotel’s elevated position at the top of the main drive, or out over peaceful rolling fields.

As I said, it’s a tough old life!

Facts

Spa breaks at Ribby Hall, Lancashire are available from £119 per person based on two people sharing a luxury room.

Dinner includes £35 allocation per person, access to the spa facilities/aqua thermal journey plus breakfast. Telephone 0800 107 0336 or visit ribbyhall.co.uk/spa-hotel.

For all tourism information see visitlancashire.com