April 5th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
Waking up to more snow on Easter Monday only drove home how epically long winter has felt with the relentless cold weather affecting not only our heating bills (we dread to think!) but also our skin and energy levels – both of which could do with an almighty boost.
As a newly-engaged bride-to-be I’m also feeling the effects of trying to keep on top of the early wedding planning, while keeping all in the loop – oh and plan my brother’s stag do and assist on my best friend’s hen do as well. So, all in all a lot on, which super exciting but a little depleting on the batteries.
The perfect remedy for a change of season and busy schedule though has to be a spa break, and so when Staffordshire based Moddershall Oaks got in touch with the offer of an overnight stay to switch off from the outside world and restore balance, I took it up quicker than Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing can tell a girl he’s falling in love with her.
Situated in a rural location near the market town of Stone, Moddershall Oaks is a country spa retreat and idyllic wedding venue – so it could tick two boxes for those of you still on the venue hunt. Whilst there I did get to view its stunning and flexible spaces for weddings – including a gorgeous oak gazebo surrounded by tranquil woodland for beautiful outdoor ceremonies – and would certainly encourage couples planning to wed in the Staffordshire area to pay this place a visit.
Though not particularly worn out from the wedding planning (though he must be exhausted from all the stag do preparation – a number one priority from grooms it would seem *rolls eyes*), my fiancée Andy was lucky enough to join me on this getaway. We arrived at Moddershall around noon on a Wednesday and was welcomed by a warm atmosphere, friendly staff and a strawberry Bellini (start as you mean to go on, right?)
Having filled in a few quick forms we were given a run through the facilities and our (very relaxed) itinerary for our stay, before being shown to one of the gorgeous ten 5* boutique bedroom suites to drop off our bags. The room was comforting, spacious and beautifully decorated, plus there is access to a shared hot tub, should we want to continue the pampering after visiting the main facilities.
Amazingly, we fell on a gorgeous spring-like day with clear blue skies (I will add that it had snowed either side of our visit) and so we wasted no time in heading to the crème de la crème of Moddershall, its outdoor heated vitality pool. Here we enjoyed bathing in the bubbling hot water in the open air made complete by a countryside views, oh and a couple of glasses of prosecco delivered direct via waiter service – this was our kind of spa!
We were joined in the courtyard area by other couples, as well as a few small groups of women and a couple of (I assume) mothers and daughters, which demonstrated how perfect the spa is for a romantic getaway as well as much-needed girly time.
After drying off in the Kelo sauna, also located in the courtyard, we retired to the relaxing lounge area indoors to recline on big sofas next to a warming fire and filled up on afternoon treats of cake and coffee.
Next it was treatment time – having only just managed to convince Andy of the benefits of moisturising daily, it didn’t surprise me that he passed on this, but the metrosexuals out there will be pleased to hear that Moddershall has blissful treatment options for both males and females.
The options ranged from massage, detox and body therapies, carried out by experienced therapists in the cosy treatment rooms, to a full range of beauty treatments undertaken in The Snug. This gorgeous area is available to hire privately for hen dos, birthdays and the like and, for Moddershall brides, it can also be taken over pre-wedding for big day pampering and preening, complete with nibbles, bubbly and music.
March 20th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
If ever there’s a much-needed time for a spa visit it’s during these spells of cold, bitter weather when our complexions are exposed to harsh conditions and our energy levels take a hit. We were therefore delighted to receive an invitation for an indulgent overnight stay at the wonderful Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa resort in rural Cheshire, back in February.
As we were heading over to the North West to host one of our Luxury Wedding Fairs at the prestigious Chester Grosvenor, we thought tagging this stay onto the weekend of the event would be an ideal way to recharge the batteries. And so, after our successful wedding show came to an end we packed up the car and travelled 20 minutes from city of Chester out into the countryside to unwind in Portal Hotel’s idyllic surroundings.
Upon arrival we received an incredibly warm welcome and were informed that our room had been upgraded – a super nice touch, which saw us staying in a spacious twin room with large veranda looking out onto rolling lawns and woodland. It was perfectly serene and ensured a we had a peaceful night’s rest.
Having checked out the accommodation, we headed to the bar for an early evening drink before taking our seats for a three-course meal in the hotel restaurant. The service from the waiting staff was faultless and we were well looked after throughout. My mum joined me on this visit and we both have identical taste and so we ordered the same starter and main course; a winning combination of salmon, cream cheese and capers to start, followed by beautifully cooked lamb, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables and a tasty jus. For dessert I whole-heartedly gave into my sweet tooth opting for the chocolate tart served with a berry sorbet while my mum went for the slightly lighter cheesecake option. Having polished off a bottle of Rioja we headed to our room and, as expected, had a blissful night’s sleep in our comfortable suite.
Keen to make full use of the hotel’s facilities, I was up early the following day for a workout in the gym ahead of breakfast. As with many hotel gyms, it was on the smaller side but had all the necessary equipment for a full work out. I also enjoyed that its large windows gave gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, making the exercise feel all the more refreshing.
Ready to refuel I joined my mum for breakfast in the restaurant where we had eaten the night before. There was a full continental offering laid out buffet style, including cereals, fresh fruit, juices, and pastries, plus the option to order something hot. As we had time in the spa area to come, we didn’t want to overfill and so enjoyed fresh fruit followed by a comforting bowl of porridge accompanied by nuts and honey. Delicious.
Treatment time was next. As mentioned I felt my skin was particularly suffering from the cold winter weather and so I selected the Elemis Superfood Pro-Radiance Facial, while my mum opted for the Elemis Deeper Than Deep Hot Stones Massage.
My therapist Karen showed me to the cosy treatment room and explained details of the treatment before asking me about any skin concerns (of which I have many!) and then informed me how she would tailor the facial to address my combination skin. All I had to do was lay back, relax and be transported to the height of relaxation. The varying lotions and potions were massaged, tapped and smoothed into my skin before a face mask was applied and the pampering continued with a scalp massage – literally one of the best things in life as far as I’m concerned. When my treatment came to an end, my skin was left radiant and glowing as promised. Certainly, an ideal pre-wedding pick-me-up for brides-to-be whose big days are just a matter of weeks away.
Meeting my mum in the warm and dimly-lit relaxation room, she reported equally good things from her treatment saying that all knots had been removed from her back and that she felt much less tension in her shoulders, so perhaps a good one of any of you ladies out there suffering a little planning stress.
November 30th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
After a hugely busy but absolutely EPIC season of our autumn wedding fairs, we we’re in need of some serious downtime come mid-November. Not only to recover from organising and running more than 20 luxury shows across the north of the country in the latter part of the year, but also to come down from high of them being so well-received and attended by fabulous suppliers and lots of lovely brides-and-grooms-to-be. Big love to all!
And so, an invitation to Cheshire-based spa hotel Mottram Hall, couldn’t have come at a better time; this was one Blissed Out Bride visit we were well and truly going to benefit from.
Nestled amongst peaceful parkland, the stunning hotel is the perfect retreat for those craving a large dose of R&R. And it has something to tempt all – couples, guys and girls – with an 18-hole championship standard golf course, luxurious spa, champagne bar and AA Rosette restaurant all on site. So, you can eat, drink, be merry and sleep (which is exactly what we planned to do).
Arriving at lunchtime, our spa package began with a light lunch accompanied with a glass of fizz, setting the tone for the rest of our stay. Once fed and watered (or prosseco-ed!) we headed straight for the spa – like I say, this was one trip we were more than ready for!
A step, leap and stride in front of many ‘spa hotels’ Mottram Hall’s facilities are award-winning, having been bestowed a 5* Bubble Rating by the Good Spa Guide and named ‘Best Country Retreat Spa’ at the Good Spa Guide’s 2017 Regional Awards.
This comes as no surprise really, when in addition to the usual facilities one would expect to find at such a resort, Mottram also boasts the UK’s first Alfresco ThermoSpace. We were super keen to try out all the facilities for ourselves, even if it did mean venturing outside in our swimwear on a chilly November day!
After a quick dip and laze around the indoor swimming pool and hydropool, we wrapped up in our robes and headed outdoors to the ThermoSpace, which is said to incorporate traditional spa therapies with the great outdoors. And we must say, it’s a winning combination!
Experiencing both the Brechelbath and Stonebath, both designed to relax and raise the body’s temperature, we felt wonderfully calm, cocooned in the warmth while enjoying views of the idyllic gardens through floor-to-ceiling glazing.
Next, the outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Just as it was getting dark this was the perfect place for a good catch-up in the open air surrounded by bubbling water as we reflected on the amazing season of wedding fairs and discussed how to raise the bar even higher for our spring 2018 shows (the line-up for which, you can view here).
To complete our spa time, we indulged in a treatment. With the cooler weather playing havoc with my skin I opted for a personalised facial, while Julia was intrigued by the sound of the ESPA Signature Floatation Treatment.
I was led to a softly-lit treatment room where my lovely therapist explained the procedure, which including running a SkinVision lamp across my face to identify needs not visible to the naked eye so that she could tailor the facial to perfectly suit my requirements. Responding to areas of both oiliness and dehydration, she used balancing products that would address both, leaving me with soft, glowing skin.
Julia’s treatment meanwhile was carried out on a ‘floatation bed’ in one of the Alfresco ThermoSpace rooms. The personalised treatment began with a full body polish, followed by a body wrap and relaxing scalp massage. The water-type bed upped the relaxation and Julia admitted slipping into a light sleep during certain parts of the treatment, and emerged with radiant skin, from top to toe!
November 24th, 2017 | Julia Braime
Behind the scenes here at Brides Up North HQ, things are pretty busy! We’re already working a year ahead to bring you almost 40 sensational (and each unique and different!) bespoke bridal shows for 2018 and work has started in earnest on Issue 09 of our gorgeous bi-annual glossy magazine, UNVEILED, out in March. Add an impending site relaunch (yes (!), watch this space), a brand spanking new digital platform for UNVEILED (launching next week people!) and all the juggle that comes with being a mummy of two littles away from the office, and this editor was seriously in need of some R&R.
So, when the lovely people at Seaham Hall in Country Durham waved an overnight spa stay for two my way, I grabbed the husband, set the out of office and used up some babysitting credits. It was time to test out Seaham’s offering to make sure that you lovely Brides Up North stay blissed out in the run up to your big day and beyond.
Now, this place is incredible and some. Recently awarded the Conde Nast Johansens UK Readers’ Award 2017 (and from the facilities and service you can see why) this coastal gem is full of charm.
Pre-stay, the hotel’s website had boasted that, ‘set within 37 acres of delightful gardens in a stunning cliff top location overlooking the sea and the coast of the Durham Heritage Coastline, Seaham Hall is a beautiful Georgian Mansion ideally located in Durham for a luxurious overnight retreat’. They weren’t wrong.
On the menu for us was a stay in one of Seaham Hall’s beautiful suites, decorated artfully in shades of grey, teal and a zingy yellow – with enough wallpapers, cushions and objets d’art to keep this interiors magpie very happy indeed; a spa day for two (is it a bit cringy to read your own magazine by the pool? Maybe, but I don’t care!) with some delightful treatments thrown in; pre-dinner mojitos delivered to our suite (nice touch!) and a fine dining dinner in Byron’s Restaurant, followed by the best night’s sleep that I’d had in a long, long time.
Byron’s Restaurant has recently been awarded a 1st in the Taste Durham Awards, recognising the hotel’s hard work towards supporting and championing local producers and suppliers. My husband and I shared the Chateaubriand, and can vouch for its flavour, freshness and presentation. And although we didn’t try it ourselves, the dishes served in the venue’s Pan-Asian Restaurant ‘The Ozone’ located within the Serenity Spa looked absolutely delightful.
Now onto that spa. As well as a fully equipped gym (which I didn’t try out – my bad!) the sensational Serenity Spa boasts a 20 metre pool with massage stations; hamman with snail showers and jacuzzi, Asian herbal samarium, salt sauna, Indian steam chamber, hydrotherapy pool, ice fountain, plunge pools and my favourite bit – outdoor hot tubs.
The hubby and I spent a glorious few hours trying out the various heat experiences, bubbling in the hot tubs and relaxing poolside, before it was time for our treatments.
The Serenity Spa offers unique and bespoke holistic treatment rituals from Asia that deliver luxurious, indulgent experiences. Their therapists are chosen not only for their ability but their intuition to your individual needs and the treatments tailored specifically to you. Just lovely!
To aid my too-much-screen-time and sugar skin, I chose a Sunari Prescriptive Facial, which promised to reawaken and rejuvenate my skin with a holistic techinque customised for my skin’s specific needs. Naturally active ingredients were custom blended for intensive exfoliation and renewal; and Seaham Hall’s signature MarMassage (pressure point stimulation) completed the experience, for newly radiant skin. I was glowing!
The hubby meanwhile was treated to a Serenity Signature Massage, a full body massage which unlocks tension and induces a sense of relaxation, wellness and inner calm.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend Seaham Hall for a pre-wedding break to bliss out with the girls or reconnect with your hubby to be amid the planning madness. This would also be the ideal spot for a “just because” romantic break (we are all about those here at Brides Up North HQ!) or a really delightful minimoon.
And if you’ve fallen as much in love as we have here at Brides Up North, why not really commit? Seaham Hall also plays host to a number of luxury weddings a year. Offering exclusive use weddings and ceremonies, a wedding at Seaham Hall would truly be an occasion to remember.
For more information visit www.seaham-hall.co.uk
November 15th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
We’ve been out on the road again all in the name of research to share with you our experiences of the North’s finest hotels, getaway retreats and spas, providing inspiration for pre- and post-wedding relaxation, and sometimes also a setting for the big day itself!
Cue our recent visit to Matfen Hall – a stunning stately home set in 300 acres of lush parkland in the Northumbrian countryside. The award-winning Hall houses fabulous function spaces, accommodation and spa and leisure facilities, making it an option for sophisticated hen dos, romantic getaways, such as a minimoon, plus a dream wedding venue too.
All images by Sean Elliott Photography.
Ahead of a super-exciting wedding refurbishment at Matfen, we were invited to view the current celebration spaces and to see what’s in store to take this already gorgeous venue to the next level. And my word, are couples saying ‘I do’ to Matfen in for a treat! Keen not to give away too much at this stage, we will be following up with a Dream Venue post soon that will detail the stylish refurbish plans in more depth.
Furthermore, on Sunday 4th March 2018, we will be holding a Luxury Wedding Fair at Matfen to reveal the results of the quarter-of-a-million-pound-refurbishment programme first-hand – so be sure to mark the date in your diaries!
But for today’s post, we return to our visit. During our blissful overnight stay, we experienced Matfen’s warm and welcoming hospitality, making use of its leisure facilities, restaurant and accommodation.
We began as any busy business ladies should, with a trip to the spa! Hotel guests can enjoy access to such facilities or there are a number of full and half-day ‘Escape’ packages to choose from, comprising different treatments, food and drink, so ladies (and gents) can pick which best suits their needs and wishes.
There is a 16-metre swimming pool and spa pool, plus thermal suites including an aromatherapy room, steam room, sauna, ice cold bucket shower, monsoon shower and ice fountain. We worked our way round, prioritising the warmer options, to relax and revive weary muscles, before indulging in a little chill time around the pool.
Matfen’s treatment choices cover off facial, body and massage therapies for men and women, as well as ‘Finishing Touch’ treatments such as nails, waxing and tinting.
Feeling in need of a radiance boost part-way through our autumn season of wedding fairs, we both opted for the Skin Specific Facial. Having been led to quiet, candle-lit treatment rooms, our knowledgeable therapists took time to enquire about our skin concerns before tailoring our facials to help combat such issues using heavenly Elemis products. We both emerged with hydrated, glowing complexions and super-soft skin (if only we could indulge one of these treatments every week!).
Leaving the spa feeling super-relaxed, it was time to freshen up (and wake-up!) before dinner. We were staying in one of Matfen’s stunning Principal Rooms in the original part of the Hall, that was spacious, comfortable and boasted gorgeous views of the garden.
May 24th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
We’ve been out on the road again discovering some of the north’s finest wedding venues to help inspire and inform you on the wonderful choices of settings that are out there for your big day celebrations.
For our latest research, I travelled to one of my very favourite UK cities, York – and more specifically its beautiful Principal York hotel.
You may well have walked past this stunning venue numerous times not realising the beauty that lays within its grand walls – I know I’m certainly guilty of doing so! For the hotel is ideally located next to York Train Station, putting a big tick in the guest accessibility box, but in turn this means I’ve previously been concentrating too much on navigating my way into the city centre and so have overlooked this gem of a wedding venue that’s laid right before my eyes!
But an overnight stay there just before Easter has put this venue well and truly on the map for me. During our visit, myself and my boyfriend Andy got to experience its wonderful hospitality, accommodation and food and drink as well as viewing its desirable function spaces, which are perfect for an uber chic city wedding.
Catering for up to 250 wedding guests and fully licensed for civil ceremonies, The Principal can host weddings of all sizes and preferences with helpful and experienced staff, amazing food and drink and truly stunning spaces as standard!
And even if you’ve already sorted your wedding venue, I urge you to read on – as this is certainly an ideal retreat for a relaxing and indulgent city break, pre-or post-wedding!
Arriving at the Grade II listed hotel for our stay, the first thing to strike me was the hotel’s perfectly manicured gardens and views out over to the York Minster – though in the bustle of the historic city, a feeling of calm instantly washed over me as we stepped into the lobby.
The interior of the hotel is nothing short of wow-worthy too, with late-Victorian features including beautifully decorative high ceilings, ornate wood panelling and towering pillars, complemented by elegant and modern furnishings, such as opulent mirrors, chandeliers and soft furnishings. Seriously this place is like Pinterest interior heaven!
Following a warm welcome, we were directed to our Deluxe Room with gorgeous views of the gardens. The high-level of interior design continues into the accommodation with the hotel’s 155 bedrooms beautifully refurbished as part of a multi-million pound investment in The Principal, resulting in a classic and comfortable stay. As an added extra we’d been left a little hamper of Yorkshire treats in our room including tea bags, chutney, sweet delights and even a quirky tea towel and bottle of wine!
As we’re in the process of moving house we were keen to enjoying being away from boxes and packing tape, and so headed straight to the bar for a prosecco and pint (bubbles were for me, of course).
The hotel’s Chapter House bar has also benefitted from the investment refurb and has a warm speakeasy vibe about it, decorated in sumptuous deep tones with high tables, leather booths and waiters donning braces and bowties. Next time you’re in York call be sure to call in for one of their signature cocktails.
After watching the world go by and inhaling several drinks (we blame the moving stress) we were shown through to the Refectory Kitchen & Terrace for our evening meal. The dining area has a lovely light and airy feel about it, with exposed brick walls, glass ceiling and botanical details.
We ordered bread, olives and a smooth bottle of Italian red while we browsed the menu and tried to narrow down the delicious-sounding options from ‘Rectory Favourites’ to those ‘From the Grill’ and seasonal dishes too.
I decided on the spiced Yorkshire lamp rump served with sweet and sour relish, capers, potato fondant and a red wine sauce, while Andy went for an 8oz sirloin steak with all the trimmings. Both dishes were presented beautifully, portions were ample without being over-facing and both meats were cooked to perfection. The different tastes and flavours on my plate were A* standard and the triple cooked chips served up with the steak may just have stolen the show!
Though rather full from the richness of the food and wine, we couldn’t resist a dessert to share and so asked the waiter for a recommendation – “the pannacotta is something else” – and he wasn’t wrong! The silky buttermilk pannacotta was accompanied by raspberry jelly and mini doughnuts (yes, doughnuts!) – all together it felt like a high-class take on ice cream and jelly, and who wouldn’t like that?!
Full almost to the brim, we moved into the serene lounge area to finish our wine before retiring for the evening to one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in.
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