Charlotte Balbier

blissed out bride: mill wheel spa

August 5th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Mill Wheel Spa (11)

When in need of a little R&R sometimes a day away doesn’t quite cut it, and so an indulgent overnight stay is required to truly unwind.

Thankfully as I built up to a week’s annual leave to recharge the batteries away from Brides Up North HQ (hey I love my job, but we all need a little rest now and again), I was offered the opportunity to visit the fabulous mill wheel spa on the edge of the Staffordshire Peaks for an overnight break with my partner in tow. How’s that for timing?

All in the name of work (I’m so dedicated to the cause) I took up the kind invitation knowing the venue would provide a perfect subject for a Blissed Out Bride post, in which we explore ideal places for our readers to enjoy some pre and post wedding pampering, as well as girly hen dos. My assumptions were right, as once again we’ve discovered a tranquil retreat in the north of the country for brides and grooms to put on their ‘to do’ list.

Mill Wheel Spa (13)

The journey from South Yorkshire took just over an hour, passing through picturesque areas such as Ladybower, Castleton and Buxton before arriving at The Three Horse Shoes Country Inn in rural Blackshaw Moor, which houses Mill Wheel Spa.

A family run business since 1981, the hospitality is among the warmest I have ever experienced as we were greeted by Katie Kirk who tends to the inn, alongside her husband and brother- and sister-in-law. Though the level of care, pride and customer service has clearly remained throughout, it soon became apparent that the inn itself has undergone quite a few changes over the years in order to deliver something special to its guests.

Among its most recent additions is Mill Wheel Spa, which offers a wide choice of day and overnight spa packages, including those specifically designed for hen dos, husbands and wives-to-be and newlyweds.

Mill Wheel Spa (10)

The Mini Moon Break package that we were invited to experience included use of the spa facilities with a rasul and ‘beach hut’ experience, a three-course evening meal in The Stables Restaurant, overnight accommodation, breakfast and a treatment each before departure the following day – boy were we in for a treat!

First to drop the bags off – we were staying in one of the inn’s top garden rooms, complete with four-poster bed and private outdoor hot tub. After a look around we headed to the spa making a mental note to return to the room in enough time before our evening meal to try out that hot tub.

The spa’s facilities focus on a number of hot and cold experiences to clear out the pores and awaken the senses and so we followed the suggested route to get the most out of our visit. First on the agenda is the visual centre piece of the spa, and a UK first, The Mill Wheel Shower, which pays homage to the history of the James Brindley Water Mill in neighbouring Leek and Cheddleton Flint Mill, which were once an important part of the area’s local industry and economy. The large revolving mill pours out water from its shovels in intervals, alternatively warm and cold, a bit like a tame game of Russian roulette.

Mill Wheel Spa (1)

We are then advised to use The Peak District Stonebath for a ‘steam bath experience’ followed by The Farmers Sauna, with a quick dip in The Cedar Plunge Pool in between (refreshing but freezing!). Next our rasul treatment in a special chamber made for two. We were instructed to smooth mineral rich mud onto our skin while the room heated up, which provided a lot of entertainment as we came to look like we’d emerged from a swamp. The results however were fabulous – at the end of the 30 minutes water rained down washing the mud away and revealing hydrated, soft skin.

By this point the sun had made an appearance so we ventured outside to the spa’s garden for some refreshments, including a little fizz. Here there’s also a three metre square hydrotherapy pool set at an inviting 36 degrees, so we had to have a quick dip. Like much of the inn, this area enjoys stunning views over the Roaches and surrounding countryside, which enhanced our already chilled out mood.

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friday fabulous!

May 1st, 2015 | Julia Braime

Sophia Webster Bridal Wifey For Lifey Sandal

That’s the honeymoon kicks sorted.

(Our life is just a little bit more complete because these exist).

Wifey For Lifey Sandals by Sophia Webster, £295.

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high street honey: new look’s honeymoon hitlist

February 4th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

White Halter Neck Bikini Top & Bottoms

It may be cold outside but if you’ve planned a destination wedding or an exotic honeymoon your mind may well be on hotter climes.

Either of the above will call for some serious summertime shopping and fortunately we’re just starting to see collections for the warmer seasons ahead roll out as the dregs of the January sales are pushed aside.

And with Spring/Summer ranges comes an abundance of killer swimwear, which is an absolute must for all you beach babe brides.

Black Caged Longline Bikini Top & Bottoms

Having recently discovered New Look’s impressive lingerie collection, I noticed that the High Street favourite also has a stunning choice of swimwear. From cute two-pieces with matching cover-ups to sexy one-pieces with flirtatious cut out detailing, brides-to-be will be spoilt for choice. Better still the designs carry very modest prices tags meaning ladies can easily splash out on two or three different options for their honeymoon wardrobe.

As a starting point ladies might want to consider which style of swimwear suits them best: faithful halter necks, bare-all bandeaus, tops with straps for extra support, tie-at-the-side bottoms, high waisted designs or classic brief bottoms.

Then there’s the question of colour and design. Luckily, New Look has all areas covered with bright, patterned and neutral offerings.

Khaki Lattice Bikini Top & Bottoms

Perhaps the most striking pieces within the collection are the orange caged top and bottoms and the lattice two-piece design. Both use attention-grabbing cut away detailing to draw the eye. The caged design offers slightly more cover-up with a long-line bikini top but its vibrant hue will not suit all skin tones so choose with care. The lattice design – in one of Spring/Summer’s hottest colours khaki – is also bound to turn heads. It’s very much posing-poolside style swimwear though as unless you undo and roll down the detailed part of the top you will be facing strap mark hell!

Further cut-away options can be found in plainer designs, such as the simple yet stunning white halter neck design and the sophisticated black caged bikini.

Black Crochet Cover Up

More practical pieces come in the form of bralette tops. We’ve seen them on the clothing catwalks and now the midriff revealing tops have spilt over into the swimwear department. Not only are such designs on-trend but they offer a little more cover-up and way more support than skimpier designs. Ladies with larger busts looking for maximum support should also consider crop top bikini designs which are big news for 2015. New Look’s Aztec print design is a stunning example, offering on-the-go-girls comfort and style.

As well as a choice of detailed cover-ups, I’m a big fan of the beach trousers New Look has included within its Spring/Summer collection. The sheer, patterned and lose-fitted designs are easy to throw on both two and from the beach or for lazing around the beach bar – I’ll drink to that!

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a wedding alphabet. h is for honeymoon.

January 6th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Image via, by Vine & Light Photography

Image Source, by Vine & Light Photography

As the cold weather and dark nights continue to linger on it seems appropriate to brighten up our pretty pages with the next installment of our wedding alphabet. H is all about holidays: honeymoons to be exact.

After saying the big ‘I dos’ your first getaway as Mr and Mrs is a pretty big deal, meaning careful planning is required to ensure your honeymoon is an experience to remember for all the right reasons.

Couples can often get caught up with planning the big day and the honeymoon becomes an afterthought – but the key to achieving a dream post-wedding holiday is to research the options well in advance.

Here are a few useful pointers to ensure you’re jet set when it comes to creating that once in a lifetime holiday.

Image via, by Gant

Image Source


Just like planning your wedding, booking a honeymoon ultimately comes down to what you can afford. If you’re a couple that love to travel it may be that you’ve tightened the purse strings in other areas of the wedding to free-up more funds for your big holiday. On the other hand you might be on the hunt for something cheap and cheerful, having gone all out with your wedding celebrations. As many couples now cohabit before tying the knot, it’s become a trend for brides and grooms to ask for contributions to their honeymoon instead of traditional gifts, to boost their budget. Alternatively guests might choose to pay for an activity or romantic surprise, such as a private meal on the beach, to make your experience all the more special.

Image via, by Ciara Richardson

Image by Ciara Richardson

map it out

Once you have set a budget it’s time to decide where to go. In order to avoid explosive arguments before making it down the aisle, couples should take into account one another’s holiday preferences and interests and work towards a destination that will offer something for both. Think about your holiday personalities and what you want from your holiday; are you beach bums, adventurers, culture vultures, cruisers or minimooners.

Image via

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it’s all about timing

The time that you decide to go on honeymoon is usually determined by the time of year you wed, your budget and/or the weather. Gather a short list of places you’re considering and check out the low and peak season prices to see how they work with your budget. Also check the usual weather conditions for the time of year you’re looking to jet off to avoid landing yourself in hurricane or rainy seasons. If the destination your heart is set on is pricey at the time of year you marry, consider planning a minimoon for just after your wedding and save your main honeymoon until a later date when prices are more affordable.

Image via

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all in

To go all inclusive or not, that is the question. An all in honeymoon can save you a fair few bucks with your room, plus all meals, unlimited drinks, entertainment, airport transfers, and various activities included in one flat price. A package break also means less planning before hand and while you’re away as you don’t have to worry about where to eat or visit. However, there are a few cons to bear in mind as well. Going all inclusive means you are less likely to venture out and explore the country’s cuisine and culture. Also it’s important to research your shortlisted resorts beforehand, by looking at recent reviews, to ensure restaurants and rooms remain up-to-scratch so you’re not stuck in honeymoon hell for a week or longer.

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play the ‘just married’ card

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Remember, both while you’re booking and are actually on your honeymoon, you can use the fact that you’re newlyweds as a way of getting a few little extras. Wedding couples have been known to get complimentary travel and room upgrades, free gifts and on-the-house drinks simply for sharing their good news. As the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Image via by Image by Renato Carvalho

Image Source, by Renato Carvalho

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The Rise Of The Mini Moon

November 11th, 2013 | Julia Braime

Cat Hepple Photography

It’s been a busy Monday morning and Friday feels a long way off.  What better time than for our regular guest blogger Rachel (we’ve missed you Rach!) to talk time out and remind you that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.  Today, she’s all about facilitating that “minimoon”.  Monday blues?  What Monday blues? Go on, get it booked…

Images by Cat Hepple Photography, as previously featured here and here

Cat Hepple Photography

Rachel says:  I don’t know about you but I love an excuse to extend a celebration. Take my birthday for example – of course the main celebration is the day itself but I like to push the partying over at least one weekend, if not two. After all there’s the family meal, weekend away with the boyfriend (I hope) and drinks, shopping and spa treatments with friends to squeeze in. And don’t even get me started on festive celebrations in our household – they stretch from the very beginning of December right into the new year (though thankfully don’t include a turkey curry buffet).

Looking at today’s wedding scene, it’s clear there are many wedding couples who share my mindset with a growing trend for weekend weddings. After all, why would you confine the celebrations to just one day when you can easily spread it across three with a pre-wedding dinner the ceremony itself and then, of course, a day of present opening, cake eating, champagne quaffing and catching up with family and friends.

But now brides and grooms are taking extending the wedding celebrations a step further by delaying their main honeymoon until later in the year, or even the following year, and taking a minimoon in the meantime instead.

Cat Hepple Photography

The minimoon was originally born out of the credit crunch when many wedding couples were forced to tighten the purse strings. Research revealed brides and grooms were swapping lavish two-week holidays to long-haul destinations such as the Maldives for shorter holidays closer to home. But as circumstances have continued to change so too have couples’ holidaying habits, with many brides and grooms now having the best of both worlds – booking themselves a minimoon for a that much-needed break straight after the wedding and a honeymoon a little later down the line, giving reason for the wedding excitement to live on.

Cat Hepple Photography

A minimoon usually consists of a relaxing three- to four-day break at a destination not too far away from the wedding location. Some couples might choose a sentimental location such as the first place they went on holiday together or the place they got engaged, while others might just want a destination that provides pure relaxation to unwind following the tense pre-wedding build up. In the UK top choices include rustic retreats, spa breaks and city locations while those flush enough to push the minimoon boundaries are jetting off to romantic European destinations such as Rome, Paris and Venice.

Cat Hepple Photography

While delaying a honeymoon in favour of a minimoon does effectively spread the celebrations, it has become a big hit among today’s wedding couples for many more reasons.

The minimoon is particularly popular with teachers and those with work commitments that can’t afford to take large amounts of time off work all in one go. It’s also ideal for those asking their guests for contributions towards the honeymoon instead of traditional gifts as they book a holiday suited to the fund following the wedding.

Cat Hepple Photography

For those who can only handle so much planning at a time, delaying the main honeymoon means there will be more time to organise the holiday after the wedding preparations have taken place. Taking a minimoon in the meantime means couples have that essential break before returning to the daily grind after their wedding day.

A postponed honeymoon also gives brides and grooms who will be stumping up the honeymoon costs themselves longer to save up and book their holiday at a time suited to the best prices and weather conditions.

Cat Hepple Photography

So while the credit crunch may curbed our Topshop sprees and cocktail drinking, we do have it to thank for the introduction of the minimoon/postponed honeymoon trend which helps keep the post-wedding day blues at bay that bit longer.

What do you think?  Will you/ did you take a minimoon?  Any hot spot recommendations for our other readers?

All images taken from Alice & Paul’s gorgeous Parisian engagement shoot with Cat Hepple PhotographyClick here and here to see the full set. 


Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog – Images © 2013 Cat Hepple Photography

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