For Winter Wellness, Try A Cold Water Retreat In Cornwall

At Three Mile Beach, a cold water therapy programme makes for the perfect winter wellness escape – featuring surfing, coasteering and a Wim Hof-approved ice bath

couple of summers ago, during one of the UK government’s many
on-again, off-again hiatuses from Covid lockdown, my partner and I
did what everyone else in the country did: we headed to Cornwall.
The sun shone the colour of clotted cream, the waves gleamed
cornflower blue, crimson geraniums spilled from pots next to
traditional granite cottages. So what, I asked myself, was I doing
back here in the middle of winter, toes curled over the edge of a
rain-slick cliff edge as I prepared to leap into the heaving grey
swell below?

Well, for one thing, avoiding the crowds. Because if there’s a
downside to exploring Cornwall in July, it’s the crush of people
you’re forced to share the place with. Want to swerve the gridlock
traffic of Padstow? The round-the-block café queues at the
Lizard? The crowded line-up in the Newquay surf? In summer, that
takes planning.

Boff up on this year’s wellness trends…

Not so in winter, when the tourists cede the land back to the
locals, the waves empty and you stand a half decent chance of
scoring a table at one of Cornwall’s famously vibrant restaurants.
Though the weather changes fast – sweeping in from the Atlantic to
the north and the English Channel to the south – the sun often
still shines, thanks to Cornwall seeing around 200 hours more
daylight per year than the rest of the UK.

Of the idyllic spots we discovered that summer, roaming about in
our van conversion, Gwithian Towans – an immense, spirit-freeing
stretch of sand on St
Bay backed by hummocky dunes – was a favourite. Now, we
had returned, this time off season, as guests of Three Mile Beach,
a cluster of luxurious, candy-coloured beach houses set a stone’s
throw from the shore.

Three Mile Beach, Cornwall, UK

Though the temperature had barely nudged above 8ºC, this visit
represented a serious upgrade – and not just because, with Three
Mile Beach, we’d traded the inside of an old Vauxhall for the kind
of weatherboarded barefoot luxury you’d more likely expect to find
in Byron Bay.

At first light, the beach had been mostly empty, dune grasses
gently shivering in the January breeze. A handful of wetsuit-clad
surfers paddled in place, looking like the plump grey seals that
sometimes haul out on the sand here. A couple of solitary dog
walkers found each other, pausing for a chat. Summer’s
bucket-and-spade brigade seemed a world away. It all felt bright,
wild and salty-fresh.

Rather than avoid winter’s raw elements, we were here to
actively embrace them, on one of Three Mile Beach’s Cold Water
Therapy retreats: three-night stays that include your own
self-catered luxury beach house plus a private surf lesson, guided
coasteering and a Wim Hof Method workshop and yoga session.

The point is this: as beautiful as Cornwall is, it’s overrun in
summer and underappreciated in winter. But at Three Mile Beach,
which has ridden the UK’s staycation wave since opening in May
2021, the location’s outstanding natural beauty serves as a
year-round inspiration.

The point is this: as beautiful as Cornwall is, it’s overrun in summer and underappreciated in winter

It starts with the architecture and design. If you’ve ever spent
time in Nordic countries during winter and wondered why their
penchant for bright, airy spaces that maximise the light never
really took off in grey old England, Three Mile will come as a
welcome surprise. Each of the 15 two-, three- and four-bedroom
beach houses (four additional beach shacks are under construction,
set to open in spring 2024) is characterised by open-plan living,
acres of white wood, soaring windows and ceilings, wraparound
timber decking and playful artistic touches.

Three Mile Beach is owned by Audley Travel’s founder Craig
Burkinshaw and his partner Joanne Le Bon, and their experience and
well-travelled eyes inform every corner, from the hammocks, barrel
sauna and sunken cedar hot tubs outside to the gleaming white
Swedish log burners and artworks referencing the local surf scene
and global tribal cultures within.

Every detail has been considered: from the drop down/foldaway
widescreen TVs to the Ooni outdoor pizza ovens that are available
on request, along with dough and a generous range of fresh and
speciality toppings – everything from oyster mushrooms to English
charcuterie. There are hooks on which to hang towels and soggy
swimwear, storage for sandy shoes and mezzanine platforms where you
can tuck yourself away in the rafters by a window with a good book.
Wetsuits, surfboards and stand-up paddleboards can all be hired,
though at times it feels easier to sink deep into one of the
modular Camerich sofas instead.

Sound bath, Three Mile Beach, Cornwall

But if you’re channelling a Nordic lifestyle, sofas, sauna and
hot tub sessions need to be earned. Which is how I found myself
flying through the air one January morning, being led around the
southern coastline, just outside the pretty 13th-century fishing
village of Mousehole, by a crew from local surf company Global

A tourist draw in the summer, renowned for its Christmas lights
in December, Mousehole is less associated with outdoors pursuits
such as coasteering – which involves getting from point A to point
B via a series of cliff scrambles, ocean swims and rock jumps.
After issuing us with hard hats, gloves and thick, hooded wetsuits,
our guide, Chris, took us through a safety briefing before leading
our group around this gloriously rugged section of Cornish

Of our decision to plunge from 3m-high black rocks into the
frigid English Channel, Chris put it this way: “Ninety-nine per
cent of people will think it’s total madness, but if you’re the one
per cent who do it, January is the best time to visit.”

The excursion was memorable not just because I could actually
still feel my feet at the end of it but for the fact that doing the
apparently mad thing and leaping off a Cornish cliff in the depths
of winter meant we were blissfully alone. In the safe hands of the
Global Boarders crew (“Don’t jump here, jump there… Wait for the
swell to come through…”), we could pause to admire the rock
formations and wildlife on the way, before enjoying the thrill of
leaping, rolling like porpoises and clawing our way around a toothy
piece of Cornish coast.

Three Mile Beach, Cornwall

The Global Boarders team was on hand the next day, too, back on
Gwithian Towans, delivering our private surf lesson right opposite
Three Mile Beach. Here, said Chris, “from May to September, the
waves are good and consistent. Outside of that, your ability to
read the waves and surf reports becomes essential.”

Again, in the spirit of the Scandi saying “There’s no such thing
as bad weather, only bad clothing”, we found ourselves just fine in
5mm wetsuits, gloves and booties – only this time, our sauna and
hot tubs were just over the hill.

All this fun didn’t detract from the more serious goal of our
time at Three Mile Beach, which was to gain some real-world health
benefits from cold-water immersion, which, among other things, has
been associated with reducing pain and inflammation, and helping
with anxiety and self-confidence.

The most famous proponent of cold water’s potential is Wim Hof,
the Dutchman who has built a business empire on his Wim Hof Method,
combining breathwork, cold-water immersion and meditation
techniques. On our final day, Sam Boot, who has studied under the
man himself, knocked on our beach house door. Together with his
partner and yoga teacher Jana Virian, Sam owns Soul Sweats, which
runs mobile Wim Hof and wellbeing workshops around Cornwall.

Three Mile Beach, Cornwall, UK

The first sign that things were about to get real was the
delivery of an enormous metal, drum-like pool, rolled and dragged
onto the decking out back next to the sauna. Filled with cold
water, it was then topped up with cubes of ice. As Sam tipped each
mini berg from the oversized ice trays, he spoke quietly about what
to expect in the workshop: an introduction to the Wim Hof
principles, followed by a guided practice of the Wim Hof breathing
technique, then a yin yoga session led by Jana, and finally an
immersion up to our necks in ice water.

This was a part of the weekend I’d particularly looked forward
to. Yet staring at the bobbing cubes of frozen water on a cold
January day, I couldn’t help feeling an unpleasant anticipatory

Back inside the house, we lay on yoga mats as Sam walked us
through the Wim Hof cycles of deep breathing and breath holds that
triggered trippy feelings of disappearing into a warm black tunnel
with mauve lights at one end in my case – and a nosebleed in the
case of my partner. But as Sam’s voice slowly seemed to fuse with
the background sounds, and we felt the rhythm take hold, we became
simultaneously lightheaded and overcome with a sense of calm. By
the time we’d moved back outside and were standing together by the
ice bath, we were ready – sinking in over our shoulders in a
unified movement, with not a yelp between us. After one of the
longest two minutes of my life, we stepped out and headed to the
barrel sauna, skin on fire and experiencing a minor euphoria. Funny
thing was, five minutes later we were ready to go again.

The Lowdown

The Cold Water Therapy Programme starts at £475pp, based on
six people sharing a three-bedroom beach house, and includes three
nights’ accommodation, a full-day workshop with Soul Sweats, a
two-hour private surf lesson and a three-hour guided coasteering
session, both with Global Boarders.

Suite, The Cadogan Hotel, Chelsea, London, UK

Discover More
Sleep Therapy Might Just Be The New Wellness Trend That Actually Works