September 27th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
We almost feel like someone has hit the fast-forward button on 2018 as our feet have barely touched the ground these past nine months, and now in the midst of our autumn Luxury Wedding Show season, things are showing no signs of slowing down!
And not that we’re complaining. So far it’s been a year of hard work but fabulous rewards in producing another two stunning issues of UNVEILED magazine and giving this gorgeous brand a slick new website too. We’ve also added some amazing new venues to our portfolio of shows and have more exciting announcements to come in 2019. We had an epic run of events in the spring and are loving being back out on the road for the current collection of events and all the time we’ve kept the pretty pages of Brides Up North filled with inspiration, up to the minute news and trends as well as priceless expert info and tips.
So, you could say we’ve got a lot going on! This might explain why we snapped up an invite from the wonderful team at Ragdale Hall for an overnight spa break quicker than Megan could make her way through the guys on Love Island this summer.
Having visited this beautiful venue of tranquillity before, we knew we were in for 24 hours of pure relaxation and excited by the glorious sounding additions and enhancements at Ragdale Hall that had taken place since our previous stay – most notably the Rooftop Infinity Pool.
The welcome to Ragdale sets the tone for your time at the spa as you arrive at its idyllic Leicestershire countryside location to be greeted by friendly staff who take care of your luggage and even park your car for you – fingers firmly un-lifted from the off.
Once checked in we enjoyed a hot drink while we were run through our schedule and given a map of the site – that’s right a map! Larger than your average spa, Ragdale boasts an impressive list of facilities beyond the usual pool, sauna and steam room, with impressive outdoor areas, relaxation rooms, exercise pool, gymnasium, fitness studios, hair and beauty studio, treatment rooms and three shops, plus its famous Thermal Spa. With all this on one site it comes as no surprise that some guests at Ragdale check in for an entire week, I mean, can-you-imagine?
But alas, we needed to soak up the heavenly goodness in the in the short but sweet time we had and so after a light Caesar salad (and prosecco!) lunch it was straight into the robes and out into the new Rooftop Infinity Pool, which forms part of a recent multi-millionaire-pound development at Ragdale – and worth every penny, if not for the view alone! The open-air, stainless steel pool is heated to a cosy 35 degrees and features reclining underwater massage jets – by day we liked to idle at the infinity edge breathing in the open countryside beyond, while by nightfall it was another level of peace to lay back on the bubbling beds and gaze at the stars.
In the same area there is also a modern elevated lounge area with floor-to-ceiling glass enjoying the same delightful views and therapeutic atmosphere, plus on the ground floor a shiny new exercise pool, complete with aqua gym and cool LED light show.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Thermal Spa – a playground of relaxation consisting of a range of experience rooms, some of which have been exclusively designed for Ragdale and so can’t be found elsewhere.
Enhancing for the mind, body and soul the rooms vary in temperature, lighting and aromas to deliver different benefits. We particularly loved the Thought Zone, designed to inspire positive thinking, and the Colourflow Cave, which combines a heady mix of jasmine, lavender and camomile for a hedonistic detox. The crème de la crème for us though has to be the Candle Pool – an underground candle-lit cavern with star-lit ceiling and inviting 34-degree waters. Pure heaven, and if it wasn’t for our pruning fingers, you might still find us in there now!
After a bob in the outdoor Waterfall Pool we headed to our room to shower and dress for the evening meal. Served in the wood panelled dining room, Ragdale’s expert chefs always offer a beautiful choice of healthy yet thoroughly appetising dishes, with a tempting choice of starters, main and desserts.
Both Julia and I chose the tomato and mozzarella salad to start, followed by a vegetarian pasta main and I then opted for the indulgent ‘comfort pudding’ of a roulade while Julia selected the cheese board to finish, all washed down with a delightful Sauvignon.
Feeling highly satisfied we retied to our rooms for a blissful night’s sleep before another bout of relaxation, and treatments – always the highlight of any spa trip.
We began our day with breakfast in the bright and airy Verandah Bar, which offered a feast of cereals, toast, pastries and fruit, which we devoured – me alongside a helping of smoked salmon and avocado and Julia along with a small stack of fluffy pancakes.
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
May 4th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 24th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
While you brides-to-be are in full wedding planning mode, us Brides Up North girls are right there with you in a whirlwind of organising and staging our Luxury Wedding Fairs throughout the north of the country.
And though we love what we do, such a high level of planning leads to late nights, early starts and bodies that ache from head to toe. So when an invitation for an overnight break at Titanic Spa in Huddersfield arrived in our inbox, we thought we had more than earned a little down time.
We have been fortunate to visit the amazing West Yorkshire spa before, though we’ve never stayed for more than a day, so we were extra excited to see what else would be in store for us.
Popular with both men and women of all ages this is an ideal retreat for brides and grooms to recharge the batteries, either pre- or post-wedding, but also makes a heavenly location for a hen do or mother and daughter day. Whatever your excuse – we mean reason, you can be sure of first class facilities and service with Titanic being named ‘Best Luxury Eco Spa’ and ‘Best Luxury Destination Spa’ at the prestigious 2016 World Luxury Spa Awards.
Upon arrival our overnight luggage was taken from us and delivered to our room which we would be able to access later in the afternoon. We knew our way round and so skipped the tour and headed straight into the spa’s well-known Heat & Ice Experience. Here guests can go between a number of hot and cold rooms, each with differing benefits to the body. The overall effect is cleansing and invigorating as you peak and dip in temperature.
We favoured the warmer rooms, such as the saunas, herbal infusion room and aromatherapy room, which cleared pores whilst draining away any feelings of stress too. In between the hot experiences we dipped in and out of the ice room but weren’t quite brave enough for the plunge pool or bucket shower experience. We did manage to idle away about 30 minutes in the foot spas though while we gossiped about all things Made in Chelsea and Real House Wives of Cheshire.
Next, lunch. We recalled how good the food was on our last visit, but as it turns out the team at Titanic have stepped things up a gear again, with the dishes surpassing our previous dining experience. We both enjoyed a Prawn, Red Pepper and Chilli Linguine washed was with a Sauvignon Blanc. That’s right, though healthy, the spa still allows for treats!
The impressive facilities at Titanic – which also include a 15 metre swimming pool, gym, relaxation room and outdoor hot tub – are so plentiful that a treatment isn’t essential for those on a short break. That said, if you’re on the run up to your wedding we highly recommend indulging in a facial or body treatment as part of your big day beauty prep.
October 29th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
This morning on the blog we’ve got two words for you treat yourself – as we’re sharing with you another gem of a venue that we’ve discovered in the north of the country, which is a haven for both pre and post wedding pampering.
Located within the Ribble Valley countryside in Mellor, Lancashire, Stanley House Hotel & Spa really is a rural retreat, housing 30 luxurious bedrooms, bar, restaurant and a world-class spa. Oh and if that isn’t enough, you can get married there too.
Keen to experience its impressive offering for ourselves (and to recharge the batteries after a particularly hectic stint in the world of weddings), myself and Julia booked in for an overnight spa break.
Included in our package was one night’s accommodation, farmhouse breakfast, three-course evening meal in the hotel’s restaurant, use of the spa, a 60-minute treatment, and to round it all off, a two-course afternoon tea in the bar and lounge. We were literally chalking off the days on the office wall as we counted down to our visit (which didn’t disappoint).
Upon arriving, we were advised where to find everything and then left to explore our room and surroundings. The hotel is centred around Stanley House, a stunning Grade II listed manor house dating back to 1799, that has since been lovingly restored to hold luxury bedrooms. The hotel’s function rooms, reception, bar and restaurant meanwhile are located in the main hotel building and the spa and further bedrooms (where our room was located) are situated in the newest area of the hotel.
Clearly designed with care, the two newer buildings are still in keeping with their rural surroundings and the historic Stanley House building, which stands proud in the venue’s well-manicured grounds. All buildings boast stunning views of the surrounding countryside, as did our generous sized bedroom, with which we were thrilled.
To start our 24-hours of relaxation we headed to the hotel’s Mr Fred’s bar and lounge where we enjoyed a bottle of wine whilst brainstorming future ideas for Brides Up North (some of our very best concepts come out of a bottle of Sauvignon it would appear!)
Next we glammed up and indulged in a three-course meal at The Grill on The Hill restaurant, which prides itself on offering diners ‘something just a bit different’ – as we soon experienced ourselves. We ordered starters of ham hock terrine with crispy ’bits and bobs’, golden sultana puree and quail’s egg, and a chilled tomato gazpacho with spiced avocado espuma. What arrived was a treat for the eyes as well as the palate; dainty but plentiful portions that were punchy in flavour and beautifully presented. We ate every last bit!
Next mains of soy and ginger poached fillets of lemon sole, with sea vegetables (presented like little sushi parcels) and citrus butter, and a 10oz rib eye steak served with balsamic onions, semi dried plum tomato, field mushroom and triple cooked chips. Top marks once again for taste and appearance, resulting in more clean plates.
You’d think we’d be full at this point, but a lemon delice served with sorbet and cherries caught my eye while Julia took up the offer of cheese and biscuits. Faultless once again. And just when we thought we had come to the end of our culinary delights, we were presented with a crisp and chewy macaroon to finish. How could we resist?
Having almost eaten our way into a food coma a good night’s rest was needed and thankfully that’s exactly what we got. The hotel’s rural location means no rowdy passers-by or noisy traffic to interrupt your sleep, just pure peace and quiet.
Eager to explore the spa, the following day we enjoyed a light breakfast in the comforting lounge area before heading off for our morning of (further) indulgence.
Almost somewhat of a secret, the hotel’s spa is accessed down a spiral staircase where those ‘in the know’ can make the most of its relaxation rooms, thermal suite and hydro pool, whilst also enjoying a treatment of two, if they so wish.
For Julia (a self-confessed mermaid), the hydro pool alone would have been enough to keep her blissfully happy. Warm and welcoming the pool’s jets bubbled away our aches and pains while we admired the tranquil gardens beyond the floor to ceiling windows.
Prizing Julia from the water, we then went on to experience the thermal suite, which offered both hot and cold environments to awaken the senses. Not only did the rooms vary in temperature, but also in design and music with different influences from around the world, which is perhaps what sets the spa’s thermal suite apart from others.
Though fairly compact it was both easy and enjoyable to while away several hours in the relaxing yet invigorating environment of the spa.
Feeling cleansed and refreshed we headed for the highlight of the break: a 60-minute C&C Vitamin Facial (us Brides Up North girls just love a facial). Designed to fight the signs of premature ageing the zingy anti-oxidant facial gives stressed skin an instant boost of Vitamin C, which means the treatment doesn’t only feel amazing but the products used also smell amazing too. An ideal pre-holiday treatment I’m told, this would be a great choice for anyone indulging in a minimoon at Stanley House before jetting off on their main honeymoon. Emerging from the treatment room I can honestly say my skin felt the best it ever has, so much so I took away a Natura Bisse C&C Vitamin Soufflé Mask so I could recreate the magic at home for myself (well almost).
To end our break in a similar way to how we started it (immersed in glorious food) we enjoyed an afternoon tea of freshly made finger sandwiches, pastries, dainty cakes and, of course, yummy scones, all washed down with a refreshing jasmine tea.
So you can see from our visit just how much this place has to offer, whether you chose to visit as a pre-wedding girly getaway to escape the planning pressure, or to prep yourself ready for the big day. It would also make for a fabulous minimoon with your partner, whether it’s just overnight to fill the void between the wedding ending and the honeymoon beginning, or for a full weekend of indulgence if you’ve chosen to delay your main honeymoon until later in the year.
Better yet, there are plenty of hugely tempting packages to choose from, meaning this is one activity that doesn’t require much planning (you brides-to-be will be pleased to hear). So, whether you opt for a ‘Diamond’ day package or an ‘Only the Finest’ overnight getaway, we guarantee Stanley House Spa & Hotel will leave you wanting more (just as we did when we begrudgingly left!).
For full details of Stanley Houses’ facilities, accommodation and packages, visit their website.
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.
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