Charlotte Balbier

blissed out bride: hoar cross hall

May 4th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Hoar Cross Hall (3)

The month of May is one of our very favourites here at Brides Up North HQ, not only as it tends to signal the start of warmer weather, but it’s also when our incredible festival wedding fairs take place across the north of the country. These super cool events are like no other as we create outdoor wedding wonderlands with huge sailcloth tents, tipis and yurts filled with wildly creative wedding suppliers, plus street food vendors, pop-up bars, live bands and so much more. The tour starts this Sunday 7th May with our glorious WEDSTOCK’17 at Stockeld Park, Yorkshire, and from there we will be heading to Ormesby Hall in Middlesbrough on Sunday 14th May, and Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire on Sunday 21st May, to give all you brides-to-be a piece of the fabulous festival action.

Another reason we favour May is for its bank holidays (who doesn’t love a bonus day off?!) and so with such a busy time on the horizon, we were sure to make the first long weekend of the month a relaxing one by heading off for an overnight spa break at the stunning Hoar Cross Hall.

Hoar Cross Hall (8)

Such getaways not only enable us to signpost you in the direction of the very best retreats for pre/post wedding pampering and luxurious hen do locations, but it also gives us chance to discuss exciting ideas for the blog, and boy do we have amazing plans in the pipeline! But more about that to follow soon, for now let us fill you in on our heavenly stay at this Grade II stately home where total relaxation comes as standard!

Situated in breath-takingly beautiful Staffordshire countryside, the chilled-out vibes start on your approach to the Hall and only deepen once over its threshold. Its impressive entrance and bar lounge area combine period style and modern luxury perfectly and make for a very warm welcome. Arriving early evening and keen to start the pampering from the off, we began with a glass of bubbles in the bar before heading to our room to freshen up before dinner.

Each of Hoar Cross Hall’s 96 bedrooms are individually designed in keeping with the stately surrounds and offer comfort and class, which resulted in a very restful night’s sleep for the two of us in our adjoining rooms.

Hoar Cross Hall (6)

Dinner was served in the Hall’s grand restaurant with calming views over the perfectly manicured gardens. Having selected a bottle of rose (well, it is getting on for summer!) we scanned over the varied choice of dishes and made our selection. We enjoyed starters of salmon two ways and chicken liver parfait before going onto mains of roast chicken and spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Something light to finish we thought, and so opted for the fruit platter and ice cream. The food at Hoar Cross is presented beautifully and tastes as good as it looks, while staff are attentive in making sure everything is to your liking.

With relaxation top of the agenda, we decided on an early night and early start to make the most of the Hall’s fabulous spa facilities.

Hoar Cross Hall (9)

Following an ample breakfast of granola followed by poached eggs, we took the elevator down to the lower ground where the hugely spacious spa is concealed, much like a well kept secret. And what a gem it is, with numerous tranquil pools and soothing water therapies to explore and experience.

Fellow spa visitors included groups of ladies as well as couples, making a Hoar Cross Hall getaway a perfect option for an indulgent hen do with the girls, some pre-wedding pampering with family or friends, plus a relaxing minimoon retreat to recharge the batteries ahead of jetting off on the main honeymoon.

There are various day and overnight packages to choose from, with meals included, and the option of treatments for head-to-toe relaxation.

Hoar Cross Hall (10)

The spa boasts two beautiful pools; a saltwater vitality pool, complete with jet massage pools, two luxury whirlpools and a starlit cave, plus a hydrotherapy pool with gentle currents and body massage jets.

There are also a number of heat, ice and massage experiences to detox and revitalise the body by stimulating different senses. These include sensory showers and aqua massage therapies as well as an aspen wood sauna, aroma room and ice temple.

And as if that’s not enough, there are lots of beautifully snug spaces to relax both poolside and within designated relaxation lounges, whether you choose to curl up with a good book or get a little extra shut-eye.

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blissed out bride: moddershall oaks

January 12th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Moddershall Oaks (2)

Those of you that follow me on Instagram may well have noticed that it was my 30th birthday in December as I stretched out the celebrations across three weeks, no less! As well as nights out with family and friends and a fabulous trip to Copenhagen organised by my wonderful boyfriend Andy, I was also invited to top it all off with an overnight spa break at Moddershall Oaks in rural Staffordshire. Just want the doctor ordered after copious amounts of birthday booze and dancing!

Located in 72 acres of picturesque woodland and grounds, Moddershall Oaks houses an award-winning, fine dining restaurant and is also a stunning wedding venue with options for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies and celebrations. As part of the wedding venue hire package, couples marrying at Moddershall are treated to a complimentary one-night mini-moon break with overnight accommodation in its Master Bedroom, complete with four-poster bed and spa bath, plus full use of the spa’s facilities.

The spa’s “Girly Night In” package also offers the perfect chilled-out hen do, whilst its Snug can be hired for the morning of the wedding for the bridal party to enjoy being pampered and preened from top to toe whilst sipping on champagne. Sounds perfect, right? Which is why were so keen to experience Moddershall Oaks’ spa facilities for ourselves.

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As I was on annual leave, my mum accompanied me on this Blissed Out Bride visit, and given what a wonderful time we had, I would certainly also highly recommend Moddershall Oaks as the perfect place for some quality mother/daughter time.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the spa’s super friendly staff and given a quick tour of the facilities before being shown to our room. We were staying in one of the venue’s ten luxury suites with gorgeous Moroccan-style décor and use of the outdoor hot tub.

With fabulous-looking facilities both indoor and out to explore, we were quick to change into our robes and indulge in some serious relaxation!

moddershall oaks, stone

moddershall oaks, stone

First up, perhaps the main attraction and also Moddershall’s latest addition, the outdoor spa courtyard, including relaxation lounge, spa deli, heated vitality spa pool and kelo sauna. We braved the cold December temperatures shedding our robes and hopping straight into the warm spa pool with welcoming bubbling jets. You could easily idle away hours in this gorgeous open-air spot with views of the surrounding countryside. There isn’t even the need to get out for a drink, as attentive waiting staff are on hand to gab that glass of fizz for you – utter heaven? We thought so!

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blissed out bride: slaley hall golf resort & spa

June 14th, 2016 | Rachel Parry

Slaley Hall Spa (3)

Ladies, we all know the affects that stress can have on our bodies; from aching muscles and skin flare ups, to dark under-eye circles and generally feeling worn out. As one of the most stressful (but enjoyable, we hope) events you can experience in life, it’s little wonder that couples planning weddings can really feel the pressure, both inside and out.

This is why we highly recommend taking a relaxing break from the wedding schedule now and again to recharge the batteries and gather your thoughts, while treating your mind, body and soul. And what better way to do so than booking into a spa resort, whether just for the day or an indulgent minibreak.

Keen to point our readers in the direction of fabulous retreats in the North where they can escape to for solace – and a flippin good massage, we’ve been out on our Blissed Out Bride travels once again.

This time our destress-destination was Slaley Hall golf resort and spa hotel, located in a secluded area of Northumberland. Following our full-on, yet fabulous, season of spring wedding fairs across the north of the country, we were literally crying out for some R&R and so sped up the A1 for a well-deserved Slaley spa day.

Slaley Hall Spa (4)

As part of the Q Hotel group, the historic hall, set in 1,000 acres of stunning countryside, includes a range of accommodation and eating and drinking facilities, as well as a choice of beautiful function suites, which are available for weddings. Meanwhile outdoors Slaley boasts two championship golf courses and stunning grounds, upon which marquees can be pitched for outdoor celebrations.

The part of its facilities we were looking forward to viewing most however, was its luxury spa. Safely changed into our comforting robes and slippers we headed straight to pool side for some light refreshments and a little magazine time (one of our very favourite ways to unwind) – the pressure on our shoulders instantly lifted. As we stretched back on our loungers the humidity of the room acted as a warming cocoon and we had all on to keep our eyes open – talk about optimum conditions for relaxing!

An impressive space, Slaley’s pool area has a lovely holiday feel about it with tropical plants dotted around the pool, waterfalls and Jacuzzi, and little bridges linking the different areas together.

Slaley Hall Spa (6)

It was soon lunchtime so we were shown through to one of Slaley’s three restaurants (still wrapped in our robes) to receive our spa day lunch. Presented in a neat Bento Box we enjoyed a healthy (ish) yet satisfying meal of chicken salad with cous cous, vegetable sticks and dip, followed by a lovely piece of chocolate cake, which was all washed down with a tall glass of fizz. We felt this provided he perfect combination of clean and treat eating (both we feel are essential to keep a girl heathy and happy!).

Once the food had settled it was back to the pool for a little snoozing and swimming, whilst also taking some time to detox and clear our skin in the sauna.

Though we didn’t muster the strength to visit (shame on us), Slaley also boasts a health club with state-of-the-art equipment and experienced instructors, to help you reach any pre-wedding fitness goals. Feeling the need for some ultra-pampering, we were booked in for a treatment each and so made our way to the gorgeous relaxation room, complete with soft sofas and beds, to meet our knowledgeable Espa therapists. As I’m soon to be jetting off on my jollies I wanted a treatment that would refresh my skin and really make it glow while still soothing my tired muscles while Julia, who is soon to be expecting a second bundle of joy, required a relaxing facial treatment to prevent any pregnancy break-outs.

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blissed out bride: ragdale hall

February 24th, 2016 | Rachel Parry

Ragdale Hall (1)

When you arrive at a destination and someone comes out to take your bags and park your car for you, you just know you’re in for treat!

This is the reception Julia and I received upon pulling up to our most recent blissed out bride retreat, Ragdale Hall, a health hydro and thermal spa near Melton Mowbray, Loughborough.

Situated in a tranquil, rural location the hall is vast, housing one of the biggest spas that we’ve ever experienced, along with a restaurant, gym and accommodation, plus numerous treatments rooms, quiet areas and shops! Impressive right?

Having heard from many friends and relatives that Ragdale Hall was the place to visit when it came to relaxation and pampering, we thought it only right to try out its facilities for brides-to-be looking for a chilled-out pre-wedding break, a refined hen do or a romantic minimoon.

Ragdale Hall (7)

One of the best things about Ragdale Hall, and perhaps one of the first things to hit you, is its dress code, which we can only sum up as ‘ultra-casual’ with guests encouraged to remain in their soft robes and slippers for the duration of their stay. Already we think we’ve died and gone to heaven!

Once changed into our robes (which would remain on our bodies until departure, excluding only sleep time) we had a tour of the building which revealed a Tardis of tranquillity for us to explore and enjoy, but first – lunch.

Ragdale Hall (4)

Joined in the dining room by fellow robe-donning guests we indulged in three courses, which made a refreshing change from our usual lunch of grabbing at anything edible between typing. It’s important to point out at this stage that the word ‘health’ in Ragdale’s description doesn’t mean solely green eating, and alcohol is (thankfully) on the menu!

We enjoyed starters of warm soup and soft bread (see, carbs too!) and then helped ourselves to mains from a buffet of adventurous salads and meats, plus hot options such as curries and paella were also available. To finish, vanilla sponge with a blueberry cream. Del-i-cious!

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Right, spa time. Not to overwhelm ourselves we decided to start at one side of thermal spa and work our way over to the other, sampling all 12 of its luxurious and unique heat and water experiences along the way! We began by braving the outdoor waterfall pool in the chilly January weather. Though cold out, the steam rising from the pool kept us warm while message jets washed away any niggling aches.

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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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blissed out bride: macdonald craxton wood, cheshire

July 8th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Craxton Wood (3)

When putting together our real wedding posts for the blog we ask brides to share a tip with readers who are currently caught up in planning pandemonium organising their own big day. One of the most common that crops up is ‘take time to enjoy the time leading up to your wedding too’, because as they rightly say, it’s all part of the experience.

That not only means trying to enjoy the process of selecting a venue and suppliers instead of rattling through it like one big to do list, but also reserving a little wedding-free time to enjoy with family and friends, or just as a couple.

So to help you find the perfect place to take a break we’ve scoped out another restful retreat where you and either your hubby-to-be, leading ladies or female relatives, can escape to for some pre-wedding pampering.

Craxton Wood (9)

Nestled within 27 acres of Cheshire woodland, Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel, enjoys the luxury of being in a tranquil location but with the gorgeous city of Chester just ten minutes down the road. This makes it the ideal place to enjoy a romantic break, hen do or girly getaway – and wait, it gets better.

As well as providing stunning food, drink and accommodation, the hotel boasts a heavenly spa which has recently benefited from £1.4 million of investment, offering weary souls and pamper seekers a range of blissful spa days and indulgent breaks.

So after having all that money spent on it, we thought it rude not to try out revamped spa on behalf of our readers. And upon doing so we can confidently say – ladies you will love it!

Craxton Wood (5)

From the moment we stepped through its doors we were completely taken with the spa, which is light, airy, welcoming and incredibly well styled. Seriously this place looks like something straight off the pages of a glossy interiors magazine and it’s that high end finish in décor and furnishings that makes for an incredibly luxurious experience, even before you’ve enjoyed the facilities.

As holidays are coming and we’re desperate to achieve our beach body ambitions, we headed straight for the gym, which is kitted out with all the latest Technogym equipment. This means ladies on a pre-wedding fitness plan can get in their exercise before indulging in pure relaxation totally guilt free!

Craxton Wood (4)

Next we were handed our fluffy robes and super-soft slippers (why are spa slippers so good?) before being shown around the spa area, which houses way more than you’d think, including an 18 metre pool, thermal suite, relaxation room, garden room and Woodland Spa Café.

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Before lunch we took a dip in the pool which enjoys stunning countryside views through its floor to ceiling glass and then retired to the bright and breezy garden room for a herbal tea and a quick magazine fix.

At this point we’d already decided Craxton Wood would be one of our top picks for a hen do, plotting how we would have a day being pampered at the spa before heading out for a night in Chester. And clearly we’re not the only ones who can see it’s girly getaway potential as staff say the hotel is becoming increasingly popular with groups of ladies who take advantage of their spa break packages which include ‘celebration’, ‘indulgent’ and ‘revitalise’ options.

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Lunch was next on our agenda. I’ve previously expressed my dislike for spas that only serve up super healthy food as I see pampering as a treat and therefore want a meal to match that experience. Thankfully the menu at the Woodland Spa Café (which again is beautifully decorated) has options that are fairly low in calories but high in flavour, and they serve alcohol – hurrah!

Craxton Wood (10)

After our delicious two course lunch (and accompanying prosecco, of course) it was back to the pampering, this time treatments. For me a skin specific facial and for Julia Macdonald Hotels’ Elemis Signature.

In the comfort of the snug treatment room my therapist Jess discussed my skin type to decide on the right blend of products for my complexion and then the relaxation began. A balancing cleanser, toner and bliss capsules were gently massaged onto my face to renew skin elasticity and to give it a radiant glow, then while a masque worked its magic on my skin, Jess worked her magic on my arms, shoulders and chest to rub away any aches or pains. It was heavenly and my skin felt super fresh.

Julia’s 90 minute treatment meanwhile started with an exotic body exfoliation. After a light body brushing, warm oils were drizzled over her skin before a lime and ginger salt glow was applied resulting in clean, polished and softened skin. This was followed up by a massage and facial for an overall body experience that Julia described as ‘absolute bliss’ and said it would be an ideal pre-honeymoon treatment.

Craxton Wood (7)

After coming around in the soothing, candle-lit relaxation room we tried out the thermal suite which has varying steam rooms, saunas and showers to awaken the senses, relax the mind and cleanse the skin.

Finally, to complete our visit, we had mini manicures by therapist Jess who was painted our nails to perfection (mine weren’t gels but lasted an incredible seven days before chipping).

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So all in all you can see why we would highly recommend Craxton Wood for a pre or post wedding getaway with your guy or your girls. If you’re in the early stages of planning you might also want to check out the hotel as a potential wedding venue. It has a stunning range of function suites, with both indoor and outdoor options, that can cater for small, intimate weddings up to large parties of 250 guests whilst providing first class accommodation, service and food. And don’t forget about that spa!

For full details of Craxton Wood’s facilities, accommodation and packages, visit the website.

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