Giant waterwheels in the new spa add a heritage touch to this revamped inn in glorious countryside on the edge of the Peak District

I am lying on the beach in the midday sun, my eyes shut, listening to the waves lapping on the sand. Then all too soon – after about 10 minutes, in fact – it goes dark and the stars come out. That’s because this isn’t some tropical island paradise, but a hotel near Leek, Staffordshire. The Beach Hut, a 25-minute light treatment designed to boost vitamin D levels, is one of several experiences on offer at the Three Horseshoes’ new Mill Wheel Spa. It is very relaxing, though would probably feel more beneficial in the depths of winter than on a sunny May afternoon.

The Mill Wheel is more interesting than the average spa. It makes an effort to reflect the area’s heritage, so the centrepiece is a huge wooden water wheel, homage to nearby mills. Rather than driving the levers of industry, however, this wheel pours water on spa-goers – at first pleasantly warm, then shockingly cold. Screams (some of them mine) ring out at regular intervals. The steam room is an actual Peak District stone barn, relocated from a nearby field. To create the steam, a basket of local stones is heated then plunged into a basin of cold water, hissing and sizzling.

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