Short break - The Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Mill Wheel Spa, Leek

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 July 2016

Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, Leek

Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, Leek

not Archant

Louise Allen-Taylor visits Three Horseshoes and its Mill Wheel Spa on the edge of awe-inspiring moorland, near Leek

Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, LeekThree Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, Leek

As I settle into the hot tub in the garden of our superior room at the Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, my eyes are drawn to the jagged skyline.

The hotel, at Blackshaw Moor, Leek, looks up towards The Roaches, a spectacular rocky ridge from which it’s possible to see several counties. The prospect is too good to resist. Out of the hot tub, on with the walking boots and minutes later I’m scrambling up a path to the top of a rocky outcrop. The view is breathtaking; Tittesworth Reservoir is shimmering in the distance below me, and bleak moorland rolls away towards Derbyshire and Cheshire behind me.

Peregrines are nesting nearby, but when it comes to local wildlife, I prefer the story of the five wallabies, released from a zoo at Roaches Hall in the Second World War, which then bred in the wild. One of the shy creatures was spotted as recently as last year.

Enough of nature, we have an appointment with a good meal and, next day, some serious spa pampering.

Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, LeekThree Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa, Leek

In the Three Horseshoes’ fine dining Stables restaurant, their talented executive head chef Gary Woolliscroft delivers some accomplished dishes. A starter of smoked salmon with beetroot meringue and horseradish ice cream (£8.50) is intriguingly done, as is a starter of asparagus with serrano ham, confit egg yolk and candied hazelnuts (£7.95) - not just a lot of flavours, but also different textures, with ingredients wrought two or three different ways. A main of lamb and a potato croquette with ‘textures’ of peas (£22.25) allows good ingredients to shine, while smoked fillet of beef with artichoke panna cotta and truffled potato mousse (£24) is a very assured palette of earthy flavours.

A pud of rhubarb and pistachio cake with a rhubarb bellini (£8.50) is another riot of textures and techniques, pitting tartness against nuttiness. In every dish, there is evidently a lot of work on the plate, and it pays off.

And so, next day, to the Mill Wheel Spa. We try the Beach Hut - 25 minutes lounging on warm sand as the lighting simulates a day, from dawn to dusk. Then we get mucky with a rasul mud treatment, smearing mineral mud over our whole bodies and sweating away in a tropically hot cubicle until, 30 minutes later, it ‘rains’ to wash us off. Fabulous!

The Spa is new and a very attractive place to relax in. It has an unusual thermal experience. Everything is pristine but, charmingly, the proprietors have created features which link to Leek’s local history and heritage. The name ‘Mill Wheel’ harks back to industry in a bygone era, but it’s also pretty state-of-the art. I particularly enjoyed my Deborah Mitchell facial and Cleopatra body treatment and massage. Deborah Mitchell is one of the newer names in the world of beauty spas but she has royalty and celebrities among her fans. Many of her treatments are based around honey and the wonders that bees can work.

A trip to the Mill Wheel Spa is an easy drive from Cheshire. Deborah Mitchell’s treatments and Gary Woolliscroft’s culinary skills in the adjoining restaurant make it very worthwhile.

The Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Mill Wheel Spa, Buxton Rd, Blackshaw Moor, Leek, Staffordshire, ST13 8TW. Tel 01538 300296, www.3shoesinn.co.uk

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