I am standing in a small wood at the side of Bassenthwaite Lake overlooked by the dramatic Skiddaw Mountain in the Lake District and I burst into tears. These are not tears of grief but joy. I feel overwhelmed by the glorious sight of one of the largest lakes in the English Lake District, and with the backdrop of ice-blue skies and frost melting on the leaves around me, feel as if I have been transported to a magical land.
I am taking part in a ‘Forest Bathing Break’ at Armathwaite Hall Hotel and Spa, near Keswick in Cumbria. Forest Bathing is a new wellbeing trend, inspired by the Japanese art of ‘Shinrin-yoku, which literally translates as ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. Clinical studies show that the effects of Shinrin-yoku can help reduce blood pressure, increase serotonin levels and bring balance to the emotions. For me, it’s all about connecting me back to joy and nature. I’ve just moved back into London and I miss the countryside and being out in the fresh, country air. Being in the Lake District, in the woods, and watching the birds twitter around me at the side of a fairy-tale lake and I feel like I’m Snow White in a Disney movie. I am hard pressed to stop myself singing!
Armathwaite Hall Hotel and Spa is the turreted castle to my Disney princess aspirations - a grand stately home nestled in 400 acres of private deer park and woodland. The Forest Bathing Spa break includes a private session with the Armathwaite Yoga Master, who guides us through the ancient breathing technique of Pranayama – deep, even breathing for 3-5 minutes, which is proven to calm both your body and mind. You can follow your Forest Bathing with spa treatments at their award-winning spa. I had a memorable moment watching the sun set as I sat in the outdoor hot tub as the frost melted on the lawn in front of the lake. This was followed by a relaxing hour spent in the spa enjoying a botanical inspired 55-minute Drift Away full body massage, using products from their chosen partner Temple Spa. Bliss! The Lake District is one of the least polluted areas in the UK – both in terms of air and light pollution. Armathwaite Hall is close to the two Dark Sky Discovery Sites, promising views of the stars on clear nights - if you can stay awake that long. I slept better on the first night than I had in years.
On the second day, you can take advantage of everything from clay pigeon shooting to a session in the gym with a personal trainer. Or if you fancy some culture, head over to Cockermouth, and visit Wordsworth House where William Wordsworth was born. If you have little ones in tow, you can walk across the park to the Lake District Wildlife Park and go on a mini safari and meet the Lemurs and Meerkats.
Heading back to the hotel, make sure you try dinner in the 2 AA Rosette Lake View Restaurant - great food, incredible views in elegant surroundings. With heavy silver cutlery and wooden panelling, you feel like you’re transported to another era. Great for a romantic dinner.
3 hours from Euston, an hour from Edinburgh, this is the perfect get-away if you are in need of a break from city life and want to fill your tanks with fresh air, thoughts and inspiration.
Forest Bathing – Two night spa break
- Armathwaite Hall Hotel: 2 nights bed and breakfast, Dinner in the Lake View Hotel and a 2-course spa lunch, Temple Spa 55 min Drift Away full body massage, 2 person Pranayama session, full use of spa. From £650 per room. Available Sunday to Thursday.
- The hotel is also hosting special 3 -night New Year Package with a casino night, fireworks and live music. From £930 per person.