Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

blissed out bride: macdonald portal hotel, cheshire

March 20th, 2018 | Rachel Parry

Portal Exteriors

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.

Portal Signature King

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.

Portal Premier 18th hole

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.

Portal Treatment Room

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.

Portal Relaxation Room with guests

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.

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blissed out bride: mottram hall

November 30th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Mottram Hall (3)

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.

Mottram Hall (10)

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!

Mottram Hall (12)

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!

Mottram Hall (1)

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.

Mottram Hall (7)

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!

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blissed out bride: seaham hall

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

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wish you were here: marvellous minimoon ideas

November 9th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

Ronnie Rose Photography 2

Ronnie Rose Photography

As temperatures continue to dip, we think it’s only right to dispel any forthcoming winter blues with a holiday-related post.

A fairly recent phenomenon, the not-so-humble minimoon fills the gap for lots of couples between a big blowout honeymoon at a later date and the need for some serious downtime after the wedding planning whirlwind. Maybe you’re leaving the Caribbean until after the stormy season has passed, or you’re putting off that trip to Iceland until you’ve got a decent chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Or perhaps after following Rachel’s recent advice and splashing your cash on the dress of your dreams, you’ve simply got some pennies to save. Either way, a minimoon can be the perfect way to chill and indulge a little if money or time is short.

So, to help inspire where you can go for a little romance, rest and relaxation after the big day, here’s our round-up of top minimoon ideas…

spa o’clock

Titanic Spa

Titanic Spa

There’s little more indulgent than a spa, and in the UK you’ll have plenty of luxury day or spa hotels to choose from. Many spas have specific minimoon packages, meaning you’ll get a great deal too. Also, you’ll have flexibility – a couple of nights with ‘basic’ access to the sauna, steam room and swim facilities is a great way to unwind, or you can treat yourselves with a bespoke Mr and Mrs. Just gown up, lay back and float away…

beside the seaside

Stan Seaton Photography

Stan Seaton Photography

The seaside is synonymous with holidays, and so where better to head for your minimoon than the UK coast? Reluctant grownups can release their inner big kid at the beach, heading for the arcades and the candyfloss stands, running wild on the sand or paddling in the balmy (OK, perhaps ‘icy’ is more realistic, but bear with me) waters. Long romantic walks, plenty of opportunities to write your new married names in the sand – plus, what tastes better than real fish and chips with lashings of salt and vinegar out of a paper, especially after a pre-wedding healthy eating campaign? I rest my case.


Sarah Maria Photography

Sarah Maria Photography

We actually did this – three days after getting hitched, a ‘proper’ minimoon in Northumberland coming up and a big honeymoon in India on the horizon in winter, we headed to the local campsite for a post-wedding night away. And I can recommend it on the following basis: camping creates the instant sense of an uber-romantic adventure. There’s just the two of you alone with only the elements and a starry sky for company – plus, you know, the convenience of an electric hook-up and local pub. There’s also the opportunity to test the strength of your newly-forged marriage by putting a tent up together. If you can survive that one, readers, you’re onto a winner.

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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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dream venue: carden park

April 5th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Carden Park (9)

Here at Brides Up North HQ we’re always super keen to learn more about the fabulous wedding venues available in this half of the country, so that we can spread the word to you, our lovely readers.

While some we follow with interest online, others we’re fortunate to visit in person, allowing us to view and experience their wonderful facilities and hospitality first hand. Our most recent travels saw us heading west, to the impressive Carden Park Hotel, where we were invited for a glorious one-night getaway.

Carden Park (7)

Nested in 1,000 acres of Cheshire countryside, the sizable estate boasts an award-winning hotel, AA Rosette restaurant, championship golf courses, adventure activities and spa. Its spacious function suites and grounds mean it’s also a popular wedding venue, offering a varied choice of settings and packages for a couple’s special day.

Upon arriving for our stay, we were given a tour of the facilities and celebration spaces by the hotel’s friendly wedding planner, Maddie, where the full scope of Carden Park’s offering came to light. Not only can this hotel cater for the big day itself, but it’s an ideal retreat for pre-wedding pampering, a girly or action-packed hen do and a relaxing minimoon.

Carden Park (12)

In terms of accommodation, the hotel offers a wide choice of options; from twin, double and family rooms, up to its spacious luxury suites, with special upgrade extras including a fully stocked complimentary minibar, chocolates, sparkling wine and ESPA toiletries.

Wedding wise, Carden can cater for all sizes and offers the choice of its elegant and contemporary Carden Suite, rustic-style Shooting Suite and open-air Wedding Pavilion, through its ‘Eternity’ and ‘Fairytale’ packages.

Carden Park (10)

Elsewhere in the hotel there is much more to be explored. We began our break with an afternoon tea in the comfortable lounge area before taking the energy levels up a notch with some of the fun outdoor activities available on site. From laser clay shooting, archery and mountain biking to an aerial zip-wiring course, Carden is a playground for all ages.

We were treated to an off-roading 4×4 experience with JEEP enthusiast and instructor Terry, who navigated us through the surrounding woodland, giving us a tour of the expansive estate whilst sliding around the challenging course. Next up, with the help of instructor Ryan, we tried our hand (and feet) at segwaying, which is a little trickier than it looks, but heaps of fun.

Carden Park (5)

Back at the hotel it was time to wind things down again, and so after a quick shower and change, we settled in the bar with a bottle of sauvignon, ahead of our three-course meal in Redmond’s Restaurant. Changing its menu regularly to suit the season and fresh produce available, we were spoiled for choice when it came to making our starter, main and dessert selections but went with the staff recommendations (they certainly know their stuff!) A salmon-starter, chicken-main and panna-cotta-dessert later, it was evident that the standard of food was equal to the level of service – first class!

We retired for the evening feeling immensely satisfied and settled into our king-size beds for a peaceful night’s sleep.

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