August 5th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 2nd, 2015 | Julia Braime
Last month, I was delighted to be invited to visit the internationally acclaimed Sharrow Bay Hotel. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!
My parents are from a foodie background, and I remember them talking with great enthusiasm about the times that they had visited this small but perfectly formed place. My hubby’s birthday happened to fall around the time of the invitation, so we decided to take the chance to celebrate, just the two of us (our toddler safely deposited with the grandparents).
And what a spectacular treat was in store!
Images by Sarah Kay Photography.
As it says on the hotel’s website, Sharrow Bay is unique; “the epitome of English country living in an unrivalled location surrounded by snow-topped mountains and fells, right on the shores of Ullswater, widely regarded as the most beautiful lake in the country.” They weren’t kidding! The views at this place are absolutely incredible.
Upon arrival, you are immediately aware that you are somewhere special. A gorgeous blue and white set of buildings (which I was later to learn house the Hotel, it’s Garden bedrooms, it’s Lakeside Restaurant and soon to open beauty rooms) sit quite literally right on the edge of a huge expanse of glistening water, surrounded by lush green hills (or are they mountains?).
We were privileged to be staying over for dinner, bed and breakfast, so after a quick tour of the facilities with the lovely Events Manager Ellie, we were shown to our beautiful bedroom for the night, “Silver” (that’s it in the pictures, nice eh?).
During the tour, Ellie explained just how special Sharrow Bay can be for a wedding (and we think it would also be great for a honeymoon, anniversary or even a pre-wedding de-stress getaway). Suited to weddings of 50 or less, the hotel can quite literally become yours for the duration of your celebration.
If you are looking for complete privacy, the hotel can be hired in its entirety on an exclusive use basis where the only people in the hotel are you and your guests. It’s a home from home for your wedding day – only way, way, more impressive.
The pretty village church is just a short drive from the hotel and three beautiful rooms are licenced to hold civil ceremonies. With all your guests on site, you can choose to hold your civil ceremony overlooking Ullswater or in the hotel’s beautiful Garden Lounge, before drinks on the terrace and a delicious (trust me, I’ve tried the food) wedding breakfast in the hotel’s private dining areas.
What I took away from the tour is just how personal the staff at Sharrow Bay can make your big day, how they will work with you to arrnage and use the available rooms in a way that will suit your vision for your wedding and how much they care about your experience. Weddings at Sharrow Bay are quite literally bespoke.
If you are a foodie couple looking for an intimate dream day in a unique, quirky and beautiful location, you might want to call off the search now.
Sharrow Bay blends decadence, old fashioned luxury with more modern styling perfectly. It’s also utterly tranquil, and the views aren’t bad either! Just think of the wedding photographs!
But back to our stay. Having checked in to the beautiful Silver bedroom, had a bounce on the four poster bed and made a mental note to leave time for a soak in the deep tub in the bathroom, we set off in search of nourishment. Knowing we were eating in the hotel’s Lakeside Restaurant later that evening, we asked Ellie for recommendations of local lunch spots and she was more than happy to oblige with some great recommendations.
Full of food – and a few sneaky glasses of cold Sauvignon Blanc – we headed back to our room where another treat was in store, a couples in-room treatment from Sharrow Bay’s on site beauty team, ICON Beauty. I adored the in-room service, which felt super luxurious.
The room was spacious enough to take two huge massage beds and with relaxing music playing and True Grace candles giving off the most fantastic scent, we settled in for an hour of blissful pummeling. After an intense season of back to back wedding exhibitions, this was pure magic.
All we were fit for afterwards was the aforementioned soak in the tub, then a cheeky forty winks. Emerging two hours later, we dressed up for dinner (well, why not? We were celebrating after all) and tottered downstairs for a fantastic four course dinner in a secluded bay window overlooking the lake. Prosecco to hand, we marvelled at just how many special spots one place can have.
Apparently, Sharrow Bay’s award winning Head Chefs “are passionate about developing menus that use the finest, freshest, locally-sourced ingredients; the dishes served in the restaurant are the epitome of years of cultivated talent, passion and the best local produce.”
All I know is that the food was to die for.
After a blissful night’s sleep, another quick bath, and more delicious grub (the breakfast here doesn’t disappoint either), it was time to say our see you later’s. We’ll definitely come back to Sharrow Bay in the future as paying customers – whether for a weekend getaway or perhaps to bring friends and family to celebrate a big birthday. I’m just kicking myself that I’m already married…
February 4th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
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.
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.
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.
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!
January 6th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
November 11th, 2013 | Julia Braime
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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