Visiting Staffordshire’s picturesque Mill Wheel Spa with outdoor hydro pool

Nestled in the picturesque Staffordshire Peak District, The Mill Wheel Spa offers a little slice of serenity where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, swapping it out for open-air hot tubs, steamy saunas and rustic relaxation rooms for a much-needed change of pace.

I took a trip to the countryside spa last month for my 26th birthday, allowing me to forget about Christmas stresses and the pressure that comes with New Year celebrations and spend a few hours allowing my tensions to evaporate like steam from hot stones.

Based in Blackshaw Moor, near Leek, the remote spa facility does a wonderful job of blending the rustic charm of the rugged Peaks with the modern luxury of a spa, with nods to the area’s rich industrial milling heritage prevalent throughout. 

Inside we received a warm welcome in the form of friendly staff, fluffy robes and fresh, folded towels before being given a quick tour of the spa facilities. The spa facilities are concise but carefully considered, compactly placed around the central Mill Wheel, which pays homage to the history of the James Brindley Water Mill in Leek, and Cheddleton Flint Mill which were once an important part of the local industry and economy. Thoughtfully designed, you don’t have to walk very far at all from one amenity to the next, giving you more time to actually enjoy them.

We opened one of the doors which revealed enchanting wood-panelled walls emulating an Alpine Brechel cabin. The Farmer’s Sauna offers an attractive alternative to a conventional sauna, with a gentle increase in temperature that still allows you to breathe deeply without straining circulation. The gentle increase in temperature paired with herbal steam shots makes it possible to sit in it much longer than I would usually cope, proving to be a relaxing start to the spa circuit we would undertake.

Next I braved the plunge into the cedar plunge pool – an icy barrel with some serious wellbeing benefits as you may have seen on social media, with ice baths becoming increasingly popular with celebrities. Going from a heated environment to the cold of a Plunge Pool for as little as 30 seconds can improve circulation, stimulate the nervous system and help alleviate joint and muscle aches while tightening the skin and leaving you feeling rejuvenated. It’s certainly one way to wake yourself up – I can’t say I dared go all the way in, nor for the full 30 seconds, however, it’s easy to see how it could become quite addictive because it really does feel amazing.

For best results, The Mill Wheel recommends a plunge after each heat experience, but I recommend a heat experience after every plunge to warm back up again – especially during a Winter Spa trip – and the Peak District Stone Bath is another temperature-raising retreat that will relieve stress and release endorphins . Set in a typical Peak District stone barn made from local stone, the dimly-lit barn sees a basket of local hot stones dipped into a basin filled with cold water which then fills the room with mineral-infused steam.

Beyond the hot and cold, the Relaxation Suite is the perfect place to lounge and just do a whole lot of nothing. Boasting big, fluffy blankets, plush cushions, comfy loungers and a cosy fire, it’s a quiet spot to enjoy a few chapters of your latest read, close your eyes for a gentle nap, or enjoy a cocktail from the bar. I ordered the Pornstar Martini from the menu, while Jake opted for the Black Sheep ale (and has raved about it ever since). Alternatively, there are jugs of plain or lemon-infused water repeatedly topped up throughout the day that are readily available, which is a really thoughtful touch.

Via the Relaxation Room, you can access the Outdoor Vitality Pool and Spa Garden, with the centrepiece being a three metre square hydrotherapy pool set at a comfortable 36°C, kitted out with relaxing hydro jets. I had worried we may not be able to get the full experience as our visit was the day after a December storm and winds were still high, but the courtyard is relatively sheltered while you’re still very much open to the elements, the pool is like being wrapped up in a cosy blanket. What’s even better is that The Mill Wheel is a really intimate spa, and there’s a good chance you’ll have this little spot to yourself like we did, if you time it well. The attention to detail in this space is second to none, from the aged iron robe hooks to the stone surround and wooden steps leading up to the tub.

Jake and I had paid £90 per person for a weekend ‘Pure Relaxation’ afternoon spa, which not only included full use of the spa facilities from 1pm to 4.30pm, but also one of three tempting treatments, including a Phytomer Mini Facial, Bamboo Back Massage or Herbal Steam Back Massage.

I opted for the bamboo massage, which uses heated bamboo sticks to kneed and roll out the knots of tense muscles. The heat from the sticks helps penetrate deeper into the tissue, and is incredibly relaxing, feeling like a warm rolling pin squeezing out the stress while reducing fatigue and improving circulation. As someone who suffers with regular back aches and pains – particularly in my shoulders – the firm massage is intense but invigorating, assisting with lymphatic drainage which is great for detoxing the body.

Meanwhile, in the other room, Jake experienced the steam massage, using herbs, mud’s and algae’s to treat the body, with a combination of hands on and steam infusion massage, some of which is like – to quote Jake – ‘having a giant teabag’ release steam that is absorbed into the skin.

Outside of the treatments available with our package is a spa menu that boasts an impressive array of treatments, ensuring that guests can find the perfect remedy for their specific needs. From traditional massages to innovative skincare therapies, The Mill Wheel Spa has something for everyone, whether they’re seeking relaxation, beauty, and holistic wellness. The skilled therapists are knowledgeable and attentive, ensuring that guests feel pampered and valued throughout their stay.

Having opened in 2015, The Mill Wheel Spa provides a truly indulgent experience combining history, luxury, and relaxation in equal measure. Its picturesque rural setting, coupled with a diverse range of treatments and high quality facilities makes it a must-visit destination for those longing for a tranquil wellness retreat. What’s more is that there are so many additional treatments and facilities to try like the Beach Hut at Rasul Mud experience, not to mention the popular restaurant, which gives me the perfect excuse to book in again in the near future.

If you fancy experiencing the same level of indulgence and rejuvenation, you can book a retreat at The Mill Wheel Spa here.

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